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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Evaluation Fundamentals

From Smart Kids with LD

By Kenneth H. Magrath, Ph.D, FACAPP
December 6, 2018

At a Glance
  • Evaluation is the foundation on which your child’s education will be built.
  • There are three phases to an evaluation: Establishing the reasons for an evaluation; assessing your child; and reporting the results.


For a child with learning disabilities or ADHD, the evaluation is the first step toward addressing his issues. Knowing what to expect will ease your fears and your child’s and ensure that the results are used appropriately.

Evaluation Goals

A good evaluation begins with a set of clear goals and objectives. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why is the evaluation being done?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?
  • What can be done with the information once it is collected?

The answers to those questions will help define the objectives, which should then be discussed in detail with the evaluator before the assessment begins.

Assessment Components

A thorough evaluation has four core components:

  • Developmental History: This is a detailed review of your child’s medical, educational, family, and social background. This information provides context for the data that will be gathered during the assessment. Accurate diagnoses of learning and attention disorders, for example, require ruling out medical causes for these concerns.
  • Cognitive Assessment: This is a detailed examination of learning skills and abilities. Intelligence testing is usually a part of this work. Well-developed IQ tests are excellent catalogues of the thinking skills that are required for success in school. The cognitive assessment should also include specialized measures of attention, memory, and planning and organization (executive functions).
  • Academic Achievement: A comprehensive battery of tests is used to evaluate your child’s skills in reading, math, and writing. Most of these batteries assess basic skills, the ability to apply the skills, and the ability to work rapidly and efficiently.
  • Behavior, Social and Emotional Functioning: This portion of the evaluation assesses your child’s behavioral strengths and challenges, interpersonal skills, and emotional life. It’s important to identify strengths and assets as well as any difficulties that might be present.

Evaluation Results

The assessment should result in a comprehensive written report, which the evaluator should discuss with you in detail. In addition to a diagnosis, the report should contain specific recommendations for next steps and assistance. That information should be used to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.

An evaluation report usually contains a great deal of data and technical information. It should, however, be written in a way that’s easy to understand for nonprofessionals. All jargon should be well defined, and if it’s not, don’t hesitate to ask for explanations.

If the information is going to be shared with the school, it is preferable for the evaluator present the results. This usually takes the form of attendance at IEP meetings to interpret the data and advocate for your child.

Your child should get feedback from the evaluator as well. He should walk away from the process aware of his strengths and how to use them, and secure in the knowledge that parents, school personnel, and the evaluator will be working together to use the information in ways that will be helpful to him.

The author is a licensed clinical psychologist who has served on the faculties of the Cornell University College of Medicine and New York Medical College. He works with children, adolescents and adults to identify learning strengths as well as challenges.


Related Smart Kids Topics

Treating Autism as a Problem: The Connection Between Gay Conversion Therapy and ABA - Part I

From The Nova Scotia Advocate

By Alex Kronstein
July 11, 2018

Halifax – This Monday I attended a protest at Grand Parade in Halifax against Coming Out Ministries.

During the week of July 20-28, the Maritime Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church will be hosting Coming Out Ministries, a group of “redeemed” “ex-gay” spiritual leaders, at their “Campmeeting 2018” in Pugwash.

They plan to share personal accounts of how they were “freed from the chains of homosexuality”, “plucked from the burning”, “redeemed” of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer, and “cured” or their transgender or genderqueer identity through prayer, devotion and conversion therapies.


The protest at Grand Parade was organized by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, The Youth Project, and Halifax Pride, with the hope of convincing the Seventh-day Adventist Church to uninvite Coming Out Ministries from their annual Campmeeting.

The protesters also want to see Nova Scotia pass a law to ban the gay conversion therapy. There was a petition to sign, and several speakers, including Julie Hollenbach and Susanne Litke from NSRAP, Kate Shewan, executive director of The Youth Project, and social worker Robert Wright.

After the scheduled speakers, they opened the microphone up for anyone in the crowd who wished to speak. At that point, I got up and gave a short speech on the connection between gay conversion therapy and autistic conversion therapy, also known as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

To understand the connection, I first have to give some background.

What is ABA?

Applied Behavioral Analysis has long been considered the “gold standard” of “intervention” for autism. As defined by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board,

“Behavior Analysis is the scientific study of principles of learning and behavior. Two primary areas of study include:

Experimental Analysis of Behavior: The basic science of the discipline and has, over many decades, accumulated a substantial and well-respected body of research literature on how behavior is learned and changes over time. The experimental analysis of behavior is the scientific foundation of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): A systematic approach for influencing socially important behavior through the identification of reliably related environmental variables and the production of behavior change techniques that make use of those findings. Practitioners of behavior analysis provide services consistent with the dimensions of ABA.”

Supporters of ABA say that it’s meant to increase “positive” skills and behaviors and reduce or eliminate “problem” behaviors in autistic children. Autistic children are often signed up for ABA or derivatives of it as soon as they’re diagnosed. Their parents are usually told their kids need this “therapy” right away for a good start in life.

However, an ever-increasing number of autistic adults, non-autistic parents of autistic children, and even some former therapists are calling this idea into question.
They say that ABA is harmful, traumatizing and abusive, that it treats autism as a problem to be fixed, and that its ultimate goal is to make autistic children pass as non-autistic. Moreover, they say that when autistic people’s natural ways of communicating, moving, and interacting with the world are suppressed, it can cause serious, long-lasting harm.
Sound familiar?

Roots of ABA: “You have to build the person.”

The “founding father” of ABA is generally considered to be Ivar Lovaas, a Norwegian-American psychologist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He believed that autistic children were not even people.

As Lovaas once said,
“You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense – they have hair, a nose and a mouth – but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but you have to build the person.”
Lovaas developed what he believed to be a comprehensive way to “build the person” and called it Applied Behavioral Analysis. His recommendation was that autistic children receive 40 hours of ABA therapy a week. One of his most important goals was to shape and mold their behaviors so they would appear more like “typically-developing” children.

Lovaas felt this was the only way autistic children would ever be able to learn anything, and he would often employ harsh aversive techniques such as withholding affection, withholding food, physical punishments, and even electric shocks.

The strong and punitive aversives Lovaas suggested may not be as widely used today, but the reliance on rewards and punishment continues in other “therapies” and “interventions” that use the principles of ABA, which I’ll discuss in a future article.

Some therapists argue that the more “modern” forms of ABA are more humane approaches, but they are nonetheless still based in the idea that autistic ways of being in the world are unacceptable and must be eradicated.

So what’s the connection to gay conversion therapy?

Well, Lovaas was also substantially involved in the Feminine Boy Project, which has strong connections to what is today known as gay conversion therapy. Psychologist George Rekers, a key figure in the world of conversion therapy (and co-founder of the notoriously anti-gay Family Research Council), used Lovaas’s techniques to treat so-called “deviant sex-role behaviors” in male children.

And when you think about it, even if Lovaas had no connections at all to gay conversion therapy, ABA has enough similarities to gay conversion therapy that many autistics refer to it as “autistic conversion therapy”.

There’s more waves to be made.

I am very grateful to the organizers of the protest for doing it, and I’m eternally thankful for the chance to be able to speak. My presentation was well-received by everyone, and a few people came up to speak with me afterward. All I can say is, there’s more waves to be made against ABA in Canada!

Which is why my next article will take a closer look at ABA in Canada, especially Nova Scotia, who’s fighting back against it, and what we can do instead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

ADHD and Immaturity: Parents Shouldn't Have to Game the Educational System

From WBUR 90.9 FM's Blog "Cognoscenti"

By Beth A. Hennessey
December 4, 2018

"Young children are made to move to touch, and to interact with the physical world around them. This is how they best learn."


Social psychologists, like me, have long been maligned with the criticism that we investigate and conclude the obvious. When research findings match people’s intuitions, they often dismiss our work as “common sense.”

My hunch is that, last week, many did just this when they heard about a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine highlighting the immaturity of younger children whose birthdays fall close to school enrollment cut-offs.

The developmental differences displayed by a child who has just turned 5 and a classmate who is 11 or 12 months their senior can be astronomical. A year is a long time, especially when it constitutes a full one-fifth of one’s experience on this earth.

While many readers undoubtedly chalked up these findings to common sense and wondered for a moment whether we really needed an expensive Harvard University study to state the obvious, we did, in fact, need this study. Educators need to wake up and they need scholarly ammunition to support a variety of sorely needed classroom reforms.
In our curious and distinctly American fashion, educators and parents are constantly striving to speed up the developmental process. But why?
In my teaching of students at Wellesley College, I have long made the argument that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is over-diagnosed. Many children, solely by virtue of their birthdate, are prematurely singled out, put on medication and labeled as “different.” Teacher and parent perceptions become skewed; over time, the children themselves become aware of their diagnosis.

Importantly, when introducing this thesis, I am always careful to affirm the fact that ADHD is a very real phenomenon. Many children and adults struggle daily with issues of attention and benefit greatly from medical intervention, but how many young children are being labeled and medicated unnecessarily?

Before earning a Ph.D. and teaching at the college level, I spent a few years as a kindergarten teacher. Over time, I came to the realization that the curriculum and routines that I was expected to implement were entirely developmentally inappropriate for many of my young students.
The expectation that the average 5-year-old will sit quietly on the floor for 20 minutes — attending to a lesson and dutifully refraining from poking, tickling or wrestling with a child sitting only inches away — is more than ridiculous: it is cruel and unusual punishment. Young children are made to move to touch, and to interact with the physical world around them. This is how they best learn.
Yet, over time, curricular and behavioral expectations have trickled down to the point where what were once educational goals for second graders are now being applied to kindergarteners. In our curious and distinctly American fashion, educators and parents are constantly striving to speed up the developmental process. But why?

Research shows that by the time they reach middle school, “early” readers are no more skilled than the students who did not begin to read until age 7. In fact, some countries (most notably Finland) do not start formal education until age 7.

In a series of brief interviews aired on NPR and elsewhere, a number of suggestions were made as to how a misdiagnosis of ADHD might be avoided. Physicians, for example, might be more mindful of a child’s age in comparison to his or her classmates. Others have suggested that parents of children born in July or August and close to the September 1 cutoff should consider giving their child another year before starting kindergarten.

This practice of “redshirting” is, in fact, increasingly common in many communities. But it is misguided — not to mention available only to families who have the economic luxury of being able to pay for an additional year of childcare.

Families and children should not be expected to game the educational system. Instead, it is the system that needs to be changed. Educators and curriculum developers must be given the license to step back and examine whether their expectations of young children are in keeping with our in-depth understanding of child development.

Not every 5- or 6-year-old is ready to read, sit quietly or manipulate numbers. The early elementary grades must be characterized by an open-ended approach that can be tailored to the needs of each individual child.

In fact, few additional studies would be necessary to achieve this goal. Lessons learned in the “open classrooms” of the 1960s and '70s, coupled with insights gained from Waldorf and similar curricula, should pave the way for necessary educational reform.

Ensuring Well-Informed Citizens through Public Education, Then and Now

From the Ed Law Prof Blog

By Derek Black, Esq.
December 10, 2018

"Schools with the most disadvantaged students in the most disenfranchised communities tend to have the least resources. We simply cannot claim that our education system is leveling the playing field and securing democracy’s future if we won’t fund it adequately and equally."



In October, I had the privilege of participating in a TEDx event sponsored by the University of South Carolina. The subject of my talk was the danger our democracy faces when we fail to ensure equal and adequate public education. I offered warnings and lessons from both the perspective of our nation’s founders and those who rebuilt our nation in the period following the Civil War.

The number of parallels between the post-Civil War period and today are striking, particularly the advent of new technology—the penny press newspapers then and the 24-hour news cycle and blogs today. The challenge today is use yesterday’s lessons to solve today’s problems in school funding, critical literacy, and democratic participation.

The following is a couple of highlights from the talk:
Democracy is a double edged sword. It places political power in the hands of the people, but to succeed, those people need to be informed well enough to make smart decisions. An educated citizenry cannot be easily manipulated. Not easily oppressed. And educated citizenry will guard its freedom jealously. And when these citizens get it wrong—and they will—they will disagree with one another. And this slows down any major moves in the wrong direction. 
So the inherent tension of democracy revolves around the need to place power in the hands of people who may or may not be well-informed. Our founders—the people who wrote the federal and state constitutions we live under—firmly believed the only solution was the only solution was to make sure we have public education system that cultivates the skills that citizens need to participate in democracy. 
The Problem 
In today’s world, civics knowledge and critical literacy are, well, critical. By civics I mean how our government works. A large chunk of the public has next to no idea. . . . [But] we also need critical literacy to evaluate what we learn about government and its policies. 
About one in three Americans are either illiterate or rudimentary readers. Half can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level and comprehend it. 
And the sad thing is, that most of us who can do better, don’t. 59 percent of the time, we don’t even read stories behind the links we post, share, and retweet on social media. 
If our democracy rests on a literate and well-informed citizenry, we should be scared. 
. . . . . 
This is nothing new. 
The US started as an experiment in democracy. Our founding fathers were familiar with the monarchs of Europe and taxation without representation here at home. They wanted people to rule themselves rather than be ruled by a king.

Some of our most notable founding fathers weren’t entirely sure it would work. They knew democracy’s risks. They knew democracy could turn into mob rule. They knew the masses might decide to take property away from the wealthy and redistribute it. But what they seemed to fear most was that the uneducated masses would be misled by unscrupulous politicians or defrauded at the ballot box. . . .
 
. . . .[Later,] the Civil War brought the tension between reality and our democratic ideas to a head. The South, and many other states, were not real democracies.
The hurdles that the nation faced in making that transition were in many ways no different than the challenges we face today. . . .
 
Everything revolved around the flow of information and it was interesting a very chaotic flow of information, just like today. 
They had the penny presses. They were in many respects like the blogs of today. Everyone had their own press and paper. And they were just as polarized. National, state, and local political parties had their own papers. From the tip of main to the edges of the western frontier, every little town and hamlet had its own newspaper had its own newspaper. And so did a lot of other people. Some focused on politics. Others focused on scandal and intrigue. 
. . . . . 
The nation was primarily rural and largely disconnected, save but one thing—the newspaper. If a citizen wanted to know what his representative was doing in Washington DC or in the state capital for that matter, he had only one way of knowing. That was by reading the papers. And the average person had to sort through a lot of differing accounts and opinions in the penny presses to get to the bottom of things. They couldn’t just take someone’s word for it. 
At the close of the Civil War, Congress sought a solution that would bring millions of new people into our democracy and rebuild it. The solution was public education. 
Congress told Southern states that if they were going to reenter the Union, they had to get serious about democracy. This meant extending the vote to African Americans and radically expanding their public education systems. As a result, all of the southern states amended their state constitutions to mandate the provision of public education. Other Northern states would do the same in the coming years. 
And in fact, following the civil war, no state would ever again enter the Union without a provision in their state constitution mandating public education.

This period offers some important lessons. First is the general importance of public education to democracy. Second, the education system must be equally open and uniformly available to all. Third, that public education must prepare citizens for the demands of democratic participation.
 
What should we do today? 
. . . . [As a country,] we cannot forget that the skills and outcomes we want students to obtain depend on state support----money. Recent studies show that twenty percent increases in school funding would cut the black-white graduation gap in half. They also show that funding cuts over the past decade depressed student achievement. Yet, most states continue to fund education, in real dollar terms, at a lower level than they did in 2008, ten years ago. 
And schools with the most disadvantaged students in the most disenfranchised communities tend to have the least resources. We simply cannot claim that our education system is leveling the playing field and securing democracy’s future if we won’t fund it adequately and equally. 
[As individuals,] we face many of the same challenges as our children, but it is on us to make ourselves better consumers of information. No one is coming to re-school us. And we are for now, the ones in whose hands this democracy is entrusted. 
We are in both a better position and worse position than we were back in the 1800s. Our position is worse because we have more to deal with: radio, television, print, social media and our cell phones. 
But we are in better position to navigate the noise because we have access to real information. . . . 
We should take these opportunities to be good stewards of information and to contribute to the civic conversation in a positive way. As a scholar, citizen, and just everyday reader, I have found that there are at least two ways to do that. . . .
Watch the full talk HERE.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Report: Supply of Special Ed Teachers on a Steady Decline

From Education Dive

By Allie Gross
December 7, 2018

Dive Brief
  • Over the past 10-years, the number of special education teachers has dropped by nearly 20% nationally, according to a new analysis of federal data by the Education Week Research Center.
  • But while the number of special education teachers has seen such a steep decrease, the same analysis found that the number of students with disabilities, ages 6 through 21, has declined by only 1% over the same time period.
  • Among those surveyed in public schools with teaching vacancies, over 30% said they were not able to fill their special education spots or found it very difficult to do so. This is juxtaposed with the 9% who struggled to fill spots for general elementary education teachers.


Dive Insight

According to Education Week’s survey, physical science and foreign language are the only subjects more difficult to fill then special education — a true struggle for many school districts. In 2015, NPR conducted an investigation into what is behind the growing number of vacancies in the field. In short it came down to “long hours and crushing paperwork.”

The shortage can also have dire consequences for school districts that are mandated to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires that students with disabilities have an individualized education program (IEP). Most require that a student be taught by a teacher who is certified to teach special education.

Other factors that contribute to the shortage, according to ReThink include a lack of access to technology that makes it easier for special ed teachers to document and plan IEPs, challenging behaviors and isolation, which can manifest especially in rural communities where one special education teacher is expected to shoulder massive caseloads.

What makes the shortage particularly problematic for districts is if a school does not comply with an IEP. Even because of a shortage issue, they can be out of compliance and at risk of a lawsuit. In fact, in October a lawsuit was filed against Flint Community Schools in Michigan, alleging that the district lacks a quarter of its special education teaching force and is therefore failing to effectively educate the district’s students with special needs.

Recommended Reading

How to Build a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom Where All Learners Feel Safe

From KQED's Blog "Mind/Shift"
How we will learn.

By Deborah Farmer Kris
December 2, 2018


In the United States, 34 million children have had at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) -- ranging from abuse or neglect to parental incarceration or addiction. Children living in poverty are more likely to have multiple ACEs, compounding the effects of economic insecurity.

In addition, the current opioid epidemic is devastating families and overwhelming the foster care system, and many school populations include refugee children who have fled dangerous conditions. Many classrooms in America are touched by trauma.

Patricia Jennings, associate professor at the University of Virginia and author of the new book The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, says that childhood trauma can have severe immediate and long-term consequences for students’ cognitive, social and emotional development.

Trauma and chronic stress change the way our bodies and brains react to the world. Part of that is protective, said Jennings. “Humans tend to adapt to chronic stress in order to be able to survive and thrive in challenging contexts. But these adaptive behaviors can impede success in the classroom context.”


In school, children with trauma are more likely to have trouble regulating their emotions, focusing, and interacting with peers and adults in a positive way.

The Power of a Trauma-Sensitive Teacher

There is some hopeful news in the sobering research about kids and trauma. “We know enough about the science to know that teachers can make a huge difference,” said Jennings. “The school environment is one of the places where students who are exposed to real challenges at home can find safety and stability.”

When infants and very young children experience chronic stress, it affects their sense of security, and this has a ripple effect on future relationships. As Jennings explained, “When we are infants, we are attached to our caregivers – our survival depends on them. Whatever attachment patterns we have with our caregivers, we project onto others. It’s our template.”


If the parent-child relationship is inconsistent, unhealthy or interrupted, “it’s hard for kids to know if they can trust other adults.” A caring teacher can create a new template about adults, said Jennings, one that says, “Teachers are caring, kind people who want to help me.”

In this way, teachers are uniquely positioned to ameliorate some of the effects of early trauma. “The adults in the school environment may be the most stable and mentally well people [some children] have contact with,” said Jennings. “Their teachers can become role models for them for what a healthy adult is like. School can become a sanctuary for kids like this.”

Preschool and kindergarten teachers play an especially important role because children's early classroom experiences influence their perception of school for years to come. Jennings said that a caring kindergarten teacher can help these children “learn that adults, generally, are people who can provide support to them, even if their parent cannot.”


That’s one reason the preschool suspension and expulsion rates are troubling. They disrupt yet another adult-child relationship and reinforce feelings of instability. As early childhood expert Suzanne Bouffard noted, “Young children who are suspended are often the ones who need the most social and academic support — and they end up missing opportunities to get it.”

Building a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom Environment


Let Go of Zero Tolerance: Zero tolerance policies and harsh classroom discipline models can “trigger reactions that amplify feelings of trauma,” said Jennings. Punitive measures can retraumatize children and “reinforce in their mind that the world is a dangerous place, that people don’t like them, and that they are no good.”

Teachers need the flexibility to de-escalate a situation rather than administer a prescriptive consequence. Ultimately, these students need to learn how to de-escalate situations themselves and regulate their emotions, said Jennings, “and the only way they can learn that is in a place that feels safe.”

Reframe Student Behavior: It’s easy for teachers to take students’ behavior personally or to misinterpret a child’s actions as willful defiance. Jennings said that teachers should “remember that behaviors that are disruptive or unhelpful in the classroom might be self-protective responses to chronic stress.” This perspective can help teachers make a small but powerful mental shift: instead of asking “what’s wrong with him?” ask “what happened to him, and how did he learn to adapt to it?”

For example, “Hypervigilance can really help when you are in a dangerous situation. A child who is hypervigilant may be adept at noticing small changes and reacting quickly.” But this same hypervigilance will “make it really hard to focus and dive deeply into the reading material.”

Children who experience food scarcity may have a tendency “to quickly grab or hoard things.” These kids might fail the famous marshmallow experiment simply because “they don’t trust that the second marshmallow is really coming,” said Jennings. “In the context of their lives, this is an adaptive response that makes sense.”

Cultivating this kind of empathy takes practice, says Jennings. It means developing “the ability to stop yourself from reacting with your habitual tendencies, take a breath and reflect” on the child in front of you. When teachers take the perspective of a student, “things really shift.”

Generate and Savor Positive Emotions: Because teachers don’t always know which students are coming to school with traumatic backgrounds – and because they have an obligation to teach all learners – educators “have to consider universal approaches that help everybody and embrace those kids who need it most.” Developing a strong classroom community is foundational to this work.

When children suffer from trauma exposure, they are on high alert for potential threats. Teachers can intentionally help students “recognize and savor” small, special moments in the classroom, said Jennings.

“Help the class pay attention to what it feels like to feel good. Enjoy positive emotions together as a community. Not only do you get to help kids who don’t get to feel those positive emotions as much, but you also create bonds between students in your classroom – and that is exactly what they need.”
This can be as simple as celebrating acts of kindness, pausing after a good moment to soak up the feeling in the room, and using tools such as morning meetings to foster a respectful classroom culture. “When teachers cultivate community, students who have experienced trauma come to believe, ‘I am part of this community. They accept me, they care about me, and they want to help me. I belong here.’ That’s something all kids can benefit from,” said Jennings.

Draw on the Power of Story: Children with trauma backgrounds need plenty of opportunities to learn about, experience and practice compassion and resilience. Literature is a powerful vehicle to support this endeavor, said Jennings. Stories and books can broaden students’ perspectives, giving them a window into how other people feel, bounce back from challenges and develop healthy relationships.

“As you read a story to a group of children, ask ‘How do you think this person is feeling in this story? Can you imagine if you were a person in this story? How would that feel to you?’” said Jennings. Reading aloud isn’t just for elementary school classrooms. According to one study, even teenagers benefit from hearing about how scientists approached failure and setbacks.


(For two curated lists of books related to kindness and compassion, click here and here.)

Put On Your Oxygen Mask First: In Jennings’ work, she focuses first on helping teachers develop resilience, self-awareness, and self-regulation -- and then on how they can teach these tools to children.

She said that teachers need to learn how to manage their own stress that comes with navigating students’ trauma-related behavior. Jennings devotes a chunk of her book to teacher self-care and includes this resilience self-reflection survey that helps teachers think about their own ability to “navigate and recover from adversity.”

How do we best teach children about compassion and resilience? First and foremost, adults must remember that “kids learn these skills through imitating us,” said Jennings. “If we don’t embody them, our instruction won’t work. It will come off as phony. If we are not behaving the way we want them to behave, we are being hypocritical -- and they know it.”

When teachers consistently model compassion in the classroom, the effect can be transformative. Ultimately, one of the most important, brain-altering messages that trauma survivors can glean from school is simply this, said Jennings: “I know there are people in the world who care about me."

Sunday, December 9, 2018

13-Year-Old Autistic Boy Died After He Was Physically Restrained at School

From The Daily Beast

By Stephanie K. Baer
December 7, 2018

"At this time, there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent."



A 13-year-old autistic boy died in late November after he was physically restrained by school officials, according to a Friday report from BuzzFeed News. On November 28, the student became violent, requiring staff at Guiding Hands School to restrain him to “prevent the injury of staff and students,” the El Dorado County sheriff said.

The Fresno Bee reports that the boy was held in a prone restraint—which means he was restrained face-down—for almost an hour. That type of restraint has been banned in some other states, and it’s considered a “hazardous and potentially lethal restraint position” by the group Disability Rights California.

A teacher tried performing CPR, and the boy was rushed to the hospital but did not survive. The sheriff added that while an investigation continues, “there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent.”

The state, however, suspended the school’s certification while it conducts its own investigation. This will prevent the school, which is designed to help children with severe disabilities, from accepting more students.

A spokesperson for the school decried the boy’s death. “After the incident, an emergency ensued and staff immediately alerted paramedics. We have since been informed, the student has passed away,” she said. “We are devastated by this loss and remain committed to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.”

This is not the first time the school has faced criticism for restraining students, the Bee notes. In 2004, one mother sued after school officials allegedly forcefully restrained her daughter, who had broken her arm earlier in the day, and forced her to clean up after herself when she vomited while being held down.