Archive for the 'Mental health' Category

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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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Little Keswick to feature talk by Ross Greene

The Little Keswick Foundation for Special Education, a philanthropic group associated with the Little Keswick School in central Virginia, announced that Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, will speak at its 16th Annual Education Symposium scheduled for 10 October 2013 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Piedmont Virginia Community College’s V. Earl Dickinson Center. The session, entitled “Collaborative & Proactive Solutions: Understanding and Helping Behaviorally Challenging Kids (and their Caregivers),” is open to the public and there is no admission fee.

A child psychologist, Ross Greene has taught courses for the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. He is founder of Lives in the Balance, a non-profit devoted to explaining and supporting his theraputic approach, called “Collaborative Problem Solving.” In addition to his books, Professor Greene has published research articles in well-respected journals such as Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, American Journal of Psychiatry, and Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.
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VA ‘Making Kids Count’ award reception announced

Virginia’s Voices for Children announced an event 15 October 2013 to honor the recipients of its Carol S. Fox Making Kids Count awards. The event, which is to be held at the Jepson Alumni Center at the University of Richmond in Richmond (VA, US), begins at 6:00 PM with the program commencing at 6:30 PM. Bruce Lesley, a public policy expert with extensive experience related to improving services for children and families, is slated to make the featured speech. Learn more about the awards from the Voices for Virginia’s Children web site and register for the reception (or make a donation) on line; there’s a discount for early-bird—prior to 2 October—registration.

VaKids awards

Voices for Virginia’s Children (VAKids) will present its second-annual Carol S. Fox Making Kids Count Award at a reception to be held 15 October 2013 at the University of Richmond in Richmond (VA, US). Currently, VAKids is accepting nominations of individuals and organizations (two awards may be given) who have made exceptional efforts to improve the lives of children and youths in Virginia.

US report: Up to 1 in 5 children experience a mental disorder

In a report released 16 May 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2013) indicated that as many as 13-20% of US children experience a mental disorder annually. The CDC based it’s estimate on the familiar report of the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2009) as well as other data gathered more recently. These are broad-scope data that incorporate a wide array of mental disorders, but they help to capture the range of issues that confront mental health services.

According to the CDC estimates,

Data collected from a variety of data sources between the years 2005-2011 show:
Children aged 3-17 years currently had:

  • ADHD (6.8%)
  • Behavioral or conduct problems (3.5%)
  • Anxiety (3.0%)
  • Depression (2.1%)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (1.1%)
  • Tourette syndrome (0.2%) (among children aged 6–17 years)

Adolescents aged 12–17 years had:

  • Illicit drug use disorder in the past year (4.7%)
  • Alcohol use disorder in the past year (4.2%)
  • Cigarette dependence in the past month (2.8%)

There is much that can be done to help. It can’t be done without the help of concerned adults who lobby, vote, and work hard otherwise on behalf of our children.

References

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities. Washington, DC: The National Academic Press; 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Mental health surveillance among children – United States, 2005—2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(Suppl; May 16, 2013), 1-35.

Are famous role models helpful?

Do you ever wonder whether those references to famous people with disabilities really are helpful? Do they actually inspire people with disabilities to achieve more? As I’ve often noted on LD Blog, it’s really common in the world of learning disabilities to tell children about the high-flying people with dyslexia for example. It also happens in the world of EBD.

Well, Mark Brown, who knows a thing or two about mental health issues, published a provocative question in the BBC Website’s Ouch blog 13 May 2013: “Do famous role models help or hinder?” Here are his first paragraphs to whet your appetite:

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – cue the annual round of lists of “inspirational” public figures. But do famous role models actually make a difference?

If you’re a person who experiences mental health difficulties, as I do, you’ll be familiar with an oft-quoted list of inspirational fellow travellers, such as Winston Churchill and his famous “black dog” or national treasure Stephen Fry and his bipolar disorder.
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Mothers agree on helping children with mental illness and their families

Liza Long is the author of the post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” that has gone viral in the few days following the mass murder that Mr. Lanza apparently committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School 14 December 2012. In it, Ms. Long—who obviously is not the deceased mother of Mr. Lanza—makes an important, impassioned, and strong case for focusing on mental health issues among children and youth. Here’s the beginning of that post.

In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
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