Special Needs Adolescents and Maturity:
Are There More Challenges?
In recent years there has been a great deal of public concern about adolescents identified as "at risk" of a variety of social ills, such as drug addiction, criminal behavior, teen pregnancy, drunk driving, and dropping out of school. While these risks may be life impairing, if not life-threatening, there is another risk that adolescents face: failing to develop maturity, or the qualities necessary to function as an adult. Psychosocial researchers define maturity as "readiness to assume competently the roles typical for men and women in a modern industrial society" (Inkeles and Leiderman 52). Inkeles and Leiderman propose six qualities associated with maturity: efficacy, perseverance, planfulness, responsibility, individualism, and cooperativeness (52).
Assuming all adolescents must achieve a level of these six characteristics to be mature, the question is raised: are there greater challenges for adolescents with special needs like Icy Sparks in Gwyn Hyman Rubio's novel Icy Sparks? The novel Icy Sparks chronicles the life of a young girl growing up in rural Kentucky in the 1950's who is afflicted with Tourette syndrome (307).
Tourette syndrome (TS) is described as an inherited tic disorder but it may also be acquired by environmental, infectious, and psychosocial factors (Hendren 22). One researcher in the March 2002 volume of the magazine Current Health offered an easily understood, concise definition of TS:
TS is a disorder of the nervous system. It involves a variety of voice and movement tics. Different people with the disorder may have different symptoms. These change over time and can affect any muscle group in the body. People with TS may jerk their head or flail their arms. They may clear their throat repeatedly; sniff objects, grunt, or bark. A very small number may even curse (Abramovitz 26).