Archive for the 'Advocacy' Category

Yikes! A presidential commission on vaccines?

In 10 January 2017’s Washington (DC, US) Post, Abby Phillip, Lena H. Sun, and Lenny Bernstein reported that US President-elect Donald J. Trump is apparently considering creating a commission on autism. The sensational headline is “Vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. says Trump asked him to lead commission on ‘vaccine safety’.”

There are multiple other versions of this item,

  1. Dan Merica of CNN (with video): “Trump team denies skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was asked to head vaccine commission“;
  2. CBS News: “ Robert Kennedy Jr. says he will chair “vaccination safety” committee for Trump“; and
  3. Domenico Montenaro of NPR with “Despite The Facts, Trump Once Again Embraces Vaccine Skeptics.”

And, for an opinion piece on the “news” event, see Brandy Zadrozny’s take from The Daily Beast, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Compared Vaccines to a Holocaust—and Now Trump Wants Him to Investigate Their ‘Safety’Notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks pediatricians are like Nazi concentration camp guards—and Trump just gave him the power to promote the disproven vaccine-autism link.”

Students with EBD Hit Hardest by Texas Cap in Special Ed Enrollment

According to reports Brian M. Rosenthal published in the Houston (TX, US) Chronicle, since the early 2000s when the Texas Education Agency (TEA) essentially limited enrollment in special education to 8.5% of the school population, the category of students with disabilities that saw the largest decline in enrollment was emotional disturbance.

Mr. Rosenthal published a series of articles reporting his investigation of systematic denial of services to students with disabilities in Texas beginning in September 2016. The TEA created a system for rating local education agencies’ special education programs that included a benchmark for how many students should be be enrolled. In an installment published 19 November 2016 and entitled “Mentally ill lose out as special ed declines,” he begins the report with the story of Alston Jeffus, an adolescent who is on his way home after spending months in a state hospital. Here are a few paragraphs from Mr. Rosenthal’s article:

The Texas Education Agency’s decision to set an 8.5 percent target for special education enrollment has led schools to cut services for children with all types of disabilities, but mentally ill students like Alston have been disproportionately affected, the Houston Chronicle has found.

Federal law requires schools to provide counseling, therapy, protection from discipline and other support to children with “emotional disturbances,” including severe anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, however, Texas schools serve 42 percent fewer of those students, relative to overall enrollment, than when the TEA set the benchmark in 2004.

It is a bigger drop than has occurred in almost any other disability category.

In all, an estimated 500,000 school-age children in Texas have a serious mental illness that interferes with their functioning in family, school or community activities, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.

Only 30,034 receive special education services.

There is a lot more to this story (subscription may be required). I recommend it to readers. Also, I encourage readers haven’t been following Mr. Rosenthal’s excellent reporting on this matter to catch up; the Chronicle published a guide to the series.

About appropriate police encounters!

In late August of 2016 Michael D. Thompson published a fine post in Scientific American entitled “When Police Deal with People Who Have Mental Health Issues” with a subtitle of “It too often ends in tragedy, but specialized training for officers is starting to make a difference.” Mr. Thompson explained the problems that many police departments encounter and why developing crisis intervention teams is an insufficient solution. He then described the successful approach of the Portland, ME, police department.

His post really is worth the time (fewer than four min) required to read it!

Annual ASAT auction for autism ends son

The annual fund-raising auction for the fabulous Association for Science in Autism Treatment ends soon. It’s a great way to support ASAT, the organization that brings “real science, real hope.”

Police encounters with Individuals with Autism of the bad kind

In South Florida (US) on 18 July 2016 a caregiver for a young man with Autism was shot by police while he was working to protect the young man from harm. Parts of the scene were recorded on bystander video.

As faithful readers will recall, on EBD Blog, I have repeatedly expressed concern about what happens when police officers, some of whom are accustomed to demanding immediate compliance with commands, would encounter an individual with Autism who might seem not to hear the commands and, thus, would not comply. The situation could easily escalate with the individual with Autism engaging in idiosyncratic behaviors that could confuse officers. The officers could shout commands more loudly. The individual with Autism might even flee (i.e., resist arrest).

Near North Miami on 18 July 2016 a twist on this situation occurred. A 23-year-old man with Autism had wandered away from a group facility; he was sitting in a roadway, holding a toy truck, and blocking traffic. An anonymous caller to emergency services reported that the individual was suicidal. Police arrived.

According to bystander video, Charles Kinsey, who identified himself as “a behavior therapist at a group home,” was then on the scene, coaxing the young man to lie on his stomach with his hands up. In the video, you can hear the young man say “Shut up” to Mr. Kinsey. You can also see two officers behind poles with rifles trained on Mr. Kinsey and the young man.

Yes, you guessed it. Pow!

Here is Michael E. Miller’s report from the Washington (DC, US) Post:

In cell phone footage of the incident that emerged [two days later], Kinsey can be seen lying on the ground with his hands in the air, trying to calm the autistic man and defuse the situation seconds before he is shot.

“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” Kinsey can be heard saying in the video as police officers with assault rifles hide behind telephone poles approximately 30 feet away.

“That’s all it is,” the caretaker says. “There is no need for guns.”

Seconds later, off camera, one of the officers fired his weapon three times.

A bullet tore through Kinsey’s right leg.

Fortunately, Mr. Kinsey was only injured in his leg, nowhere else. He is recovering. The man with autism was not injured.

Both mental health and law enforcement organizations recognize the dangers inherent in encounters between officers and individuals with mental health needs. They are collaborated to develop training programs (see, e.g., NAMI’s Law Enforcement and Mental Health or the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s statement to get a start). Officers need to be the good guys in these situations.

Folks with EBD need to be protected and served.

And so do those who work with individuals with EBD. Mr. Kinsey, thank you for the work you have done, and I wish you a speedy and full recovery.

Sources:

  • Miller’s report for the Post from which I quoted.
  • Charles Rabin’s report for the Miami (FL, US) Herald.
  • Marissa Bagg’s report for NBCMiami.
  • The report by Amanda Batchelor, Todd Tongen, and Carlos Suarez for ABC affiliate Local10.
  • One of the videos.

Selected earlier posts about this topic:

Depression, suicide, choice, and our kids

In a wrenching obituary and follow-up articles, Eleni Pinnow courageously recounts her sister’s suicide following bouts of depression. Ms. Pinnow wrote, “Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, of Duluth (formerly of Oswego and Chicago, IL) died from depression and suicide on February 20, 2016.”

I know that most readers of EBD Blog are looking for content regarding children and youths. At 31, Aletha Pinnow was not a child nor a youth, but she had been, and we can bet that her depression was not a recent development. The reports I’ve seen do not make clear that she had a life-long condition, but it would not surprise me.

The obituary does have a special twist, though:

Aletha found her true passion in fifth grade when she decided to become a special education teacher. She graduated high school a year early to enroll in her future alma mater, Northern Illinois University (NIU), in anticipation of that goal. It is the ultimate understatement to say that Aletha loved working with people with disabilities (especially people on the autism spectrum). She was a special education teacher for over a decade and she was, as she was happy to tell you, awesome at it. She saw the potential and value of every single one of her students and she loved them with a ferocity that would make a rabid mother bear quiver.

One can learn more about Aletha in what I think is the original obituary, and a follow-up from the Washington Post.

Is suicide a “choice?” I’m not so sure. I suspect environmental conditions compel people to kill themselves. We need to understand that phenomenon better. Because suicide is not a repeatable behavior, it is impossible to complete a behavioral analysis of it. This presents a substantial problem. That does not authorize us to go off willy-nilly, spouting untestable hypotheses. The topic needs to be examined systematically.

But, importantly, as Eleni Pinnow has done, it must come out of the shadows. We can’t hide this. Especially when we see depression in children and youths. The risk is too great that that subsequently there will be substantial problems.

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.”

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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