If you have a teenage child with a learning disability (LD), you likely face challenges on many fronts. One of the biggest areas where both LD kids and their parents face difficulty is in dealing with drugs and alcohol at school and recreational activities. Here are some ways you can keep your LD kid out of trouble and help them navigate this tricky area of growing up.
How Kids with Learning Disabilities Differ at School
Some learning disabled kids have problems with social skills. This may manifest itself more in school than in the home, where they are more comfortable, so parents are often unaware of how their children are having trouble fitting in.
Research shows that children with learning disabilities have a range of issues with their peers, including
- difficulty integrating into mainstream teen culture
- exhibiting socially unacceptable behavior, like talking too loudly or using immature humor
- inability to handle social problems
Because of these challenges, LD kids can be more subject to peer pressure than other kids. This can get them in trouble with underage alcohol consumption and the use of recreational drugs, in addition to other negative behaviors, like fighting and vandalism.
What You as a Parent Can Do
As a parent, it's a wise idea to try to head off as much potential damaging behavior as possible. Before your child even runs into any issues, discuss the concept of peer pressure, and do role plays, so they can practice language that helps them deal with sticky situations with finesse.
Help them learn skills to assimilate with their peers without resorting to negative or dangerous activities, such as how to handle teasing without becoming angry and how to say no to things they know are wrong. Also, discuss both familial and legal consequences of hazards like substance abuse.
One trick you can use with your teen is to have a text code in place. When your teen texts you to ask about going to a party or hanging out with the wrong crowd, have them use emoticons as a secret signal that they know this isn't the right activity for them. When you see the emoticons, you can automatically text back, "No," and your teen can lay the blame on mom or dad, which is a socially acceptable excuse to bow out.
If your child does participate in an activity that has negative consequences, conduct a post mortem right away to discuss in a rational way what went wrong, so they can do better next time. If the police are involved or your child is facing legal action because of underage drinking or drug use, contact an attorney that is experienced in handling cases with minors.
Furthermore, be sure to discuss your child's learning disability with the drug defense attorney. In many instances, mental health and cognitive disabilities are considered extenuating circumstances (aka mitigating circumstances) in the eyes of the law. Your child may receive a warning or a reduced sentence if found guilty of a drug or alcohol crime because they did not have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions.
Your child's pediatrician, psychologist, or other mental health specialist may have to provide documentation or testimony that can absolve them of guilt in some cases. But be sure your child knows that repeat offenders may not be offered the same leniency in the future.