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Blaise Aguirre, MD, McLean’s medical director of the 3East program for adolescent girls and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, was recently a keynote speaker at an educational forum presented by the Kuwaiti Association for Learning Differences (KALD), at the American University of Kuwait.
Aguirre was invited to address educators, therapists, and parents February 6 and 7 at KALD’s Third Educational Forum, “A New Understanding for Learning Difficulties and ADHD,” which provided teaching strategies for children and teens. Two of his presentations, “Regulating Emotions in Adolescents and College Aged Young Adults,” and “Addressing Motivation in Adolescents and College Aged Young Adults,” focused on the emotional challenges of children with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning difficulties. A third presentation, “Interventions: DBT an Integrated Approach,” discussed the effectiveness of using dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in classroom settings with children who have learning difficulties.
In addition to presenting at the forum, Aguirre was invited to a dinner reception to address the Kuwait Head of Parliament, Marzouq Al-Ghanim and discuss the need to formally recognize ADHD, dyslexia, and related learning challenges as disabilities, in order for children and young adults to receive the services and resources they need.
“Without the legislation to recognize these learning challenges as real disabilities, much-needed services cannot be provided,” said Aguirre. “KALD was making a direct appeal to parliament as to why these learning differences should be codified into the law, and they asked me to provide information as to why this was important.”
Aguirre said it was an opportunity to relay the staggering statistics about prison populations and the disproportionate number of those incarcerated who have AHDH, dyslexia and other learning challenges.
“Children who have these challenges tend to be more impulsive, make poor decisions, gravitate toward the same type of individuals, and have more behavioral and substance abuse problems—all which can lead to problematic behaviors at school and at home and in serious cases lead to possible criminal behavior. Even on a humanitarian level, it’s the right thing to do in providing the services they need. In doing so, this would help them function as productive members of society.”
The head of parliament was “profoundly impressed by what he learned and the work that KALD has done,” said Aguirre, pointing out the group was assured that he was committed to getting the law passed.
In looking at this initiative in a global sense, Aguirre said there are a lot of hidden disabilities within the brain that have not been historically recognized. While the challenge for many countries is first recognizing these as actual disabilities, “raising the awareness in Kuwait and elsewhere and having a more enlightened society is an essential step forward.”