Learning disabilities and adolescent suicide

A recent study investigated the part learning disabilities may play in adolescent suicide. Hazel McBride, Hazard, Kentucky, and Linda Siegel, University of British Columbia, analyzed adolescent suicide notes for spelling and handwriting errors. Those notes with significant errors were dictated to adolescents with and without learning disabilities. The original notes were compared to those dictated to the two groups (L.D. and non-L.D.) by raters who did not know which were written by adolescents with learning disabilities.

The results showed that 89 percent of the adolescent suicides who left notes had significant deficits in spelling and handwriting that were similar to those of adolescents with learning disabilities. None of the adolescents in this study who committed suicide had been identified as learning-disabled or were receiving special-education help.

McBride and Siegel conclude that a learning disability, by itself, is not sufficient to cause suicide in the absence of other factors. However, there is evidence that children and adolescents with unrecognized, poorly treated, or untreated learning disabilities may be at a higher risk for developing behavior problems
and psychiatric disorders than those who receive adequate intervention. They suggest that screening for learning disabilities within schools, and within child psychiatric populations and young offender programs, may help prevent unnecessary deaths.

Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 30, Number 6, December 1997, pp. 652-659.

Published in ERN March 1998 Volume 11 Number 3

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