Biological Disorders Related to Emotional/Behavioral Disorders
There are several disorders that have been related to a biological basis. Among the most common of these disorders are Tourette's disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. In addition, a group of children have recently emerged whose behavior and learning are biologically related to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.
Individuals with Gilles de la Tourette's disorder demonstrate tics or repetitive, recurring, and involuntary movements or sounds. Motor tics range from eyeblinks to complex muscular patterns, and vocal tics include grunts, barks, screams, or throat clearing (Anderson, 1993). These tics occur many times during the day. Generally tic-free periods are no longer than three months. In about one half of the individuals with Tourette's disorder, the tics usually begin with a single tic such as eye blinking (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Tics occur as early as two years of age, and because Tourette's disorder is a developmental disability, must occur before the individual is 18 years of age. The "vulnerability"-or receiving genetic basis for developing a condition-to Tourette's disorder is transmitted in a dominant pattern, and the range in which this vulnerability is expressed could be from Tourette's disorder, motor or vocal tics, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Burd, Kauffman, and Kerbeshian (1992) reported that slightly more than half of the clinical files of students with Tourette syndrome they reviewed reported learning disabilities. Tourette syndrome may be highly disruptive in the classroom, and learners frequently have difficulties in social relationships. For individuals with moderate or severe tics, medication is frequently used.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most frequently diagnosed and researched disorders among school-age children.
Reid, Maag, Vasa, and Wright (1994) examined the educational treatment of children clinically diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Among the children in the large sample, more than half were receiving special education services, with most receiving services as learners with emotional/behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. The most common special education placement was general education classrooms with resource room support. More than 90% of the students were taking medication.
One of the major controversies regarding the use of medication with learners diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder involves the impact of medication on learning, In a study of the clinical effects of medication on behavior and cognition, Swanson, Cantwell, Lerner, Pfiffner, and Kotkin McBurnett, (1992) reported that the effects of stimulant medication on academic performance is minimal compared to its effects on behavior. They found no evidence of beneficial effects of medication on learning or academic achievement.
The dominant paradigm applied to explain Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been psychiatric (neurological and biological). As a consequence, according to Maag and Reid (1994), other efforts to explain the disorder, such as a functional approach to assessment and treatment, have been hampered. For the purpose of the learner's education, the usefulness of accepted conceptualizations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder should be judged from an educational perspective, that is, the conceptual model's implications for classroom intervention (Maag & Reid, 1994).
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