ADHD and Learning Disabilities
As a result of having two children with multiple learning disabilities, Judge David Admire of Northeast District Court in Redmond Washington, became concerned that many of the defendants appearing before him also had learning disabilities. This was especially evident from the frustration that boiled over and recognized as similar to his son's reactions. After asking the mother of one defendant whether her son had learning disabilities, the woman began to cry and said that on one previously had cared enough to ask.
Believing that the number of learning disabled defendants could be significant, Judge Admire contacted the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington to devise a method to verify and address this situation. In conjunction with the Learning Disabilities Association, a six week test period was established where every defendant who pled or was found guilty was screened to determine if an in depth evaluation for learning disabilities was warranted. 37% of those individuals screened were found to be candidates for further testing.
In late 1988, the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington established and implemented the Life Skills Program to assist offenders with learning disabilities (LD) and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD). For those offenders who are placed on probation, the judges of the King County District Court, Northeast Division have directed that a condition of probation requires defendants be screened and evaluated for learning disabilities and, if appropriate, complete the Life Skills Program of the Learning Disabilities Association. Failure to do so places a defendant in violation of the terms of his sentence which can result in the imposition of jail or other punitive consequences.
The program targets LD and/or ADD misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenders, between 17 and 45 years of age. The program provides:
1. Initial screening to determine if the client/offender possesses the basic tendencies, behavior and history consistent with learning and/or attentional disabilities.
2. An intake interview to determine need and appropriateness for the program.
3. Optional testing and evaluation to confirm the diagnosis of LD and/or ADD.
4. A 14 week (28 hour) instructional class geared specifically toward the needs of the LD and ADD clients.
The Life Skills Program is designed to address the clients difficulties in social skills, anger management, decision making and problem solving. It also provides information on learning and attentional disabilities, offers suggestions on specific coping mechanisms and provides community resource information. A supplementary manual for both clients and instructors has been developed.
As a result of the program clients become aware of the personal characteristics that are related to or the result of their LD and/or ADD, such as: getting lost; confusing right and left; being late for work or appointments; forgetfulness and/or losing things. Clients also become aware of how they process information such as: difficulty in understanding or following directions; not understanding information the first time it is given; being easily distracted by background noise or having a short attention span.
Clients learn specific social skills such as: how to express a complaint; how to prepare for a stressful conversation; how to deal with accusations; how to keep out of fights; how to express emotions and deal with the emotions of others. Clients also learn the skills in how to make "smart decisions" in problem solving and conflict resolution situations.
After completion of the Life Skills Program, the recidivism (re-offense) records of offenders are reviewed at 6 months, 1 year, 18 months and 2 years post intervention. Present data indicate a recidivism of 68% without the program, to 45% for offenders who start but do not complete the entire program, and a drop to only 29% for individuals who complete the entire 14 week program.
This program benefits the offender/participants by teaching them skills to improve their social functioning and reduce their misdemeanor behavior patterns. It also benefits the court system by reducing the "clogging" that occurs with repeat misdemeanor offenders and it benefits the general public who pay taxes that fund the court process or who may be victimized by the behavior of one of these offenders.
The information above doesn't begin to explain the benefits of programs such as this one. This program can be started in other areas. Materials are available through the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington to help other social service, education, business, court and correctional programs implement the Life Skills Program. LDA staff are also available to provide training and consultation at their office and also at program development sites. For more information on this program, or if you have any questions please email Judge David Admire.