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.
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’
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’
The Little Keswick Foundation for Special Education, a philanthropic group associated with the Little Keswick School in central Virginia, announced that Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, will speak at its 16th Annual Education Symposium scheduled for 10 October 2013 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Piedmont Virginia Community College’s V. Earl Dickinson Center. The session, entitled “Collaborative & Proactive Solutions: Understanding and Helping Behaviorally Challenging Kids (and their Caregivers),” is open to the public and there is no admission fee.
A child psychologist, Ross Greene has taught courses for the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. He is founder of Lives in the Balance, a non-profit devoted to explaining and supporting his theraputic approach, called “Collaborative Problem Solving.” In addition to his books, Professor Greene has published research articles in well-respected journals such as Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, American Journal of Psychiatry, and Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.
Continue reading ‘Little Keswick to feature talk by Ross Greene’
Liza Long is the author of the post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” that has gone viral in the few days following the mass murder that Mr. Lanza apparently committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School 14 December 2012. In it, Ms. Long—who obviously is not the deceased mother of Mr. Lanza—makes an important, impassioned, and strong case for focusing on mental health issues among children and youth. Here’s the beginning of that post.
In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
Continue reading ‘Mothers agree on helping children with mental illness and their families’
The US Department of Education (ED) published Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document today. After the extensive discussions the last few years about abuses of management procedures (see , especially those used with children and youths with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, ED contracted with an agency to create this document that provides guidelines for the appropriate use of restraints and seclusion.
The foundation of any discussion about the use of restraint and seclusion is that every effort should be made to structure environments and provide supports so that restraint and seclusion are unnecessary. As many reports have documented, the use of restraint and seclusion can, in some cases, have very serious consequences, including, most tragically, death. There is no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques.
Continue reading ‘US ED resource on restraint and seclusion’
In a statement entitled “A proposal that would assist troubled youths in Virginia” the Washington Post editorial board lent its support to efforts to fund mental health services for children and youth. The editorial, published 11 January 2012, recounted a history of rueful cost cutting and encouraging advocacy in my commonwealth.
A YEAR AGO, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) proposed slashing millions of dollars from the state’s already badly fragmented and underfunded programs for at-risk children and teenagers. The cuts targeted funding for specially trained foster families and other services for children, including some who posed a danger of violence to themselves and others. The cuts were rejected, and funding restored, thanks to a bipartisan group of lawmakers responding to an outcry from advocacy groups and local governments, which would have borne the brunt of the governor’s proposal. In the end, the debate turned a useful spotlight on a critical hole in the state’s social services safety net.
The Post editorial team explained that the current budget does not contain such cost-cutting measures, but that difficulties for mental health services persist because of other problems (e.g., local government fiscal shortages). In the end, the need for services is great and, as the editorial shows, the need for serious discussion about funding of them is clear. Read the full editorial on the Post’s Web site.
If you’re in Virginia and you can make it to Richmond, join Voices for Virginia’s Campaign for Children’s Mental Health for “Advocacy Day at the General Assembly” Thursday 26 January 2012. If you live somewhere else, scout about for ways you can help support mental health services in your local or regional government.
In an accompanying PDF I have listed studies that are currently seeking children (both female and male) with Emotional of Behavioral Disorders (especially autism spectrum disorders) as participants (some include adults, as well) that are registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). The studies have diverse purposes: They may be observing different events (whether overt behavior or neurochemical activity) or they may be testing different therapies (ranging from behavioral to medical methods). Many are sponsored at least in part by the NIH, but some have funding from universities or even private industries. Because of its affiliation with NIH, ClincialTrials.gov is more likely to represent medically oriented studies and studies that use rigorous scientific methods (i.e., randomized clinical trials or RCTs), but this is not exclusively the case. Readers should examine the studies carefully.
The list is not exhaustive (I used “autism” in the search, so there are many more studies that could be located by using other terms), and I’ve provided only some of the data about each study in the table, but you can learn a fair bit about individual studies. For example, one can learn about study number NCT00198107 that is entitled “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Aripiprazole and D-Cycloserine to Treat Symptoms Associated With Autism.” It focuses on individuals with Autistic Disorders and examines an intervention (in this case, comparing drugs called Aripiprazole D-cycloserine to placebo in a randomized design with double-blind (Subject, Caregiver, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor) | Primary Purpose: procedures. The study began 1-Sep-05 and will end 1-Sep-11 (making it odd that it is still listed as open, no?).
To locate additional information about a particular study, copy the NCT ID number, go to ClinicalTrials.gov, and enter that number into the search box. Download the PDF here (10 pages).