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Leaning Disabilities and Substance Abuse

Essay by   •  December 1, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,017 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,257 Views

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LD and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse has always been a major problem in this country. Drug use amongst children has been a growing dilemma that the government has not been able to deal with adequately. With the constant development of new drugs and medications it is difficult to suggest that the drug problem will ever be eradicated. A study conducted in 2002, found that among 8th graders in the United States: 47% drank alcohol, 31% smoked cigarettes, and 19% used marijuana (http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/problem_tdau.asp). These statistics clearly further exemplify the substance abuse problem in the United States.

The term substance abuse is defined as "A destructive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant (social, occupational, or medical) impairment or distress"(http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/wordbank.cfm?wordid=587&wbletter=S). The list of different substances varies from those inhaled products like tobacco and marijuana to ingested substances like alcohol and over the counter medications. With regard to these over the counter medications it seems irresponsible to overlook the problem based on the large amounts of prescriptions being issued to children. Today, with an increase in the diagnosed cases of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and other learning disabilities (LD) parents have become more inclined to medicate their children. LD's are believed to affect 20% of all school age children in the United States (CASA, 2000). Others studies claim that the number of children diagnosed with a LD have doubled in the past 25 years (Mcmillian, 2004). While some researchers disagree with this statistic, (CASA, 2000) others argue that one of the causes of LD stems from economic and social issues. Similar researchers have shown that substance abuse is higher among people with parallel economic and social problems. This perhaps illustrates a possible correlation between LD and substance abuse.

Many researches have asserted that LD's may lead to behavioral disorders, which can then lead to substance abuse (CASA, 2000). Firstly, I would like to stress that an LD is not in any way an indication of deficit in mental capacity or impairment of the senses and should not be confused with mental retardation or any others mental disability. ADD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are the most common forms of learning disorders and subsequently are the most frequently studied as well. ADD usually can be acknowledged by a person's inability to concentrate or by an individual's impulsive actions. Researchers today are currently trying to develop a relationship between LD and substance abuse through the effects of behavioral disorders but there has not been ample research to support this potential relationship.

The cost to educate a LD child is becoming overwhelmingly expensive due to the necessary requirement of special attention for most LD children. Special yeshiva programs are being established to help these special needs children. One example of a special education program is the Ptach program. The Ptach website claims that "The costs (of supporting a LD student) run in excess of $20,000 per year per child. The fee for resource room services is in excess of $3,000 per year per period (over and above the regular school tuition)" (http://www.Ptach.org). Though the Ptach program does extend over a million dollars in scholarships this still does not meet the requirements of some families, which could lead to the loss of special education for students that are in need. For public schools the cost of this special education is not based on an individual school-to-school scenario but rather it is granted on a federal level to all public schools. In 1997 the government spent an estimated $5,435 per child for extra needs beyond their regular public school requirements (US Department of Education 1997). The government is spending billions of dollars every year to educate these children and is attempting to insure a life free of crime and substance abuse. The higher learning program offered to these children presents them with some type of guidance in their lives which may have been lacking before. This is in contrast to the other possibility of supplying no special education (and probably no education at all) thus basically insuring a life filled with crime, poverty, and possibly death.

One of the most common reactions to untreated LD is poor academic achievement. The frustration that builds in an untreated LD child's futility in attempting to learn or understand something is unparalleled to any other frustration a child can academically experience in school. A LD child must find a way to release all the festering anger and frustration and in the course of doing so, he or she can be disruptive in class or be destructive to property or people around him or her. As an avenue for dealing with this problem, some schools create classes tailored specifically for LD children thus confining all the LD children into one homogeneous environment. Besides for the isolation of being placed into "Special Ed" class, LD children may feel a certain amount of humiliation, unhappiness and even a new desire for social acceptance from their peers. In school the acceptance of one's classmates is based mainly on how well one socially adjusts. For the average LD child that adjustment might come at the cost of some bad behaviors. As the years go on, certain things seem to remain constant about what is considered "cool" to do. For example, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol will always be available for children to experiment with and will always be considered "cool" and socially acceptable in high school. The disadvantage that LD students experience academically can lead them to explore new options for acceptance by others. This dilemma then seems to put LD children at a greater risk for trying drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other controlled substances.

"One cross-sectional study found higher tobacco use among students with LD" (Maag et al., 1994). Since most research on this subject has only recently begun to take shape, it is too difficult to determine if there is a correlation between cigarette smoking and LD. There is however some evidence that may shed light on the issue. A case study was done of young people that included LD students with substance abuse disorders (SUD) and LD students without SUD. The subjects involved were first assessed at ages 12 and 19 for LD and then at age 19 again only for psychiatric disorders and SUD. The findings showed that participants with LD at ages 12 and 19 had a higher probability of having a SUD or psychiatric disorder in comparison to those without LD. Participants who had LD at age 19 showed that they were more likely to have a continuing psychiatric

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