Seven Things Juvenile Courts Should Know about Learning Disabilities

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National Technical Assistance Training Brief; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges


learning disabilities, juvenile delinquency


Youth who become involved with the juvenile courts have many common background risks.These risks are related to the individual (e.g., early aggression, mental health problems, substance use, trauma, education deficits,special education disabilities), family (e.g., inconsistent parenting, family disruptions), and neighborhood (e.g.,high levels of unemployment, residential instability).

Recent research has begun to explore how to ameliorate these risk factors, and because of this, today’s juvenile courts are increasingly focused on delinquency prevention and diversion. These efforts are important to continue because federal, state, and local budget difficulties are reducing support for the courts, making costly and more punitive dispositions more difficult to justify. In addition, most youth involved with the juvenile courts, outside a small number of serious offenders, can be rehabilitated within the community, in particular through treatment and coordination with other youth-caring systems.

Learning disabilities have a clear link to youth delinquency, and are one of the most prevalent disabilities within juvenile court populations.The purpose of this Brief is to highlight the challenges that youth with learning disabilities present to the juvenile court, to summarize key components of special education disability law, and to provide effective strategies to the courts working with these youth and families.

Original Published Citation

Mallett C. (2011). Seven things juvenile courts should know about learning disabilities. Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

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