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News & Views - Aug, 1996 Issue #41 

How do they affect the Youth?
By Paul R. Crellin, M.D. 

(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 than 35 years. - Lon) 

Learning Disabilities have been recognized since 1896 when the first case of “Word Blindness” was described in England. The name of this condition (these conditions) has changed dramatically over the years, but the problem has remained that a youth with a problem learning in the “usual manner” is placed at a distinct disadvantage when competing with youth who learn “normally”. Many youth with Learning Disabilities are very bright, but are unable to perform up to their intellectual potential because of specific processing problems that complicate their “learning style”. 

Everyone needs to find success, and if we don’t have enough success, it’s hard to feel very good about ourselves. When we are growing up, school is the place where we learn the most about success- what it is, how to find it, and how much of it we usually have. We can tell how successful we are just about every day in school. We compare ourselves to other kids, and other kids compare themselves to us. If we learn quickly and easily, if we are good at pleasing our teachers and our parents, if we feel as capable as other students, school can be a wonderful experience. But for some kids, school is no fun because they have trouble succeeding, and they just don’t feel good about learning. Often students who are doing poorly in school subjects come to feel that they are “behind” in everything. They don’t realize that there are many ways to “keep ahead” in school. 

When one is having a hard time in school, one can keep ahead in feelings about oneself, in the desire to overcome ones difficulties, and in the desire to do things that one finds that he/she is very good at. Many students have to work especially hard to keep ahead in their feelings about themselves. Just because a child has a “Learning Problem” doesn’t mean that they are “dumb”. The problem is not the child’s fault, as learning and attention problems are genetically determined and are inherited from the parent in most cases. 

Learning Disorders can affect just about everything one tries to do in school and also many things that one tries to do outside of school. It is reassuring to know that a Learning Disorder is not a “disease”, but life still can be very complicated. It is essential that a person understands the learning style that brings success, and also knows where the weaknesses lie, so that they can try to overcome them so that their problem won’t stop them from having success when they grow up. 

If the Learning and Attention Problems are not appropriately diagnosed and treated, certain complications can occur. First, the youth is apt to develop Oppositional Defiant Disorder, in which case they become very oppositional and difficult to manage. If that condition is not treated appropriately, they may develop Conduct Disorder, in which case they develop certain anti-social traits which cause problems for the child or adolescent, the parents, the school and the entire community. Improperly treated, the youth may then develop Depression, which significantly complicates the picture. 

For this reason, it is really important for the child/adolescent, parent and school to understand the importance of these conditions and seek appropriate assistance in their management.  

Copyright © 1996, 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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