Learning Disabilities & Substance Abuse

Posted by Gray Wolf Ranch on Aug 14, 2018 11:23:48 AM

Treating Both Disorders Leads to Life & Recovery Success



According to the American Psychological Association, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) reports that chemical dependency shares significant overlap with behavioral issues and learning disabilities. Individuals with learning disabilities have many things in common with those who misuse drugs and alcohol, as both groups exhibit low self-esteem, social isolation, depression, impulsiveness and academic difficulties. These characteristics have led behavioral experts to theorize about an underlying connection between learning disabilities and the disease of addiction.

Studies show that many young adults addicted to drugs or alcohol are unsuccessful in traditional classroom settings since they struggle to meet attention expectations and fail to achieve minimum academic standards. Susan “Shu” De Lapp, Education Director for Gray Wolf Academy, regularly encounters young men who share this profile. “Most of them feel like they are so far behind they will never catch up,” says Shu. “They have stopped believing in themselves because somewhere in their academic world, someone led them to believe they didn’t matter.”

Shu copes daily with her own learning disability, adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). An active Alcoholics Anonymous member, she draws on her personal experience with both addiction and learning challenges to awaken a desire for learning in Gray Wolf Ranch residents. According to Shu, many young male clients arrive deeply disappointed in themselves and lacking confidence in their abilities. Some also struggle with ADHD or other learning difficulties that hindered past academic performance.

“I find it fascinating that the majority of young men I’ve worked with at the Academy have notable learning challenges,” she says. “It is about the way they learn. I implement tools designed to help students with learning disabilities, but I believe the biggest role I play is letting them know that the academic work they are accomplishing matters; that they matter.”

Successful Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Though a definitive link between learning disabilities and substance misuse has not yet been discovered, researchers note that learning disabilities often generate behaviors like those that lead people to addiction. Another association between the two disorders: Treatment for learning disabilities like ADHD commonly includes the use of prescription medications like stimulants or amphetamines, which can be abused.

When learning disabilities and substance misuse are both present in young men seeking recovery, the two conditions may be considered co-occurring—and should be treated simultaneously for optimal outcomes. Proven therapies exist for learning disorders like dyslexia and ADHD, and individualized educational programs may also incorporate these strategies for best results:

  • Thorough academic & behavioral assessment
  • One-on-one teaching instead of group classes
  • Use of varied learning techniques (audio, tactile, visual. etc.)
  • Incorporation of exercise, music & art therapies
  • Counseling & mentoring in areas of student interest
  • Expanded support network

Multi-Faceted Educational Approach Enhances Recovery

At Gray Wolf Ranch, we recognize the importance of education in helping clients achieve a full and satisfying recovery life. Shu De Lapp employs an innovative approach to curriculum that has made Gray Wolf Academy one of the most sought-after parts of our Port Townsend recovery program. After a two-week educational assessment, Shu and her staff create an individualized education plan for individual students based on:

  • Past academic performance
  • Evidence of learning disabilities
  • Work experience & hobbies
  • Student interests & goals
  • Coursework that keeps students on track academically or allows them to find their academic “spark”

The purpose of Gray Wolf Academy and the individualized educational plan for each student is three-fold:

  1. To help residents discover their interests and potential.
  2. To build confidence and pride in accomplishment.
  3. To equip students with academic skills to finish high school and continue with college or vocational training.

To accomplish these goals, the Gray Wolf Academy staff helps teens and young men build study skills, expand life skills and overcome learning disabilities. Shu and her team also provide tutoring in academic subjects and mentoring for students with a hobby or vocational interest. Shu’s hands-on approach has helped students explore diverse fields like astrophysics, marine biology, wearable art and woodworking. By sharpening skills and awakening young men’s interests, the staff at Gray Wolf Academy builds confidence and prepares residents to meet the challenges of recovery with meaningful pursuits.

Discover Your Potential at Gray Wolf Academy

Learning disabilities, low academic performance and substance misuse undermine a young man’s confidence, isolating him from companionship and productive activities. Gray Wolf Academy provides an imaginative, individualized program that builds on previous accomplishments and helps residents pursue new, exciting fields. To schedule a visit to our Port Townsend, WA campus and speak with Shu De Lapp, call 206.880.7433 or contact us online.

Tags: residential recovery program, drug addiction, Learning Academy