academic growth or vocational planning. “Without treatment, many youngsters with conduct disorder are unable to adapt to the demands of adulthood and continue to have problems with relationships and holding a job. They often break laws or behave in an antisocial manner” (AACAP, 2000). For more information about mental health and emotional disorders, visit the National Mental Health Association Web site (). Chemical Dependency Although not always considered a disability, chemical dependency is relatively common among youth with hidden disabilities and can cause serious problems. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol may make a youth feel better temporarily but
Chapter 2: The Dynamics of Disabilities / ASSESSMENT GUIDE 2-9 often leads to physical problems, accidents, decreased intellectual functioning, or addiction. Chemical dependency is defined as “the use of any chemical substance, legal or illegal, that creates behavioral or health problems, or both, resulting in operational impairment. This term includes alcoholism, drug dependency, or both” (State of Montana, 2003). Youth who use alcohol or drugs while undergoing assessment often end up with poor or invalid results. Youth service practitioners who suspect chemical dependency problems can arrange for professional assessment but only within a standard protocol, as described below. Chemical dependency assessments usually start with an interview with a trained and licensed counselor, during which an individual’s chemical use is reviewed and the impact on his or her life is documented. The assessment may also include “an individual diagnostic test, review of relevant medical, legal, mental health and previous treatment records, a physical screening and assessment for detoxification, and interviews with other people in that individual’s life” (Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2003). Youth should be made aware of employer expectations about chemical use. New employees in many industries are required to be screened for drugs prior to beginning employment. For more information about chemical dependency, visit the National Institute on Chemical Dependency’s Web site (). Additional Considerations Youth service practitioners must take extra care when working with young people who may have mental or chemical health problems. Because many mental health problems such as depression go undiagnosed, and other problems such as conduct disorders can be over-diagnosed, it can be helpful to partner with local mental health providers to develop screening protocols to determine when to make a referral. The Columbia TeenScreen® Program is a research- based mental health and suicide risk screening program for youth that provides free consultation, training, screening tools, and technical assistance to communities that implement the TeenScreen model. Three screening tools are available, based on a community’s needs: • Diagnostic Predictive Scales (DPS-8), a general purpose screen for mental health disorders • Columbia Depression Scale (CDS), a screen for adolescent depression
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