Georgia students with EBD unnecessarily segregated and denied equal services

On 15 July 2015, The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice declared that the U.S. state of Georgia had been illegally segregating students with behavior disorders from their peers and failing to provide them with appropriate educational services. The case arises because of a public system in Georgia called the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) Program, a statewide system of services designed for students with emotional or behavioral health needs that began in the 1970s and today serves approximately 5000 students.

According to a letter sent to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney Gen. Sam Olens, Georgia

in its operation and administration of the GNETS Program, violates Title II of the ADA by unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers. In addition, the GNETS Program provides opportunities to its students that are unequal to those provided to students throughout the State who are not in the GNETS Program.

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National Academies EBP guidelines

The US National Academies Press published a a booklet recommending a framework for promoting evidence-based practices in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. The focus is not expressly on children and youths or on education, which are key concerns for EBD Blog, but the emphases on evidence-based practices (EBP) in mental health and substance abuse certainly overlap sufficiently to make this report of potential interest to readers.

Because the guidelines come from the National Academies, they will carry substantial weight. For the purposes of many who work with students who have EBD, there is similar useful guidance about EBP from a work group composed of leaders from the Division for Research—Bryan Cook (chair), Viriginia Buysse, the late Janette Klingner, Tim Landrum, Robin McWilliam, Melody Tankersley, and Dave Test— of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). In January of 2014, the CEC group presented guidance to help consumers determine whether a practice should be considered as (a) evidence-based, (b) potentially evidence-based, (c) having mixed evidence, (d) having insufficient evidence, or (e) having negative evidence. Readers can download their own copy of the standards from the CEC Website and read the CEC press release about the standards.

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Children with Autism in public businesses: A mother’s wishes.

Lauren Swick Jordan blogs at “Lauren-I Don’t Have a Job” about her stay-at-home life (job?) raising two sons, one of whom has Autism. Drawing on news about an airline flight being diverted to remove a family with a child with who has Autism, Ms. Jordan reworked one of her posts into an article that appeared in the Washington (DC, US) Post:

There has been a big story in the news recently about a family being kicked off of a United Airlines plane due to a fear that the daughter with autism mom would disrupt the flight. According to reports, the non-verbal daughter was in the early stages of feeling hungry, and her mom knew she needed to eat to avoid a meltdown. But the only warm food on the plane was for the first class passengers. The mom pleaded with the flight attendant, explained her daughter had special needs, and offered to pay extra for the food. Finally the flight attendant accommodated the family only after the mother explained that if she didn’t eat, “she’ll be crying and trying to scratch in frustration. I don’t want her to get to that point.” The family received the food and the mom and daughter settled in for their flight. All was well.

Here is where that story should have ended.

Instead, the flight attendant told the plane captain, who decided to make an emergency landing and have police escort the family, complete with a calm daughter, off of the plane.

Please read Ms. Jordan’s full story, Here’s the right way to treat a kid with autism (United Airlines, take note) from the Post. See her original post here.

Wondering about vaccines?

If you’re on the fence about using vaccines, Ana Swanson of the Washington (DC, US) Post provided a history reminder for you. In A horrifying reminder of what life without vaccines was really like you’ll see some photos of treatment for polio before vaccination against it became routine. Ms. Swanson tips her cap to Lindsey Fitzharris

In a bigger perspective and in contrast to our squabbles about vaccination against MMR, humanity stands at the threshold of essentially eradicating polio from the Earth. In a story entitled “Polio eradicators hail historic progress, aim to ‘finish the job’” from Reuters, for example, news sources recently reported that there are very few areas where polio still occurs and it is possible that health officials can vaccinate children in those places to prevent spread of the disease. If the health officials can surround those final areas and prevent the spread of polio within them, polio will no longer survive.

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Is jail the right placement for Aaron?

In “The Nightmare Outcome of a Son’s Mental Illness,” Abby Sewell recounted the story of Aaron Hernandez’s history of temporary, involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations that culminated in him being incarcerated for brutally attacking his parents. For the first time in his 19 years, Aaron began taking medication regularly while in jail and, Ms. Sewell wrote, writing more coherent letters and feeling remorse. Aaron’s parents hope that he will get psychiatric help, not a prison sentence.

Ms. Sewell’s account documented the gaps in mental health treatment available to the Hernandez family in their part of California. The problems are not unique to that community, however. The wrenching case of Gus Deeds’s attack on his father, Creigh, and Gus’s subsequent suicide in 2013 in rural Virginia illustrate similar issues (e.g., concerns about a lack of adequate facilities, periods of care that are too brief).

Aaron’s school experiences are not featured in Ms. Sewell’s account. She does not report whether he was identified for and received special education services, only that “in middle school, he began using marijuana and, later, hallucinogens,” and his parents later attributed his drug use to an underlying mental health problem. We can only guess that it might have been helpful for Aaron to have received some services.

Read Ms. Sewell’s The Nightmare Outcome of a Son’s Mental Illness from the Los Angeles (CA, US) Times.

Autism encounters with law enforcement

Have you ever fretted about what would happen if someone who has not learned to comply with commands encounters someone who expects immediate compliance? Suppose further that the person who relies on immediate compliance might escalate his or her demands for compliance when the other person, say a child who has behavior problems, does not immediately comply.

In a family or a classroom we might call this a “power struggle.” In the language of Patterson and his colleagues (Patterson, 1982; Patterson & Reid, 1970; Patterson, Reid, & Dishon, 1992), it’s the reciprocal escalation that forms the coercion cycle. When it occurs between an officer of the law and a child with Autism, I’d call it a recipe for disaster, even a nightmare scenario. It’s one about which I’ve written previously, more than once.

Here’s an example of that nightmare come true, as reported by Susan Ferriss of the Center for Public Integrity:

Diagnosed as autistic, the sixth-grader was being scolded for misbehavior one day and kicked a trash can at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A police officer assigned to the school witnessed the tantrum, and filed a disorderly conduct charge against the sixth grader in juvenile court.

Just weeks later, in November, Kayleb, who is African-American, disobeyed a new rule — this one just for him — that he wait while other kids left class. The principal sent the same school officer to get him.

“He grabbed me and tried to take me to the office,” said Kayleb, a small, bespectacled boy who enjoys science. “I started pushing him away. He slammed me down, and then he handcuffed me.”

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Editors helping each other?

Journal editors come and go, but the changes rarely make the news. This is not the case with the change in editorship at Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (RASD) and Research in Developmental Disabilities (RIDD), which drew coverage in Times Higher Education (THE). It’s not exactly the change in the editorship that is the news, but some the activities of the editor that have resulted in headlines. First, let’s do the news and get that out of the way. Then we can delve into the details.

On 26 February 2015 in THE, Paul Jump reported that Johnny Matson, former editor of RASD and RIDD denied doing anything wrong:

A senior psychology professor has strongly denied any wrongdoing after a blog highlighted what it claimed was his high self-citation rate in papers published in journals he edited.

Johnny Matson, a professor at Louisiana State University and an expert in autism, was the founding editor in chief of the Elsevier journals Research in Developmental Disabilities (RIDD) and Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (RASD).
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Eleanor Guetzloe, 1932-2014

Eleanor Guetzloe smiling for the camera

Eleanor Carden Guetzloe passed away 3 March 2014 in Pinellas Park (FL, US) about a month after sustaining a head injury in a fall. Professor Guetzloe was a beloved figure among advocates for children and youths with emotional and behavioral disorders throughout her 35-year career in special education. She was 82 years old.

After teaching music and beginning a family with her husband, Bruce A. Guetzloe, Professor Guetzloe attended graduate school, obtaining a masters degree from the University of South Florida and a doctoral degree from the University of Florida in 1975. She began her academic career at the University of South Florida, Tampa, in 1968, but spent most of it teaching and conducting research at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, from 1975 until she retired (as Professor Emerita) in 2001.

Although she was concerned about many aspects of emotional and behavior disorders, for a period in her career Professor Guetzloe focused intensely on prevention of suicide. She lectured widely and wrote books on the topic such as Youth Suicide: What the Educator Should Know (1989) and Depression and Suicide: Special Education Students at Risk (1991).

Although she considered teaching her foremost passion, she was widely known for her contributions to professional organizations. She was a regular speaker at conferences and was elected to the presidency of both the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders (CCBD) and the Pioneers Division, two sub-groups of the International Council for Exceptional Children. CCBD named an undergraduate scholarship award after her.

Professor Guetzloe’s husband died about a year before she did. She is survived by their three children and, at the time of her passing, three grandchildren.

Marilyn Kaff interviewed Professor Guetzloe as a part of the Janus Project (free video available). The Tampa Tribune published an official obituary.