Matt Brodhead on halting the spread of FC

While we’re on the topic of facilitated communication (FC or “supported typing” or “rapid prompting”), readers might want to watch a TEDx presentation by Professor Matt Brodhead. As though familiar with TED talks know, this is brief presentation and in it Professor Brodhead focuses squarely on a clear presentation about FC: “We must stop this now.”

Facilitated Communication and its tentacles examined

Slate medical reporter David Auerbach published a thorough examination of the short-comings of facilitated communication in an article entitled “Facilitated Communication Is a Cult That Won’t Die.” His analysis is too long to summarize here. Readers should read it themselves. Suffice it say that he calls into question not just the practice of FC, but lots more, including funding of FC efforts by the US Department of Education and support of the SWIFT program.

Although Mr. Auerbach’s article mentions a post on our sibling blog, SpedPro, he did not catch the many mentions about FC here on EBDBlog. That’s OK. They are still here!

Criminalizing mental health problems

Police officers sometimes must use extreme force to protect the population (us!) and themselves from harm. I get that. I am fretful, however, about their use of force in situations with people who have EBD.

As loyal readers know, I have remarked repeatedly about the potential dangers that emerge when individuals schooled in demanding immediate compliance (e.g., “Put that down right now”) issue such commands in very very domineering language to people who have learned to resist or flee in the presence of forceful commands— i.e., many individuals such as kids with Autism, oppositional disorders, and other EBDs.

So, what does an ill-trained officer do in such a situation (which she or he shouldn’t have initiated in the first place)? Well, escalate it: “I told you to put that f’ing thing down. NOW DO IT OR I’LL LIGHT YOU UP!” Then the officer might move toward the individual with EBD in a take-control sort of way. The individual with EBD, predictably, either makes a threatening movement, dives, or gets the hell out of Dodge City. The officer responds accordingly, still in domination mode.

Next? Taser…gun…? In “This is Crazy,” Brave New Media asks important questions about encounters between people with mental illness and the police. Warning some scenes may be wrenching. Please watch this film. Please share it with others.

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.