Special Education

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Substance-Abuse Risk: Some characteristics of children with learning disabilities—low self-esteem, depression, and poor academic performance—are similar to those associated with children at risk for substance abuse, according to a recent paper published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, based at Columbia University.

Those characteristics could lead children with learning disabilities to smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol or drugs, the researchers argue.

For More Information

Read the report, "Substance Abuse and Learning Disabilities: Peas in a Pod or Apples and Oranges?" (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

In addition, they say, children who are already using prescription drugs to treat a disorder may be more comfortable with the idea of taking drugs generally.

Because children with learning disabilities have a heightened risk for substance abuse, early identification of such disabilities and appropriate intervention are imperative, the researchers write.

And, substance abuse treatment for children with learning disabilities should address both problems, they add.

The paper, "Substance Abuse and Learning Disabilities: Peas in a Pod or Apples and Oranges?," was financed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the Ira Harris Foundation. It is available online at

Asperger's Initiative: The Seattle school system has launched a program to teach children with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, in general education classes as well as separate classrooms of their own.

"We're moving toward a cutting-edge kind of model," said Dan Lefebvre, the coordinator of special education operations for the 48,000-student district.

Seven new classes designed specifically to teach children with Asperger's opened this fall. Children with Asperger's often function well on certain tasks, but have limited communication skills.

In Seattle, students will have more flexibility than they had in the past to move between regular education classes and smaller, more intensive classes for youngsters with Asperger's only. Each of the smaller classes consists of six to nine students, one teacher, and two aides.

Previously, students with Asperger's were either taught in mainstreamed classes and accompanied by an aide or grouped with autistic children.

The new program, which serves 42 students, will cost the district approximately $770,000 this year.

—Michelle Galley [email protected].

Vol. 20, Issue 8, Page 14

Published in Print: October 25, 2000, as Special Education

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