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.
Police officers sometimes must use extreme force to protect the population (us!) and themselves from harm. I get that. I am fretful, however, about their use of force in situations with people who have EBD.
As loyal readers know, I have remarked repeatedly about the potential dangers that emerge when individuals schooled in demanding immediate compliance (e.g., “Put that down right now”) issue such commands in very very domineering language to people who have learned to resist or flee in the presence of forceful commands— i.e., many individuals such as kids with Autism, oppositional disorders, and other EBDs.
So, what does an ill-trained officer do in such a situation (which she or he shouldn’t have initiated in the first place)? Well, escalate it: “I told you to put that f’ing thing down. NOW DO IT OR I’LL LIGHT YOU UP!” Then the officer might move toward the individual with EBD in a take-control sort of way. The individual with EBD, predictably, either makes a threatening movement, dives, or gets the hell out of Dodge City. The officer responds accordingly, still in domination mode.
Next? Taser…gun…? In “This is Crazy,” Brave New Media asks important questions about encounters between people with mental illness and the police. Warning some scenes may be wrenching. Please watch this film. Please share it with others.
In Nature a group of researchers from Denmark and Iceland report the results of their studies of mutation rates of Icelandic parent-child groups. They found that the level of new mutations, called a “de novo mutations,” in their samples when father’s average age was 29.7 was 1.20?X?10?8 per nucleotide per generation, but that number increases by two every year. In round numbers one might estimate that at about 20 years of age a father’s single sperm cell could carry 25 new spontaneous mutations, but at 40 years of age it might carry more than 65.
Continue reading ‘Nature: De novo mutations, autism, and schizophrenia, redux’
Teachers who are concerned about helping students understand mental health issues have at least one sensible places where they can go for teaching resources: Breaking the Silence, a Web resource offered by a local National Alliance on Mental Illness group. BTS, as it calls itself, provides a combination of neighborhood (NY, US) and widely available services (including a downloadable teacher’s “toolkit” with lesson plans, posters, and more).
The BTS folks make the case for teaching about mental health in this way:
Continue reading ‘Teaching about mental health’
Sometimes folks lose sight of the fact that disability and mental health issues are international in scope. They’re not confined just to one’s own neighborhood, locality, geopolitical area, etc. Fortunately, there are groups that transcend borders (you can probably think of the names of some well-know organizations that function internationally), and there are some in EBD, too. The Open Society Mental Health Initiative is an example:
The OSI Public Health Program’s Mental Health Initiative aims to ensure that people with mental disabilities (mental health problems and/or intellectual disabilities) are able to live as equal citizens in the community and to participate in society with full respect for their human rights. The Mental Health Initiative focuses on ending the unjustified and inappropriate institutionalization of people with mental disabilities by advocating for the closure of institutions and the development of community-based alternatives. The initiative works in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (read more about the history of mental health policies in this region).
The OSI initiative is more than a one-trick pony. It’s about a lot of things, and its foci include children with Autism, mental health issues, and more. I encourage readers to check the site. Here is a link to the OSI MHI home page.
Writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, John Gilmore and colleages reported that the size and structure of the brains of newborn boys—but not girls—who are at risk for developing schizophrenia differ from those of their peers. Using multiple scanning methods at different times during gestation and infancy, the researchers compared the brains of offspring of mothers who have schizophrenia to the offspring of mothers who do not have schizophrenia; they found that high-risk boys had larger brains and larger lateral ventricles than baby boys whose mothers did not have psychiatric illness.
Because the risk of developing schizophrenia is much greater for close relatives of schizophrenics, the differences between the groups provides a strong indicator of later potential development of disease. Professor Gilmore wondered “Could it be that enlargement is an early marker of a brain that’s going to be different?”
Continue reading ‘Brain features associated with neonatal risk for schizophrenia’
During the 40 weeks after receiving a brief course of ω-3 (“omega three”) polyunsaturated fatty acids, adolescents at risk for psychotic disorders were less likely to progress to psychotic status than similar peers who did not receive the supplement. In the study by G. Paul Amminger and colleagues, the youths in the treated group also had fewer positive, negative, and general symptoms of psychosis and improved overall functioning than those in the control group.
The youths in the treated group received a supplement of two fish-oil capsules twice a day for 12 weeks, and the controls received a placebo of coconut-oil capsules. The researchers then monitored their status and symptoms for the following 40 weeks.
Continue reading ‘Fish oil and adolescent psychosis’