Tag Archive for 'Families'

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.

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’

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.

Analyzing K. Couric’s mea culpa

In “Katie Couric backs off from her anti-vaccine show–but not enough,” Michael Hiltzik provided a sensible and nuanced analysis of Ms. Couric’s recant of her recent mistaken grant of airtime to anti-vaccination advocates. Mr. Hiltzik gives Ms. Couric credit for “fessing up” to many of the mistakes in the show but he very simply noted, “You should read [her entire Huffington Post article]. But you should know that Couric didn’t go far enough.”

After cataloging the many appropriate retractions in Ms. Couric’s mea culpa, Mr. Hiltzik explains the basic problem: People are going to remember the heart-wrenching scenes from the original broadcast, not the cool, rational explanation of the print retraction. I recommend readers review his well-reasoned and -written column.

Bad Astronomy on bad TV programming

Phil Plait, who is known for his “Bad Astronomy” Web presence (and let’s not confuse that with astrology, which is bad, forsooth!), hit the Internet with a critique of Jennifer “Jenny” McCarthy’s appointment to host a television show. Over on his Slate blog, Mr. Plait (he has a Ph.D. from the university where I teach, so I could say “Dr.” but we refer to each other as “Ms.” or “Mr.” in this neighborhood) provides what I might describe as something close to a blistering indictment of the appointment:

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this post, but here we are: The daytime talk show The View has indeed hired Jenny McCarthy as a co-host. I wrote about this last week, alerting people to the possibility, and now it’s now been confirmed. She’ll find her spot on the program this fall.

Continue reading ‘Bad Astronomy on bad TV programming’

Insurance woes ahead?

Will changes in California’s insurance system cause children to lose their access to therapies based on applied behavior analysis? According to a story by Chris Megerian in the Los Angeles Times, families could no longer have insurance to help pay costs as the state transitions from its Children in Healthy Families insurance program to one using Medi-Cal. Earlier, Ryder Diaz of KQED had reported similar findings in “Despite Promises, Key Autism Therapy Cut from Medi-Cal.” The children who are served by the Children in Healthy Families program and are therefore at risk for losing their insurance come primarily from families who can least afford the cost of intensive behavioral therapy.

These news reports are supported by documents from the Web site of the Autism Health Insurance Project. On the page MediCal & Healthy Families, the Autism Health Insurance site reported that MediCal was excluded from California’s SB 946, legislation that and California’s Mental Health Parity Act.

Vaccination “free-riders”

Over on Scientific American, Janet D. Stemwedel reprised a blog post she ran in 2009 about how people who refuse to vaccinate their children against major diseases are taking advantage of the efforts by others to protect their children and their neighbors. She refers to people who adopt this strategy as “free-riders” (and I’ll leave it up to readers to review the full discussion of the term), while making the important arguments about people considering staying out of the herd, if they’re not willing to do their part for the herd.

Read the newer version entitled “The ethics of opting out of vaccination” and the original entitled Trust and accountability in the vaccine-autism wars as well as the follow-up piece with her discussion of comments “Vaccine refuseniks are free-riders” (beware: the link to the second post that appears in the last post goes 404).

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.