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Saturday, February 28, 2015

New Guidance to Help Protect Student Privacy in Educational Sites and Apps

From Homeroom 

February 27, 2015

When signing up for a new technology, digital service, or app, there’s a simple little check box near the end that most of us don’t give much thought. But for schools and districts, agreeing to a terms of service agreement could have big implications for student privacy.

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education released model terms of service guidance to help schools identify which online educational services and apps have strong privacy and data security policies to protect our students.

Some terms of service agreements are a tough read, even for lawyers, so the hope is that our new guidance will help school officials decide what’s right for their school and students.

Today’s guidance helps officials look for provisions that would allow the service or company to market to students or parents, provisions on how data is collected, used, shared, transferred, and destroyed, and it also guides schools on making sure they’re satisfying parental access requirements, as well as proper security controls.

Read the entire guidance HERE, and check out the training video (10:00) below:

This U.S. Department of Education teacher training video is aimed at helping K-12 school officials to better protect student privacy while using online educational services and applications. The video, intended for use during teacher in-service days or professional development meetings, offers a short summary of the issue and provides some examples to help educators identify which online educational services and applications are privacy-friendly and protect student data from improper use and disclosure.

Asperger’s Student Leads Female Autism Study

From Anglia Ruskin University
via the Cambridge Network (U.K.) 

February 19, 2015

The project is being led by Hannah Belcher (pictured), a Ph.D. student at Anglia Ruskin University, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 23.

Only one fifth of girls are diagnosed with their autism before the age of 11, compared with over half of boys.

The study, in effect an online screening tool, is being supervised by Dr Steven Stagg and aims to survey 6,000 people in an attempt to understand the scale of how many women are still going undiagnosed.

Hannah said: “The main aim of this research is to help quicken the identification of girls on the spectrum, offer them the support they need and help them achieve their full potential.

“Teachers, therapists and doctors see isolated problems in girls but are failing to see the bigger picture.

“I was diagnosed when I was 23, considerably late by male standards but unfortunately fairly average for females on the spectrum.

“And contrary to the Asperger’s stereotype I do not like trains, I’m not particularly fussed about numbers, I can look people in the eye and I have never hacked into a computer! Instead I have good friends and enjoy music, films and photography.”

Dr. Stagg, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “It is certainly the case that autism is viewed as a male condition.

“However, not enough is known to say for certain whether autism is more prevalent in males, or that females are simply better at copying others and therefore masking the social effects of autism.

“It’s probably the case that a lot of women don’t even consider that they might have autism, but instead think they have social problems. Many women who are diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder are actually likely to be autistic.”


Anglia Ruskin University is the university of choice for students and employers in the East of England and operates principally from campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Community Supports for Effective Transition Planning - Venturing Outside of the Classroom: Workshop Monday, March 23rd


February 24, 2015

We are very pleased to announce a workshop for parents and professionals on an essential element of successful transition planning too seldom addressed, particularly by the public schools: the need for community-based assessment of, and coaching in the practical life skills needed to thrive in and beyond post-secondary education. This program will be appropriate for parents of students aged 12 and older, and others working with them.  

Topics to be covered in this workshop will include:
  • A brief overview of transition planning and service guidelines identified by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (MA DESE);
  • Why learning to navigate one’s own community is essential to independence in adult life;
  • Effective strategies for transitioning from classroom education to community experiences;
  • What community experiences supporting transitions to college, employment, recreation, leisure, independence and a range of post-secondary outcomes look like;
  • How to implement the “I” in individualized educational program in the community.

When:   7:00 – 8:30pm Monday, March 23, 2015

Where: NESCA
                  Lower Lobby Meeting Space
                  55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458

Cost:    $20/person payable by credit card over the phone,
                  or cash/check at the door.

Coffee and light refreshments will be served. Space is limited. RSVP required to Amanda Renzi at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or by email to


Marilyn Webber is a distinguished, highly experienced transition specialist dedicated in working with adolescents and young adults. She provides Community-Based Skills Coaching services as well as short-term consultation to families and professionals.

Ms. Weber brings decades of experience working in schools and community agencies as a job developer, job coach, work study coordinator, school to careers coordinator, transition coordinator, parent and professional trainer and parent consultant. She is a veteran advocate who trained at The Federation of Children with Special Needs (FCSN), Wrightslaw and OSEP/COPAA’s SEAT program, with a practicum at FCSN.

Ms. Weber was the Partnership Director for DRYVE, a youth career center funded by the Workforce Initiative Act. She is a member of Massachusetts Advocates for Children Autism Advisory Committee and Transition Coordinator Subcommittee which recently passed “An Act Relative to Students with Disabilities in Post-Secondary Education, Employment and Independent Living.”

She is the proud mother of a young adult with autism.

Resolving Special Ed Disputes

From Smart Kids with LD

By Matthew Saleh, J.D., M.S.
February 16, 2015

Summary: To address disagreements between parents and schools regarding placements of children with LD, the IDEA guarantees two options: mediation and a due process hearing. In mediation, the parties try to reach an agreement with the help of a trained facilitator. If mediation fails, parents can file for a due process hearing, which is a formal legal proceeding.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees all children with learning and other disabilities equal educational opportunity, full participation and (editor's note: the chance to learn the skills necessary to achieve) independent living and economic self-sufficiency.

To help implement this federal law, the IDEA includes a number of so-called procedural safeguards that have been put in place to ensure that your child’s rights are fully realized under the law. Among those safeguards are provisions designed to resolve disagreements between parents and schools regarding a child’s placement.

When a dispute arises involving a child’s educational plan, parents are entitled to be informed about their Procedural Safeguards regarding dispute resolution alternatives, including mediation and due process hearings.

Issues should be resolved by the parties at IEP Team meetings if at all possible; and only if a mutually agreeable resolution is not possible should mediation or due process be considered.


Mediation is a form of dispute resolution where a mediator—an impartial, trained third-party— helps the parties in a dispute resolve their disagreement. The mediation process differs from formal legal proceedings in that the mediator, unlike a judge or hearing officer, does not reach a decision regarding the dispute, but merely facilitates the two parties in reaching an agreement.

The mediation process, as described under the IDEA, must be entered into voluntarily by both sides, must not be used to delay or deny a parent’s right to a due process hearing, and must be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who has been properly trained in effective mediation techniques.

Mediation does not require an attorney, but parents often choose to be represented by one. The goal of mediation is to resolve the case by coming to a mutually agreeable settlement, which then takes the form of a written contract signed by both parties. Because this is a legal contract, which can be enforced in State or Federal court, it may be advantageous to be represented by an attorney.

State Departments of Education are required to maintain an updated list of qualified mediators who are knowledgeable about the laws and regulations pertaining to special education services, and the State is required to bear the entire cost of the mediation process, including meetings with impartial third parties to inform parents of the benefits of the mediation process.

The mediation process must be scheduled in a timely manner, held in a location convenient to the parties involved, guarantee confidentiality of the participants, and use legally-binding written agreements.

In most states, the majority of disputes that go to mediation result in a settlement agreement between the school and the parents.

Due Process

If mediation fails, another form of dispute resolution available under the IDEA is the due process hearing. Unlike mediation, parents have a right to file for due process without agreement by the school district.

Many parents retain an attorney to represent them in a due process hearing. This is a legal process that includes the submission of evidence, testimony of witnesses and writing of briefs. Though parents can represent themselves, it is advantageous to have representation by an attorney with knowledge about legal procedure and specific expertise in special education law.

To take this action, a parent must first submit a due process complaint to their State Department of Education. A due process complaint must allege a violation of a child’s rights under the IDEA, and be filed within two years of the time that a parent knew, or should have known, that the violation occurred (this is known as a “statute of limitations”). Certain states have their own statute of limitation timeframes, but these periods may not be less than the timeframe laid out under the IDEA.

After a complaint is filed, the party receiving the complaint has 10 days to send a response addressing the issues raised in the complaint. The hearing officer assigned to the complaint then has five days to make a determination as to whether the due process complaint, on its face, meets the basic filing requirements, including documentation of the child’s name, address, school attended, a description of the nature of the dispute, and a proposed resolution to the problem.

Resolution Meeting

The 2004 amendments to the IDEA added a “resolution meeting” requirement to the due process provisions, which is meant to provide parents and the school district with an opportunity to resolve the issues prior to the initiation of due process. The requirement provides that, within 15 days of receiving notice of the parent’s due process complaint, and prior to the initiation of a due process hearing, the school district must organize a resolution meeting between the parents and those members of the child’s IEP Team who have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the complaint.

A child’s parents are entitled to a role in determining the members of the IEP Team that should attend. A representative of the school district must also be present, but may not be accompanied by an attorney unless the parents also attend with legal representation.

If the resolution meeting fails to resolve the due process complaint to the parents’ satisfaction, and if the school district otherwise fails to resolve the dispute within 30 days of the receipt of the complaint, then the due process hearings may begin.

The State Department of Education is responsible for ensuring that the assigned hearing officer issues a decision no later than 45 days after the start of the due process hearings, and a copy of the decision must be mailed to both parties at that time. Attorney fees are reimbursed by the school district in a due process hearing where the parents prevail, or on those specific issues over which the parents prevail.

It is important for parents to understand that these procedural safeguards exist, and the circumstances under which these rights should be asserted. The rights dispute resolution was explicitly built into the IDEA as a means for strengthening the child’s right to educational equity and inclusion.

Issues should be resolved by the parties at IEP Team meetings if at all possible; and only if a mutually agreeable resolution is not possible should mediation or due process be considered. Mediation is preferable to due process in that it is a less costly and time-consuming solution to resolving issues between the parents and the school district.

Matthew Saleh is a Research Fellow at Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute and a Research Associate at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University. He received his J.D. from the Syracuse University College of Law and is currently a doctoral candidate at Columbia University.


Related Smart Kids Topics

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Is Your Teenager Struggling With Behavioral Challenges? NAMI's Free 7-Week Basic Mental Health Course Starts Tuesday, March 17th in Acton

The National Alliance on Mental Illness

February 27, 2015

Experts agree that children and adolescents are growing up in an increasingly complex and stressful world full of social and academic challenges. Some of our kids are struggling to manage these challenges due to biological, psychological and/or social issues.

The symptoms of these underlying issues may include school avoidance, isolation, poor grades, self-harm, problems with relationships, impulsivity, poor decision-making, defiance, eating disorders and substance abuse.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is offering a free educational program specially designed for parents and other caregivers of adolescents and children living with emotional or behavioral challenges. An evidence-based program, NAMI BASICS is taught by trained parent volunteers who themselves have children with these issues.

The program runs for 7 weeks and covers topics such as neurobiology, problem solving skills, listening and communication skills, accessing services and supports, crisis management and caregiver self-care. Classes start Tuesday, March 17th.

When:   7:00 - 9:30pm (Seven successive Tuesdays starting
                   March 17, 2015)

Where: Acton, MA (Call for specific street address information)

This program is free of charge, but 
space is limited and pre-registration is required.

To register, please call or email Dee at 978-697-3441 ( or Cara at 978-760-2455 (

BSEA Decision - Independent Educational Evaluation: Use it or Lose it

From the Law Office of Daniel S. Perlman

By Daniel S. Perlman
February 24, 2015

In special education law, independent education evaluations are important both to inform parents and school districts about the unique needs of a student. A parent can pay privately for an evaluation at any time, and share the results with the school district at a Team meeting.

Parents can choose whether to share an evaluation. Sometimes evaluations contain private information that might not be appropriate to share with a school district.

However, a Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) hearing officer recently found that when parents did not share an evaluation with a Team, they could not use that evaluation as evidence at hearing.

The strongly worded opinion serves as a warning that parents should either use an evaluation at the Team level or lose it if the matter requires a BSEA hearing.

In Richmond Consolidated School District (“RCS”) – BSEA # 14-10881, the hearing officer found that the school district’s IEP provided FAPE when the parents were unable to present evidence to the contrary. The parents could not rely on independent evaluations that they had not previously shared with the Team.

Hearing officer Raymond Oliver wrote,

“By not providing this report to Richmond, the TEAM process could not be fully implemented. By all accounts, the TEAM would have convened to review this report in the same manner it had convened to review other reports and information that was presented to them. To allow the parents to rely on the testimony and report of Ms. Imperatore and Ms. Odato-Staed to attempt to prove that the IEP was not reasonably calculated to provide a FAPE to Mark, would circumvent the TEAM process, violate the special education laws and prejudice the school district. I, therefore, have not given any weight to the testimony of Ms. Imperator or Odato-Staed or their respective report.” (emphasis supplied)

Read the full decision here.

Sunday Review Editorial: Don’t Give Up the Gains in Education

From The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
February 21, 2015 

Credit Ben Sklar for The New York Times        

Congress made the right decision a decade ago when it required states to administer yearly tests to public school students — and improve instruction for poor and minority students — in return for federal education aid.

National test data clearly show that since the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act was signed in 2002, academic performance for the country’s students has improved and achievement gaps between white and minority children have narrowed. Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced that the nation’s high school graduation rate had hit 81 percent, the highest rate ever.

Even so, the achievement gaps remain distressingly wide, and American children are still losing ground to competitors abroad who are much better prepared for college and the new economy. It would be a grave mistake for Congress to back away from important reforms in its reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was named the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002.

The 2002 law required states to give annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight (and once in high school) to ensure that students were making progress and that poor and minority students were being educated. The most important aspect was that it required the states to improve conditions for children in underperforming schools.

But the part of the law that labeled schools that missed performance targets as in need of improvement — and subjected them to sanctions — did create serious problems.

This provision failed to adequately distinguish between chronically failing schools and otherwise good schools that missed improvement targets for particular subgroups, like special needs children.

As a result, as many as half the schools in some states were listed as needing improvement, seen by the public as “failing,” which mystified educators and parents, and generated a predictable political backlash.

Congress missed a chance to fix this problem when it failed to reauthorize the law as scheduled in 2007. Had lawmakers taken up the matter, they could easily have reduced the overemphasis on test scores by giving some weight to other indexes, like advanced courses, the strength of the curriculum and college admission rates. Instead, Congress did nothing, and left it to the Department of Education to address the problem as best it could through administrative means.

Although the federal law required only one math and one English test per year, it led to a wave of over-testing that swept this country’s schools during the last decade. Some school districts reacted to the fear of being labeled “failing” by adding layers of practice tests, effectively turning education into mere test preparation.

Some schools went even further with testing when the federal Race to the Top competitive grant program pushed states to create teacher evaluation systems that take student test results into account. It’s up to the states to fix this problem, perhaps by identifying and discarding unnecessary tests and, if necessary, placing explicit limits on how much time can be spent on testing.

Despite its obvious weaknesses, the much despised No Child Left Behind Act clearly improved public school education. But instead of finding ways to cure the law’s problems and build on its strengths, Congress seems to want to retreat from the law’s goals. Bills to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, pending in the House and Senate, would relieve states of the responsibility to intervene in a school that repeatedly fails to provide an adequate education.

One proposal being considered in the Senate would allow states to end the annual testing, without which parents would never know how well their children were doing.

It would also let local districts design their own tests, so parents would no longer be able to determine how their children were doing in comparison with children elsewhere in the state.

Worse still, both the House and the Senate bills would allow states to direct federal Title I poverty funds away from the highest poverty districts and schools where they are most needed.

These bills are being advertised as a way to help the states. But earlier this month, the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures jointly issued a detailed proposal for reauthorizing the act that asks Congress to hold the states accountable for preparing students for a competitive workplace.

The state leaders call for more flexibility, but also for Congress to ensure that states design strong accountability systems that set out clear short-term and long-term goals for student improvement; that use multiple measures, including test performance; and that break down student test data by race, income and disability status.

Most notably, they want Congress to require states to intervene in districts or schools that fail to meet state goals, fail to educate subgroups of students or have declining student performance over time.

The states, which bear the direct responsibility for educating the nation’s children, know from experience that this basic policy tool kit is essential for improving schools. Instead of squandering an important opportunity, Congress needs to listen to what they have to say.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Register Now for "Asperger/Autism and Disclosure 2015" - An AANE Conference Saturday, March 14th

The Asperger/Autism Network

February 10, 2015

Especially in light of the changes in the recent DSM-5.

This conference will cover all aspects of disclosure pertinent to children, teens and adults: from parents disclosing to their child, their family, and to the community, and adults disclosing to colleges, potential partners or employers.

Featured Speakers: NESCA’s Dr. Jason McCormick, Daniel Rosenn, M.D. and Gina and Katie Gallagher (of Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid).

When:   8:30am - 4:00pm Saturday, March 14, 2015

Where: Bentley University Conference Center
                  175 Forest Street, LaCava 300
                  Waltham, MA

Cost:   $125/professionals; $90/non-professionals

Co-sponsored by AANE, MGH/Aspire and NESCA.

But They're Only 12! Why and How to Begin Transition Planning - Workshop Monday, March 9th

From the Needham SEPAC
Special Education Parent Advisory Council

February 19, 2015

This workshop, which is free and open to the public, will include:
  • A brief overview of transition assessment, planning and services in Massachusetts with particular emphasis on why and how caretakers can start developing independence at any age.
  • Identification of key factors that make a difference in postsecondary life with specific focus on transitioning to postsecondary learning environments including a college setting.
  • Effective strategies for developing critical skillsets required for success and satisfaction in adult home, community and work life.
  • Community resources every caretaker should know about as they engage in the process of helping their child to become a more independent and self-sufficient adult.

When:   7:00 – 9:00pm Monday, March 9, 2015

Where: Broadmeadow Elementary School
                  120 Broad Meadow Road,
                  Needham, MA 02492

RSVP to Margaret Gray by email to

Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS is director of transition services at NESCA. She has over a decade of experience facilitating social, life, and career skill development programs for transition-aged youth.

Prior to joining NESCA, Challen founded an array of programs for teens and young adults at MGH Aspire and spent time as Program Director of the Northeast Arc's Spotlight Program, where she often collaborated with schools to develop in-district social skill and transition programming.

She is also co-author of the chapter "Technologies to Support Interventions for Social-Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personal Style, and Self-Regulation" for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism.

While Challen has special expertise in working with students with Asperger's Syndrome and related profiles, she provides transition assessment, consultation, planning, and programming support for individuals with a wide range of learning and developmental needs.

Films and Documentaries about Autism

From Autism Speaks

February 23, 2015

Here's a list of films and documentaries about ASD, many of which are available for streaming:

Sounding the Alarm: Battling the Autism Epidemic
A dozen families living with autism struggle to find affordable lifetime care as their sons and daughters move from childhood into adulthood.

Dad's in Heaven with Nixon
A documentary filmmaker chronicles his mother's passionate mission to help his brother who has brain damage and autism, while delving into his family's history of both mental illness and creative brilliance.

A Mile in His Shoes
An inspiring story about a loving family, a special boy with an amazing gift, and the coach who believed. This is a heartwarming story of Mickey Tussler, a sheltered farm boy with Asperger's Syndrome and a killer fast-ball, who is recruited by minor league manager "Murph" to play for his struggling minor league baseball team and has a profound effect on both over the course of a season. Stars Dean Cain and Luke Schroder.

A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism
A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism, a documentary by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, tells the story of a mother who has done everything in her power to help her son. She has the quenchless thirst for knowledge about the mysterious and complex condition that autism undeniably is. Along they way, Margret meets other families and hears their unique stories about how they too have been touched by autism.

The Asperger's Difference
The Asperger’s Difference is a 30 minute documentary produced for teens and young adults with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome (AS) and those who interact and work with them. The film features the personal stories, challenges and triumphs of three students, middle-school, high-school and college-age. Also included is a discussion guide with a list of resources to assist young people with Asperger’s in building self-awareness, self-esteem and self-advocacy skills.

Aspergers the Movie
This project is a documentary about Aspergers Syndrome. This video features interviews with people of all ages who have been affected by Aspergers. It also includes interviews with professionals who have studied and worked in the field. As you watch this movie, you will learn about the struggles and numerous advantages that come with having Aspergers. Topics include: getting a diagnosis, myths and misconceptions, special interest, family relationships, bullying and more.

Autism and Cake
A grandfather struggles with the acceptance of his autistic grandson. Starring Ed Asner.

Autism in Love
A feature length documentary exploring how adults with autism fall in love and manage romantic relationship. Told through personal narratives, the audience is faced with the challenges, triumphs, and the unique human experience of finding and navigating love.

Autism in Love
A short documentary profiling a clever and dap­per man of 50 with Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der, who finds self-acceptance, a unique abil­ity to fit into his neu­rotyp­i­cal world, and uncon­di­tional love.

Autism: The Musical
Following five LA children over the course of six months, director Tricia Regan captures the struggles and triumphs of their family lives and observes how this musical production gives these performers a comfort zone in which they can explore their creative sides.

Best Kept Secret
In “Best Kept Secret,” a Newark, New Jersey teacher struggles to prepare her students with autism to survive in the brutal world that awaits them once they graduate. The documentary follows teacher Janet Mino and her students over the year and a half before graduation.

Breaking Boundaries: The Art of Alex Masket
“Breaking Boundaries: the Art of Alex Masket” chronicles the story of an extraordinary artist who has created a significant body of work despite a disability that inhibits what most might consider "normal" human interaction. A young adult with severe autism, Alex is functionally non-verbal and makes what we in the verbal world call art.

The Changing Face of Autism
A 2009 Voice Award nominee, The Changing Face of Autism is a collaboration of OM~RPM Productions and Lynne Duquette, who shares her experience as a parent of an Autistic child and follows similar stories of families faced with the same diagnoses. Parent commentary is augmented with leading experts in autism prevention, therapy, research and intervention.

Fly Away
A powerful film directed by Emmy Award® winner Janet Grillo (Autism: The Musical), FLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy. As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility. Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.

*A portion of the proceeds from each DVD goes to support Autism Speaks.

God's Ears
An autistic boxer must climb out of one dark ring into another as he takes on a new opponent in the persona of a lonely dancer: love. The new independent film from filmmaker Michael Worth donates a portion of proceeds from DVD sales to Autism Speaks.

Documentary filmmaker Henry Corra gave his 12-year-old son with autism a video camera to document his own life. George, the firm that emerged, is a moving look at autism. The film, which aired on HBO in 2000, is now available on DVD.

The Horse Boy
The Horse Boy chronicles the journey of the Isaacson family as they travel through Mongolia in search of a mysterious shaman who they believe can heal their autistic son. This film delves into the strange world of autism, horses, shamanism, and Mongolia while telling the story of a family that will go to the end of the earth to find a way into their son's life.

The Hummingchild
After epileptic seizures as a baby, Agnes was suspected of having autism. Her mother, a filmmaker, focuses on the inner family sphere. The Hummingchild gives a glimpse into a mother’s journey, over a span of five years, towards contact with her daughter.

JJ's Journey: A Journey About Autism
JJ's Journey is a documentary film released in April 2008 in honor of Autism Awareness Month. This film is full of resources and therapies to help those on the spectrum. Since intolerance is the biggest challenge, 20-year-old JJ wants to make a difference and provide hope to other families. He and his mom believe this documentary is the best way to help educate society by sharing their story.

John Paul's Story: Autism and Daily Life, Therapy and Support
This documentary clearly paints a picture of Autism and the impact it is has on the daily life of a family and the therapists and teachers involved with a young Autistic boy named John Paul. This video outlines the various therapies and supplemental tools (iPad) that this family is using to help their son. It is also such a touching account of one family's emotional journey and will resonate with anyone especially during Autism Awareness Month.

The Kangaroo Complex
CPS Publishing LLC (a world-renowned publishing house for psychiatric products) is proud to announce the new development of The Kangaroo Complex documentary! It is innovative, and inspirational, created by a psychologist about her daily challenges and reflections with her autistic teen, plus 3 other interviews with other mothers. Freud is mentioned, although he is not the psychiatrist that developed the famous C.A.T. (childrens apperception test) used in this DVD. Ideal for the mental health communities! A trailer and purchases can be made on

Kids with Cameras
Kids with Cameras is a documentary that follows the progress, challenges, and triumphs of a group of autistic children participating in a film camp hosted by non-profit organization Actors for Autism. This one-hour documentary provides a window into revealing moments of the kids' private lives - combined with interviews with their families - as they learn to express themselves through films, poems, paintings, and music.

Loving Lampposts
What would you call a four year old who caresses all the lampposts in the park? Quirky? Unusual? Or sick? Such labels are at the center of the debate about autism: is it a disease or a different way of being—or both? In Loving Lampposts, we witness this debate and meet the parents, doctors, therapists, and autistic people who are redefining autism at a moment when it's better known than ever before. Motivated by his son's diagnosis, filmmaker Todd Drezner explores the changing world of autism and learns the truth of the saying, "if you've met one autistic person, you've met one autistic person."

Mr. Blue Sky
Mr. Blue Sky is a heart-grabbing story that will ultimately change the way society views all people as "individuals" first and foremost.

My Son, Pankaj
My Son, Pankaj is a short documentary film that traces the journey of a mother of an Autistic child. It talks of the extraordinary relationship of pleasures and pain they share and aspires to tell a true tale of courage, faith and extreme hope. While the film is dedicated to the indomitable spirit of women in all their avatars- for their love and affection that sustains many such children across the world, it also hopes to serve as a source of inspiration to other parents battling Autism.

Not Forgotten: The Untold Story of Autism in Ukraine
Nothing in Ukraine seems the same from day to day. As the cold winds blow, so do the rules. A child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ukraine can find no place in society…” Thus begins the story of NOT FORGOTTEN, a feature documentary that exposes the untold story of Autism in Ukraine. This documentary discusses and educates its audience about what can be done to aid and educate professionals and parents who are affected by cultural shame and rejection. Life for parents of children with Autism is a constant struggle. Not only is help almost non-existent for most parents, the shame that is placed on them and their child with autism is saddening.

The Red Kite Project: A Documentary
The Red Kite Project follows Jacqueline Russell, Artistic Director of Chicago Children's Theater, as she sets out to create the first interactive, multi-sensory theatrical performance installation for children with autism. Having spent 13 years volunteering in classrooms of autistic children, Russell's mission is to assemble a team of artists, educators and parents to create a program that brings joy, excitement and education to autistic children who need it.

Refrigerator Mothers
From the 1950's through the 1970's, the medical establishment mistakenly believed it had found the root cause of autism: poor mothering. Doctors presumed that the often obsessive behaviors of autistic children - rigid rituals, speech difficulty, self-isolation - stemmed from their mothers' emotional frigidity. Refrigerator Mothers explores the traumatic legacy of blame, guilt and self-doubt suffered by a generation of women who were branded "refrigerator mothers."

sproutflix is an ever-growing list of carefully selected films of artistry and intellect from around the world which includes films specifically related to the lives, performances and accomplishments of people with autism. The list includes free streams and film with streams, downloads and DVDs available for purchase. 50% of all sales go back to the filmmakers and supports the work they do with this otherwise marginalized population.

A Still Jacket
“A Still Jacket” is a film about relationships and their impossibility. Moments of peace and security – underlined by poetic nature observations – are contrasted by depictions of desperate emotional outbursts and anxiety attacks. Ramòn Giger not only succeeds in drawing a striking portrait, but realizes a contemplative reflection on the nature of human relationships themselves.

Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin paints a picture of a young woman's perseverance and determination while struggling with the isolating challenges of autism at a time when it was still quite unknown. The film chronicles Temple's early diagnosis; her turbulent growth and development during her school years; the enduring support she received from her mother, aunt and her science teacher; and her emergence as a woman with an innate sensitivity and understanding of animal behavior.

Temple Grandin: 'A View from the Inside, Everything About Autism You Always Wanted to Know'
In this interview, Tenple Grandin speaks about autism and her experiences growing up and going through life with the condition. She explains the way she thinks and how things make her feel. This is a very inspiring interview between an autism parent and one of the few people in the world who can offer him some insight into his son's mind. Temple Grandin answers the questions that every parent or person with a family member on the spectrum wants to ask.

A Time for Georgia
This award-winning, historic documentary focuses on Georgia, a four-year-old with Autism in her special education class. Observed are her struggles and triumphs over a six-month period. This groundbreaking documentary, premiered at the White House Conference on Children in 1970.

Travels with my Brother
This short, live action/animated documentary (using computer 2-D cut-out elements) explores the relationship between Vas - a high-functioning autistic man - and his older sister Christine, who will one day be his official guardian, as they travel about their hometown of Toronto, Canada. Through a series of interconnected conversations on love, family, humour, art, desire and destiny, the film unearths Vas' unique perception of the world and how he copes with the "realities" within and outside of him. At the heart of the story is a sister's attempt to crack the enigma that is her brother as she forges a way for their shared future.

The United States of Autism
Follow one man's 11,000 mile, 40 day journey across the American landscape to visit twenty families and individuals affected by autism while searching for answers for his own son. With interviews from around the nation that include the widest spectrum of backgrounds and diagnoses - each conducted in the participants' original language - the film weaves a broad and compelling tapestry across the spectrum of American life in all its faiths, disparities, colors, and cultures. Positively reviewed in the NY Times, LA Times, Hollywood Reporter, Variety Magazine and more, the United States of Autism was winner of the Pepsi Refresh Project and one of only two films featuring autism to make the Oscar Qualification list in 2013.

We're All in This Together: Understanding the Humanity of Autism
This video illustrates the journey real parents, families, professionals, paraprofessionals, and other caregivers take as they develop constructive and effective relationship skills supportive of people with autism. The video helps people who have little exposure to autism understand the autism spectrum. Additionally, the video is a resource for those who have everyday contact with people on the autism spectrum to illustrate the significance of their role in supporting a person with autism to grow and develop.


Click here to view a list of films related to autism from the Sprout Touring Film Festival.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Delaying School May Set Kids Up to Fail

From the University of  Warwick
via Futurity

By Kelly Parkes-Harrison
February 20, 2015

Putting off the start of school for children with a late birthday or who were born prematurely may do more harm than good as kids get older.

Parents may feel these children aren’t mature enough to start school—and earlier research has suggested children born more than three weeks before their due date may benefit from starting school a year later than those who were born at full-term.

“Our study shows that delaying school entry has no effect on Year 1 teacher ratings of academic performance, but it is associated with poorer performance in age-standardized tests of reading, writing, mathematics, and attention as the children get older,” says Dieter Wolke, professor in the psychology department at the University of Warwick.

Read the Original Study HERE.

For the study, published in the Journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, researchers used a natural experimental design to test their hypotheses as they could not carry out a randomized trial.

“We obviously could not delay children starting school for the experiment, so we had to find a suitable study sample. We chose the Bavarian Longitudinal Study because Bavarian policy requires all children to be assessed by a community pediatrician three to 12 months before their school entry date to assess their readiness for school, Wolke says.

At the time of assessment in Bavaria, all children reaching six years of age before June 30 started school the following September. The team studied 999 children, of which 472 were born preterm. The new findings are particularly applicable to preterm children who are born up to four months before their due date and may enter school less mature compared with their peers.

Researchers compared teacher ratings of achievement in Year 1 and then looked at the standardized mathematics, reading, writing, and attention test scores when the children reached 8 years of age.

Many parents of preterm children believed delaying school entry would be more beneficial, says coauthor Julia Jaekel from the developmental psychology department at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.

“Many parents demand that preterm children should be held back, particularly if they were born in the summer. This is also supported by many charities supporting parents with preterm children.

“However, we found missing one year of learning opportunities was associated with poorer average performance in standardized tests at 8 years of age for both preterm and full-term children.

“Future research is needed to determine the long-term effect of delayed school entry on academic achievement, but our results certainly give parents and educational providers food for thought.”

The Modern Asylum

From The New York Times

By Christine Montross
February 18, 2015

"We can’t continue to abandon our most vulnerable citizens in the name of autonomy."

Last month, three ethicists from the University of Pennsylvania argued in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill has been a failure. Deinstitutionalization, they wrote, has in truth been “trans-institutionalization.”

As a hospital psychiatrist, I see this every day. Patients with chronic, severe mental illnesses are still in facilities — only now they are in medical hospitals, nursing homes and, increasingly, jails and prisons, places that are less appropriate and more expensive than long-term psychiatric institutions.

The ethicists argue that the “way forward includes a return to psychiatric asylums.” And they are right.

Their suggestion was controversial. Critics argued that people should receive treatment in the least restrictive setting possible. The Americans With Disabilities Act demanded this, as has the Supreme Court. The goals of maximizing personal autonomy and civil liberties for the mentally ill are admirable.

But as a result, my patients with chronic psychotic illnesses cycle between emergency hospitalizations and inadequate outpatient care. They are treated by community mental health centers whose overburdened psychiatrists may see even the sickest patients for only 20 minutes every three months. Many patients struggle with homelessness. Many are incarcerated.

A new model of long-term psychiatric institutionalization, as the Penn group suggests, would help them. However, I would go even further. We also need to rethink how we care for another group of vulnerable patients who have been just as disastrously disserved by policies meant to empower and protect them: the severely mentally disabled.

In the wake of deinstitutionalization, group homes for the mentally disabled were established to provide long-term housing while preserving community engagement. Rigorous regulations evolved to ensure patient safety and autonomy. However, many have backfired.

A colleague of mine who treats severely disabled patients on the autism spectrum described a young man who would become agitated in the van on outings with his group home staff. Fearing the man would open a door while the vehicle was moving, staff members told his family that he would no longer be permitted to go. When the parents suggested just locking the van doors, they were told that this infringed on patients’ freedom and was not allowed.

Group homes have undergone devastating budget cuts. Staffs are smaller, wages are lower, and workers are less skilled. Severe cognitive impairment can be accompanied by aggressive or self-injurious impulses. With fewer staff members to provide care, outbursts escalate. Group homes then have no choice but to send violent patients to the psychiatric hospital.

As a result, admission rates of severely mentally disabled patients at my hospital are rising. They join patients who are suicidal, homicidal or paranoid. We have worked to minimize the use of restraint and seclusion on my unit, but have seen the frequency of both skyrocket.

Nearly every week staff members are struck or scratched by largely nonverbal patients who have no other way to communicate their distress. Attempting to soothe these patients monopolizes the efforts of a staff whose mission is to treat acute psychiatric emergencies, not chronic neurological conditions. Everyone loses.

The problem is compounded by the fact that group homes often refuse to accept patients back after they are hospitalized. One of my patients with severe autism and a mood disorder is on his 286th day of hospitalization. Another with autism and developmental disability has been on the unit for more than a year. Insurance companies won’t pay for inpatient admission once patients are no longer dangerous, so the cost of treatment is absorbed by the hospital, or paid for by taxpayers through Medicaid.

So institutionalization is already happening, but it is happening in a far less humane way than it could be. The patient with autism who has spent a year in a psychiatric hospital is analogous to the patient with schizophrenia who has spent a year in prison: Both suffer in inappropriate facilities while we pat ourselves on the back for closing the asylums in favor of community care.

Modern asylums would be nothing like the one in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” They could be modeled on residential facilities for patients with dementia, who would have languished in the asylums of yore, but whose quality of life has improved thanks to neurological and pharmacological advancements.

Asylums for the severely mentally disabled would provide stability and structure. Vocational skills would be incorporated when possible, and each patient would have responsibilities, even if they were carried out with staff assistance. Staff members would be trained to address the needs of minimally verbal adults. Sensory issues often accompany severe intellectual disability, so rooms with weighted blankets, relaxing sounds and objects to squeeze would help patients calm themselves.

Facilities for chronically psychotic patients would have medication regimens and psychoeducation tailored to the needs of those living with mental illness.

Neither my chronically psychotic nor my mentally disabled patients can safely care for themselves on their own. They deserve the relief modern institutionalization would provide. Naysayers cite the expense as prohibitive. But we are spending far more on escalating prison and court costs, and inpatient hospitalizations. More important, we are doing nothing about the chaos and suffering in patients’ lives.

We can’t continue to abandon our most vulnerable citizens in the name of autonomy.


Christine Montross, a staff psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I., is the author of “Falling Into the Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounters With the Mind in Crisis.”