Tag Archive for 'current issues'

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:

Criminalizing mental health problems

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.

Georgia students with EBD unnecessarily segregated and denied equal services

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.

Continue reading ‘Georgia students with EBD unnecessarily segregated and denied equal services’

National Academies EBP guidelines

The US National Academies Press published a a booklet recommending a framework for promoting evidence-based practices in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. The focus is not expressly on children and youths or on education, which are key concerns for EBD Blog, but the emphases on evidence-based practices (EBP) in mental health and substance abuse certainly overlap sufficiently to make this report of potential interest to readers.

Because the guidelines come from the National Academies, they will carry substantial weight. For the purposes of many who work with students who have EBD, there is similar useful guidance about EBP from a work group composed of leaders from the Division for Research—Bryan Cook (chair), Viriginia Buysse, the late Janette Klingner, Tim Landrum, Robin McWilliam, Melody Tankersley, and Dave Test— of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). In January of 2014, the CEC group presented guidance to help consumers determine whether a practice should be considered as (a) evidence-based, (b) potentially evidence-based, (c) having mixed evidence, (d) having insufficient evidence, or (e) having negative evidence. Readers can download their own copy of the standards from the CEC Website and read the CEC press release about the standards.

Continue reading ‘National Academies EBP guidelines’

The rights of the unvaccinated child by Professor D. R. Reiss

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.

  1. The Rights of the Unvaccinated Child: The Legal Framework
  2. The Rights of the Unvaccinated Child: Tort Liability

Learn more about Professor Reiss from her faculty biography at Hastings.

Plait on Kouric’s mea culpa

In Katie Couric Apologizes for Anti-Vax Episode, but It’s Not Enough, Phil Plait (DBA “Bad Astronomer”) explains why Ms. Couric’s mea culpa for her giving excessive credibility to the incredible, post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc stories of parents claiming vaccinations caused problems for their children. Mr. Plait, who branches out beyond astronomy to cover scientific matters in general from time to time, comes to essentially the same conclusion as Michael Hiltzik: No matter how strong her disclaimer, and Ms. Couric’s falls a bit short of being an abject retraction, she can’t take back the effect of having provided the highly visible stage for the anti-vaccination advocates.

It’s coverage like this, the embrace of facilitated communication, and even the pervasive endorsement of learning styles that makes it hard for reason and evidence to make headway in providing services for individuals with disabilities. Those of us who champion evidence-based approaches sometimes feel like were swimming upstream in sewer.