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SHARYL ATTKISSON: Whether or not attention deficit is a real medical disorder, many adults do run into trouble because they're impulsive and quick tempered. The result may be lost jobs, broken marriages, or drug abuse. Now, one expert says there are ways to help these adults change. And to make her point, she's taking on some of the toughest cases. Andrew Holtz went to Texas to see how well her approach is working.

ANDREW HOLTZ: Twice a week Dr. Lynn Weiss goes behind barbed wire and through heavy gates to enter the federal prison in Bastrop, Texas. Her mission: to help inmates who've been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

LYNN WEISS, PhD, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: "So that inmates can learn something, so that when they get out of prison they are more able to stand on their own two feet."

ANDREW HOLTZ: According to some experts, as many as a quarter of all prisoners have ADD.

And that may partly explain why many dropped out of school, abused drugs, and ended up here.

Prison psychologist John Rubel says inmates are helped just by finding out they may have the condition.

JOHN RUBEL: "It's kinda like the light coming on, and all of a sudden it's like, 'wow, this is maybe something that's contributed to my current dis-ease with life or my dissatisfaction with life."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Inmate Willie Raborn says he always thought ADD was something only children suffered, until he filled out a questionnaire on the condition.

WILLIE RABORN: "That's me. You know, I do that. I thought something was wrong, I just couldn't concentrate. I didn't know what it was."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Little things, like some missing parts at his machine shop, used to send him into a rage.

WILLIE RABORN: "I go to hook up the hoses and they don't fit anymore and rather than backing up and trying to figure out what happened, I get angry, frustrated and angry, and I start throwing things."

ANDREW HOLTZ: "In this prison, many of the inmates are serving time for drug-related offenses. For that and other reasons, Ritalin and other medications commonly used to treat attention deficit disorder on the "outside," well, in here, they're not really a good option." Dr. Weiss has another option, teaching inmates practical skills for avoiding trouble. In one role-playing exercise, she demonstrates how to manage anger in a confrontation.

INMATE: "Go wipe off the tables and take out the garbage."

LYNN WEISS, PhD: "What did I do? The first thing I did was I stuck my hands in my pockets so I didn't have any impulse to use them."

So we train them to turn and walk away, so simple it's almost corny. The thing is that I use the word "train" advisedly; it's not tell them once and expect it to happen.

"Would you be willing to practice that move this week?"

INMATE: "I've been doing that, I've been practicing."

LYNN WEISS, PhD: "Okay."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Weiss also teaches inmates how to improve their concentration, something that's allowed several to go on to pass their high school equivalency exams.

LYNN WEISS, PhD: One of the biggest changes is to be able to focus on the school work enough and long enough to be able to learn it.

ANDREW HOLTZ: Weiss speaks from experience. She has ADD herself, and so does one of her sons, who was treated with Ritalin.

LYNN WEISS, PhD: I can promise you today, that if I had had the skills then that I now have, he would have never been put on medication. I would have not needed to, because I could have taught him the things that he needed.

ANDREW HOLTZ: Whether inside or outside of prison, Weiss' training sessions haven't been formerly studied to see if they have a lasting effect. Still, students like Willie Raborn think they will.

WILLIE RABORN: And I learned just then at 48, in your class, that that's what I needed, a structured environment, and I learned to do that myself, to structure the environment and keep it together.

ANDREW HOLTZ: When he's released in a few months, Willie will rejoin his six grandchildren and try to put his new skills to use.

WILLIE RABORN: I want to have a family life. It was always there for me, it was available, but I was off doing other things, you know, to settle down.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: If you tend to get impatient, Doctor Weiss has this tip: Make a list of 10 things that you can do to pass the time while waiting. Maybe it's reading a magazine or writing a letter, or mentally planning a fun vacation. Put the list in your wallet. Then, when things are moving too slowly, pick an activity from your list. You may feel less frustrated and just may accomplish more.

On to the next feature red arrow


Dr. Lynn Weiss
ADD Prison Program
Book, "Attention Deficit Disorder In Adults", 1997
Taylor Publishing Co.

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