Archive for the 'Policy' 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.

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:

Recommendations for ending discrimination


Book cover, courtesy NAP

The U.S. National Academy Press published a book 20 April 2016 entitled Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change that assembles and summarizes recommendations about how to reduce negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors directed toward individuals who have mental health or substance abuse disorders. Although the bulk of the document addresses stigma in a general way and primarily with reference to research on adults, one section focuses specifically on stigma against children and youths, calling it “a serious concern because of its short-term impacts, including decreased feelings of self-worth and willingness to enter treatment, and because of the deleterious long-term effects of untreated mental illness or substance use disorders” (p. 2-13).

Continue reading ‘Recommendations for ending discrimination’

Summary of workshop on measuring SED in children

On 1 February 2016, the US National Academy of Sciences published a booklet that summarized the presentations and discussion at a workshop on measuring serious emotional disturbance in children. Some readers of EBD Blog probably will want to secure a (free) copy. The accompanying image, which is a 2013 infographic from the US Centers for Disease Control, appears on page 19 of the report. The following is the recommend citation for the report:

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Measuring Serious Emotional Disturbance in Children: Workshop Summary. K. Marton, Rapporteur. Committee on National Statistics and Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Board on Health Sciences Policy, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

http://www.nap.edu/catalog/21865/measuring-serious-emotional-disturbance-in-children-workshop-summary

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!