AND SO ON …… Blog by Jena Young, Co – Founder of RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc.

Addiction is something most parents fear, for good reason. The connection of addiction and LD is not very well researched and not often discussed which causes much shame for the families and the students. This is a real issue. The statistics are concerning. As the Co-Founder of RiSE, which is a scholarship and non profit organization that raises awareness of LD, I also read 100’s of personal essays per year from LD kids. This experience along with the growing epidemic of drug abuse in the country weighs on my heart.


Many LD students have diagnosed depression and have been bullied; many struggle with feeling less than, especially if they are in traditional school settings that are not able to support their needs. These experiences can impact their self-esteem and put them at risk along with some of the impulsivity caused by ADHD and poor judgment from executive functioning.


Not all of our student applicants or award winners have struggled with this, but it is worth addressing and bringing to light. I feel that as we go through things and learn lessons as parents, the value is to pass along any information that may help someone else during their journey and hope that we all as a community can change the awareness of LD and addiction as well as find remediation’s that can change the outcomes for the better. I suppose that is the real backbone of starting RiSE,  in hopes to talk about what opportunities there are for help and also to share success stories and inspire others through the student’s own stories.


As I began researching the LD statistics years ago, I knew that many people that were incarcerated had a learning difference. I always have been intrigued by this and wondered if they had gotten the appropriate help and early intervention, would it have been different for them.


  • 31% of LD kids are arrested within 3-5 years after they leave school. (1)
  • 50% of criminal offenders have LD (2)
  • Substance abuse overlaps significantly with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. (3)
  •  Learning disabilities affect 10.8 million children in the United States. (4)


So, what can we do to help this? I am hoping the intervention at an earlier age for LD and teachers being aware of the different possible learning differences will have an impact. Mainstream teachers learning how to detect an LD (whether it be a language disorder, reading, math, processing etc.. ) and knowing the signs is essential. This is done by educating the teachers (not only special ed. teachers, but all educators) and having a schools that are open and willing to take the measures to help each child individually.


It also requires that public and charter schools have the resources in place to be able to accommodate the needs of the student body. Also it is about parents getting involved and the community as a whole embracing that each child learns differently and reduce the shame attached to both LD, depression and addiction.


From my experience the education is a huge foundational piece, of course, but in addition ( if needed) adding therapies to help each child be comfortable with himself and his surroundings. This may include helping with the sensory issues, social skill training and looking at triggers from diet and allergies which can exacerbate the behavioral issues. Aside from those, outside of school having emotional therapy available (DBT, Art therapy, adding ways of coping with anxiety ) and addressing any mental issues which affect the brain chemistry is also is just as important.

Additionally recognizing shame is often a big stumbling block for parents to ask for help and to discuss treatments, accommodation and other parts of all of these issues. The more all of this is  discussed and the more information is shared, the more we all can benefit from what is helpful and how to overcome these statistics.


Here are some helpful topics to links and topics for researching:



My next blog will include some resources for students that are no longer thriving in the traditional setting of school and may need more intensive work for their behavioral challenges. As always, these are my personal opinions and suggestions.


Resources for above statistics:

  • Wagner’s , 1991 National Longitudinal Study
  • Nancy Cowardin, ABA
  • 3. & 4. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University



The “And So On” Blog by Jena Young


Jena Young is an advocate for students who learn differently and the Co-Founder of RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc.

The advice in this blog is from her personally and not intended as professional advice from RiSE.