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News & Views - Jun, 1995 Issue #34 

BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT IN YOUTH
WITH LEARNING AND ATTENTION PROBLEMS

by: Paul R. Crellin, M.D., Director Medical Services
Yellowstone Treatment Centers
Billings, Montana
406-655-2100

(Dr. Crellin oversees medical management of all treatment programs at Yellowstone Treatment Centers. As founder of The Children=s Clinic, and The Child Study Center, Dr. Crellin has practiced medicine in Billings for more that 35 years)

Children and adolescents with Learning and Attention Problems, when appropriately diagnosed and treated, seldom develop significant behavior problems. About 95% of ADD/ADHD youth respond well to medical therapy, but the medication must be appropriately chosen and the dose titrated to meet each youth's particular needs. It must be remembered that no two children/adolescents are exactly alike, so each case must be individualized. The most important thing to remember is that each youth must find some success each day in order that their self-esteem may be preserved. It is important for students, as well as adults, to remember that success can occur in many ways beyond school and work. These include the ability to be happy in general, to do well in family relationships, to enjoy other people, to help them, and to be part of the city or own where one lives. 

There are proven ways that kids with learning disorders can make the school years less embarrassing, more fun, more successful, and a better preparation for adult life. First, they must understand themselves. They must understand exactly what their learning disorder is so that they don't feel that they are crazy, dumb, or just plain lazy. Second, they must make sure that the adults in their lives understand their situation. When the teacher understands how the youth learns, she can change her teaching style to match the child's learning style, thus encouraging success. The teachers don't want to hurt the youth, but in order to help, they need to know as much about each youth as possible. Third, the youth should not use their problems as an excuse to avoid work. The youth must assume responsibilities. Most kids don't want to seem different, and they want to do what other kids are doing. Fourth, the youth must work on getting the teachers to like and respect them. Teachers are human, and have feelings similar to the youth's, and need to feel good about their relationship with the student. 

There are several things that the youth can do to make life more productive: A) Realize that different teachers have different ways of teaching and different personalities. B) Act friendly. C) Try to visit alone with each of the teachers. D) Share your true feelings with your teachers. E) When you're having trouble in a subject, it is very important for you to make an appointment to see your teacher. F) Try to let the teacher know that you are working on any learning disorders you have. G) Let the teacher know when you are truly interested in something covered in class. H) Every once in a while (at least), try to do more than you are asked to do. I) Let the teacher know when you think he or she has done a really good job of teaching you. J) If you want, every so often you can write your teacher a note telling her or him how you are feeling about the class. K) Encourage your parents to go to meetings at school. L) Try not to be irritating. Remember, building good relationships with many kinds of people is an important part of life in general. 

Sometimes kids with learning problems think of themselves as one big mess of deficits, disorders, disabilities, and weaknesses. They forget all about the things they do well. Remembering the things they do well will allow them to get better and better at the things that they do well. At the same time, the youth is getting help with his mathematics, reading skills, writing skills, etc., because he is weak in those areas. No matter what happens, the youth won't stop strengthening his strengths. 

If all of these ideas can be incorporated in an Individual Education Plan (IEP), it is amazing how successful the outcome will be and how minimal the behavior problems will seem. 

Copyright 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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