Yesterday was a day for reflection for us with the team of social workers and youth justice Family Group Conference coordinators we’ve been working with regularly at one of Oranga Tamariki’s sites. Our first pilot project which started there in February this year had it’s final session. The team there have spent this year working with Alayne and me regularly to transform the communication that a young person and their whānau encounters on their journey through YJ. In partnership, we have identified and addressed the communication barriers involved by taking a long hard look at what a young person needs to be able to talk about and understand, and working out with the team the types of strategies and resources that can create effective communication.
From bail templates, visual versions of charges, Talking Mats and learning to make everything visual by doodling boxes, words and arrows when talking, the team are feeling they have more in the kete to drawn on now. One staff member commented yesterday that the thing she was taking away from the project was, “Making sure that the person I am talking to is actually understanding what I am saying. Thinking about that so much now. Always thinking. Reflecting and changing how I say stuff.”
Job done there. Now we’re onto rolling out the project to other sites. Another site will be finishing the same project soon and then we’re starting off four more in different places in New Zealand. It’s been an absolute pleasure for us to work with such skilled and enthusiastic colleagues and we have learnt a huge amount from the process. Alongside this has been a “Youth Voices” project that has asked young people involved with youth justice their views about how the communication involved. That project is currently being written up so we will spread the word when it is available. The young people had great advice for professionals about what they could do better.
We will be writing up the YJ pilot projects in a formal report and we’re hoping to share this speech-language therapy intervention at an international conference next year. We have already presented about this work at the recent NZSTA Symposium.