Who hasn't heard that adolescence for all kids is a challenging developmental journey fraught with threats to one's intellectual and social self-esteem?
Add a learning disability to what is already considered a time of "normal" teen insanity and you have what can feel like a hopeless situation. Hopeless is exactly what many learning disabled kids feel during this stage of their lives. Adolescence is a time of individuation, a time when teens want to restructure the playing field in which they interact with their parents. The journey to create a new relationship with parents as well as solidifying a firm self image has distinct developmental hurdles along the way that must be navigated successfully in order to progress to the next step. Some of these steps include: learning to accept one's body, learning about one's sexuality and how to express it in a responsible manner, learning to emotionally depend less on one's parents and more on peers, learning how to choose a career and become financially independent as well as clarifying values by which to live one's life.
We urge you to not underestimate your teen's desire to fit in. Even stable teens whom are well educated on the dangers surrounding drug and alcohol abuse may still get involved with such behaviors from an overwhelming need to fit in. Recent studies show widespread sexual experimentation during the teen years. One in ten become pregnant between the ages of 14 & 19 and Chlamydia has grown to epidemic proportions among this group.
Teenagers are now the fastest growing risk group for AIDS with heterosexual activity responsible for the majority of new cases. It's no surprise that adolescents with stable supportive families navigate the teen years the most successfully. Whether it feels true or not, teens heavily rely on their parents for life education, self-esteem, and group affiliation just to name a few.
It's important that you as parents seize this opportunity to provide accurate facts about the many challenges your teen will likely encounter. Just a few of these hazards might be sexual behavior, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, sexual boundary violations, physical and emotional abuse, substance abuse, eating disorders and depression. Sometimes what to do and what not to do becomes a separate challenge for parents. The best thing you can do to help your teen navigate the hurdles of adolescence is to foster good communication, show genuine concern for their fears and model your value system in both word and deed. Adolescence is challenging for all teens but it proves especially difficult for those struggling with a learning disability. Cognitive awareness, emotional maturity and social perceptivity as well as common sense judgment serve together to help teens protect themselves when faced with various dilemmas. Learning disabilities often create delays in these areas of development leaving the learning disabled child in a more vulnerable and exposed position than his peers.
Alcohol and drug abuse become the preferred method of coping with loneliness as well as other painful realities in the teen's life. ADHD youth are particularly prone to engaging in high risk behaviors. Some believe it helps them focus in a way that normal activities don't. Adolescents who struggle in their relationships with both their parents and their peers are at the most risk. Research shows teens with learning disabilities experience more depression and exhibit more hostile conduct, anxiety, anti-social behavior and failure to complete school than the average teen. Learning disabled teens will not only need help with their academic development, they will also need support and guidance as they struggle to develop socially and emotionally as well.