Archive for the 'Musings' 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!

Mr. Kinsey was not the target: Better or worse?

According to John Rivera, the head of Police Benevolent Association of Dade County (FL, US), the bullet that struck Mr. Charles Kinsey on Monday 18 July 2016 (while Mr. Kinsey was working to return a young man with Autism to the young man’s nearby group living facility) was not aimed at Mr. Kinsey. The officer was firing at the young man with Autism.

According to reporters for the Miami (FL, US) Herald, Mr Rivera apparently was concerned that people in the public were contextualizing the shooting as an exemplar of police conflict with African-Americans. Mr. Kinsey is Black. The Herald reporters, Alex Harris, David Ovalle, and Charles Rabin, reported that people protested the shooting at a Miami police station.

The shooting of Kinsey and the video that accompanied the stories caused an uproar. Thursday night about 40 Black Lives Matter protestors stormed into the North Miami police department demanding that the officer who shot Kinsey be fired.

For his part, Mr. Rivera expressed concern about misinformation fueling the community protest.

“I couldn’t allow this to continue for the community’s sake,” Rivera said Thursday during a hastily called press conference at the union’s Doral office. “Folks, this is not what the rest of the nation is going through.”

So, we have an apparent conflict between two communities that are concerned about the use of force against members of their respective communities. I agree with them both. Fewer shots. More calm talk. Understand Autism.

U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens visited North Miami Thursday and made a brief statement saying, “We’re all in shock today,” and calling for officers to be trained in dealing with autism and mental-health issues.

Rivera said it wasn’t clear Thursday if the officer who fired his weapon had undergone Crisis Intervention Training. The session is required in many departments when an officer joins and is urged as a refresher in ensuing years. It is not required in North Miami.

Thank you, Representative Wilson!

Sources:

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:

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!

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.

Continue reading ‘Wondering about vaccines?’

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.”

Continue reading ‘Autism encounters with law enforcement’