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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Over on Shot of Prevention, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss—she’s a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law—has a series of articles examining “The Rights of the Unvaccinated Child.” As of my posting here, the first two of the five-part series are available. These make highly recommended reading.
EBD Blog provides news and commentary about Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in children and youths. These problems have sometimes been called "emotional disturbance" or even "serious emotional disturbance." Whatever they are called, these problems are real, painful, and important. They often affect other people as well as having deleterious effects on school, social relations, and other aspects of the individuals' lives.