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Secret recovery from EBD?

Posted Jan 01 2005 12:00am

Projo, the Providence (Rhode Island; U.S.) Journal carried a story about two students who won a contest in which teams of students built imaginary stock portfolios. In the story, C. Eugene Emery Jr. reports that the two boys turned $100K into $128K over 10 weeks by buying and selling securities.

So, why am I recounting this story? Well, here’s the quote that caught my eye:

The two boys who won, whose last names were not released because the school is for adolescents recovering from emotional disturbances and behavior disorders, did better than any of the high school or college teams.

There are two aspects of that quote that made me twist my head. First, why not release the boys’ last names? Emery and his editors use their first names–Bryon and Chris–later in the story and identify their teacher, without noting that the names used were pseudonyms. From the phrasing, I have to guess that the school chose not to release the names.

Is the reluctance to use their last names something about the way Bryon and Chris gained noteriety? What if the boys were being recruited by a top collegiate basketball program? What if they had helped classmates escape a conflagration? That’s probably not the reason the school withheld Chris and Bryon’s names.

Probably, the reason is that someone thought Bryon and Chris would be stigmatized by being recognized as having EBD. You know how it goes: “Keep these things quiet…no need to add to their difficulties by recognizing them.” It’s a well-intentioned motive, but probably a misguided one. If you’ve done something well, recognition of your achievement is deserved. I’d have to bet that Chris and Bryon were pretty proud of winning. Would they want to hide their light under a basket?

Leaving that aspect of the quote alone for now, let me turn to the second idea that raised concern for me, Emery’s use of the word “recovering.” The language may reflect what he was told by representatives of the school or it may just be his own phrasing. Regardless, I find it inappropriate. I associate “recovering” with the language of Alcholics Anonymous and related movements, not with scientifically based treatment of EBD.

Does one recover from EBD? Can one ever? Do you have to go to meetings to recover?

Even more problemsome to me is the possibility that the boys’ school, Stevens Childrens Home, uses this language deliberately, that they base the program they provide on recovery from alcoholism. Although I would agree that EBD is almost always a life-long condition and therefore students must vigilantly adhere to a self-control regimen, I doubt that a 12-step program is a good basis for educational treatment of EBD.

It would be great if we could have some secret recovery from EBD. However, I suspect it’s better to recognize that treating EBD successfully requires hard work and much of it must be public.

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