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Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Tragedy of an Inappropriate Education

From Parents Have the Power
to Make Special Education Work

By Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves
February 22, 2017

Education is the foundation of a productive and fulfilling life.

Education teaches us to read, think, process, and analyze information. When taught these skills, individuals can grow and develop into contributing members of society. We can all agree that this is the goal of an appropriate education.

But when is an education “appropriate,” and who decides what is appropriate?

For many children without disabilities, a general education curriculum is appropriate. For children with disabilities, deciding what constitutes an appropriate education is a critical question. School districts and families grapple with this question all the time.

The Goal of Special Education

The federal law that defines special education, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), lists 14 qualifying disabilities that entitle a child to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Once deemed eligible under IDEA, the law states that the child’s education must be “designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.”
[20 U.S.C. § 1400 (d)(1)(B)]

In other words, the law is outcome based with a focus on the future life of the student as a functioning member of society.

This goal, however, is frequently thwarted by school districts that, for various reasons, do not always have a child’s education as their primary goal. We warn parents in our articles and lectures that parents and schools have different perspectives.

Most parents are focused on their child’s future (“Will my child be able to go to college?” or “Can my adult child live independently from me?”), while schools are focused on budget costs and the current year’s IEP goals.

Unless parents understand these different perspectives, they can lead to misunderstanding and frustration for the parents and an inappropriate education for the child.

FAPE is More Than Academic

The elementary school years are foundational. Students must first learn to read so they can read to learn. When the basic skills of education are not learned in a timely matter, a gap grows between the students who have these skills and those who don’t.

For students who lag behind, there is a social and emotional toll, not just an academic one. Self-esteem can plummet, and depression and anxiety can set in.

IDEA, as clarified by court decisions, requires schools to address these social/emotional issues before the school can demonstrate that a student is making effective progress. Many state laws are even more specific in this regard.

Massachusetts, for example, requires that a student have “documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, including social/emotional development.” [603 CMR § 28.02(17)]

The law is clear. An appropriate education means more than simply academic success.

School Tactics to Deny FAPE

Sadly, we have seen too many school districts focus on their budget more than their obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education. IDEA does not permit teachers and administrators to consider cost as a reason for denying a student needed services.

So instead, these schools rely on diversionary tactics, such as minimizing parent concerns, not including parents in decisions, withholding information, delaying or offering less expensive and inadequate services (such as Response to Intervention) to keep their costs down.

Schools also know that when parents are exhausted and struggling for answers, and the school gives them progress reports with statements like the ones we have seen: “It has been a pleasure working with this enthusiastic and engaging youngster,” and “She is a polite and hard-working adolescent,” these positive sounding but ultimately meaningless reassurances are what the parents focus on rather than the reality of their child’s struggle.

As a last resort, some schools just refuse to provide needed services and essentially dare parents to file for a hearing with their state’s department of education, knowing that only a small percentage of parents will actually do so.

These tactics are successful when parents are unaware of their legal rights and accept them without question.

When School Tactics Fail, Fight the Parents

For the parents who do know their legal rights, sometimes their only option is to hire a lawyer to force a non-compliant school district to follow the state and federal laws. Then the district might be willing to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight those parents rather than put the money into providing the services that a child is entitled to.

In our book we document how one school district in Pennsylvania spent $329,084 defending itself against what was ultimately a $10,000 judgement.

And the Results…

Time passes. Each school year goes quickly. Suddenly a child is a teenager, facing the prospect of life beyond high school without the supports of special education. Since the school’s obligation to a student ends once that student accepts a high school diploma, some schools try to finish their obligation as quickly as possible, even if that student is not ready to graduate.

This approach ignores IDEA’s requirement of preparing a student “for further education, employment and independent living.” We experienced this tactic first hand in addition to reading multiple hearing decisions where schools have tried to force a student to graduate without adequate preparation.

Then What?

Research by the National Center on Educational Outcomes indicates that 80 to 85 percent of students with disabilities have the cognitive ability to achieve the same state academic standards as their non-disabled peers.

Yet, according to the National Longitudinal Transition Study, only 7.6 percent of these students attend a four-year college compared to almost 30 percent of their peers without disabilities.

Likewise, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the unemployment rate for young adults with disabilities is twice that of the general population.

The Dropout-to-Prison Pipeline… and Worse

In 2016, The Houston Chronicle ran a series of articles by investigative reporter Brian Rosenthal on special education in Texas. He reported that officials from the Texas Education Agency, without any data to support their decision, dramatically reduced the percentage of students in the state’s special education programs in an apparent attempt to reduce costs. The series concluded that thousands of vulnerable students with qualifying disabilities were denied special education services.

So what happens to these students who are denied an appropriate education? For those whose parents do not have the ability to home school or pay for expensive private schools, they languish in general education classrooms without the proper help. When these students fall behind, they often experience depression and exhibit behavior problems. From there, it is a short distance to suspensions and expulsions.

According to the Chronicle, “Some [students] have even entered the criminal justice system or otherwise required intensive adult services that cost far more than special education.”

“What we’re looking at with these kids who don’t get services… is continued demoralization,” says David Anderson of the Child Mind Institute. This leads these students “to give up and become part of the `dropout-to-prison pipeline.'”

Even worse, a member of the Texas Behavioral Health Advisory Committee acknowledges that “students have killed themselves because nobody was willing to pay attention.”

The personal cost of of living an unfulfilled and unproductive life is dire.

Write Your Congressman!

When Congress passed the first special education law in 1975, it authorized the Federal Government to pay for 40% of all special education costs. Unfortunately, Congress has never funded more than 20% of those costs and often less. This means that local communities must cover the rest. Property taxes rise and residents react, resulting in a backlash against students with disabilities.

We have read many complaints over the years written by parents who feel that education is some sort of zero-sum game in which students in special education receive privileges that take opportunities away from their children in general education.

This point of view is shortsighted and misguided, however. If special education costs seem high, compare them to the cost of not providing an appropriate education. An adult who is not able to function productively requires disability insurance, food assistance, and Medicaid, among other costs, for the remainder of his or her adult life.

If those who advocate for lower taxes and smaller government won’t acknowledge society’s moral and ethical obligation to its most vulnerable members, then they should at least consider the monetary cost.

Instead of complaining about the students in special education, all parents should write their legislative leaders to request proper funding for IDEA as Congress originally intended. Society has an obligation to educate children of all abilities. When schools don’t provide an appropriate education, the outcome can be tragic, and we collectively suffer in the long run.

Race, Income, Education Alter Accuracy of Autism Screen

From Spectrum News

By Jessica Wright
March 28, 2018

Customized cutoff scores could boost the accuracy of a popular screen for autism in children from certain backgrounds, according to a new study (1).

The tool, the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), may incorrectly flag children whose mothers are black, have low incomes or have a high-school education or less, the study suggests.

Another screening tool, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, may also yield inflated scores for children whose mothers belong to minority groups or did not graduate from college (2).

It’s unclear why these factors increase the scores, but the link may be due to a high bar for clinical evaluation in certain groups. Pediatricians should be aware of the problem with these tests, says lead researcher Steven Rosenberg, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado in Denver.

The findings are also relevant for future versions of the SCQ.

“The SCQ hasn’t been revised in 30 years. It needs help, and these data give us important information to do better,” says Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains, New York. Lord was part of the team that developed the SCQ but was not involved in the new study.

Score Gaps

The researchers looked at the SCQ scores of 2,557 children enrolled in the ongoing Study to Explore Early Development (SEED). Researchers recruited children to SEED through clinics or special education services, and by randomly sampling children across six states.

Caregivers completed the SCQ and a clinical evaluation for autism when the children were 2 to 5 years old.

The researchers assessed the survey’s sensitivity, or ability to correctly flag autism, as well as its specificity, or ability to rule out the condition. They analyzed the tool’s accuracy only in the 1,653 children recruited from clinics and schools.

The same factors that inflate SCQ scores also make the tool less accurate in those children, the researchers found.

Cutoff scores that account for mothers’ income, education and ethnicity could optimize the test’s specificity and sensitivity, Rosenberg says.

The 40-question screen has a maximum score of 39. Lowering the cutoff score to 11 (from the standard cutoff of 15) is optimal for a mixed group of children like the one in their study, the researchers found.

However, a cutoff of 15 is most accurate for children with a caregiver who has a high-school diploma or less, and a score of 14 is optimal for children of black mothers.

That said, in some cases, doctors may want to prioritize sensitivity to make sure they don’t miss a child with autism, even if it means falsely flagging a few children.

“If you reduce false positives all the way down, then you probably increase the number of kids that you miss,” Rosenberg says. “There’s always that tradeoff, so it’s something that people have to think about.”

The researchers did not track children who have no clinical signs of autism and scored below the cutoffs, says Maureen Durkin, professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the study. If some of those children turn out to have autism, she says, the test’s sensitivity may be lower than reported.

The next step is to determine why the instrument is inconsistent across demographic groups, says Alexandra Sturm, a postdoctoral associate in Connie Kasari’s lab at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the study. “We need measures that can uniformly assess autism symptoms,” she says.

Rosenberg says the discrepancy may be due to the fact that low-income parents tend not to have good access to medical services. The caregivers who seek out clinics may be those who are especially concerned about their children, and so more likely to highlight concerns in the screen.

  • Rosenberg S.A. et al. Autism Res. Epub ahead of print (2018) PubMed
  • Khowaja M.K. et al. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 45, 1797-1808 (2015) PubMed

Friday, March 30, 2018

Antidepressants Do Work – but Children Need Someone to Talk To

From The Guardian  U.S. Edition

By Alice Gibbs
March 4, 2018

Alice Gibbs: "If people hadn’t been so quick to prescribe Prozac,
perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without it today."

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind.

Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants .

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Tens of thousands of under-18s are on antidepressants in England.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me.

While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say.

In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored.

The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people.

Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it.

Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.

Psychologists Studied 5,000 Genius Kids for 45 Years — Here are Their 6 Key Takeaways

From Business Insider 
via Money Magazine

By Chris Weller
Business Insider

September 24, 2017

Follow thousands of superbright kids for four and a half decades, and you learn a thing or two about how to raise a high-achiever.

One of the biggest takeaways: Even kids with genius-level IQs need teachers to help them reach their full potential.

Since it began in 1971, the “Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth,” or SMPY, has tracked 5,000 of the smartest children in America — the top 1%, 0.1%, and even 0.01% of all students. It is one of the longest-running studies of gifted children in history.

Here’s what the study found.

The top 1%, 0.1%, and 0.01% of kids lead exceptional lives.

SMPY (pronounced “simpy”) initially tested kids’ intelligence using the SAT, university entrance exams, and other IQ tests. Researchers later began looking at additional factors like college enrollment and career paths later in life.

What they found was the most-gifted kids went on to earn doctorates and graduate degrees, and hold patents at rates far above less-gifted children. Most sit among the top 5% of income earners.

“Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society,” Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program, recently told Nature.

Genius kids don’t get enough attention.

The trouble is that genius kids often receive too little attention from their teachers, who may be inclined to write off bright students as having already met their potential.

When SMPY researchers looked at how much attention teachers gave to these gifted children, they found that the overwhelming majority of class time was spent helping low-achieving students get to the middle.

SMPY suggests that teachers should avoid teaching a one-size-fits-all curriculum and instead focus on doing the best they can to create individualized lesson plans for students.

Skipping a grade works.

To help kids reach their potential, teachers and parents should consider moving a gifted child up a grade, SMPY suggests.

When researchers compared a control group of gifted students who didn’t skip a grade with those who did, the grade-skippers were 60% more likely to earn patents and doctorates — and more than twice as likely to get a doctorate in a field related to science, technology, engineering, or math.

Intelligence is highly varied.

Being smart doesn’t just mean having an ability to memorize facts or recall names and dates. SMPY has repeatedly found, throughout multiple follow-up analyses, that some of the smartest kids possess a great capacity for spatial reasoning.

These kids have a talent for visualizing systems, such as the human circulatory system or the anatomy of a Honda. In 2013, follow-up surveys found a strong connection between spatial-reasoning skills and the number of patents filed and peer-reviewed papers published.

Standardized tests aren’t always a waste of time.

Standardized tests — the SAT among the famous of them — can’t measure everything teachers and parents need to know about a child.

But SMPY’s data suggests that the SAT and other standardized measures of intelligence do hold some predictive power — while still accounting for factors like socioeconomic status and level of practice.

Camilla Benbow, one of the researchers studying SMPY, said these tests were best used to figure out what kids are good at so that teachers can focus their attention on different areas.

Grit doesn’t overshadow early cognitive ability.

The psychologist Carol Dweck has found that successful people tend to keep what’s known as a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset.” They view themselves as fluid, changing beings that can adapt and grow — they are not static.

SMPY agrees with that assessment, but it also has found that the earliest signs of cognitive ability in kids can predict how well they’ll do later in life, ignoring all the practice that may or may not come in between.

With that kind of future on the line, it’s up to parents and teachers to recognize abilities early on and nurture them as much as possible.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Compilation of School Bullying Data

From Jim Gerl's Special Education Law Blog

By Jim Gerl, Esq.
March 26, 2018

The National Center for Education Statistics of the Institute of Education Sciences has released new data about school bullying. The report includes data from the 2015 School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

The Web Tables show the extent to which students with different personal characteristics report being bullied. Estimates include responses by student characteristics: student sex, race/ethnicity, grade and household income.

The U.S. Census Bureau (Census) appended additional data from the 2013–14 Common Core of Data (CCD) and the 2013–14 Private School Universe Survey (PSS) to the SCS to show the extent to which bullying victimization is reported by students in schools with different characteristics. (2)

School characteristics appended to the file are region; sector (public or private); locale; level; enrollment size; student-to-full-time-equivalent (FTE) teacher ratio; percentage of combined American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/ Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino; students of Two or more races; and percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch.

Not all respondents in the SCS data file could be matched to a school in the CCD or the PSS.

The tables are grouped into three sections:
  • Section 1 is an overview table, showing the number and percentage of students ages 12 through 18 who reported being bullied at school by type of bullying experienced (table 1.1).
  • Section 2 displays estimates for the reported locations in school at which bullying victimization occurred, and the percentage distribution of the frequency, type, and impacts of bullying victimization reported by students ages 12 through 18, by selected student and school characteristics (tables 2.1–2.10).
  • Section 3 displays the percentages of students who reported being bullied at school by student reports of other unfavorable school conditions; selected school security measures; criminal victimization at school; and personal fear, avoidance behaviors, fighting, and weapon carrying at school (tables 3.1–3.4).

You can read the entire 51 page report here.

Also available are data point reports on:

Parents Beat Clinicians at Detecting Autism Signs in Infants

From Spectrum News

By Anna Nowogrodzki
Marchg 12, 2018

Parents who have one child with an autism diagnosis can more accurately spot signs of the condition in their younger child at 12 months of age than clinicians can, according to a new study (1). The advantage fades by 18 months of age, however.

Spotting signs: Parents may pick up on autism features,
such as a lack of eye contact or social smiling,
by the time their babies are 12 months old.

The most accurate results at 18 months came from combining parents’ and clinicians’ insights.

The findings suggest that surveying knowledgeable parents could move up the date of autism diagnosis, enabling therapy to begin sooner.

“Parents know their child well and can provide invaluable information that may be missed during brief observation by a clinician,” says lead investigator Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Some of the signs that parents identified at 12 months, such as repetitive behaviors and unusual sensory interests, occur rarely, so a clinician would be unlikely to catch them during a brief visit, Zwaigenbaum says.

“At 12 months, I think the reality is none of us know what to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if some parents have a sense that something is not quite right,” says Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the work. 
At that age, clinicians ought to listen to parents who have experience with autism, Lord says.

Rating Reactions

Zwaigenbaum and his collaborators studied 188 infant siblings of children with autism. These ‘baby sibs’ are at increased risk for autism.

Parents answered a 26-question survey, the Autism Parent Screen for Infants, in which they rated their babies’ behaviors. And clinicians assessed the same children using the Autism Observation Scale for Infants. This requires them to watch and interact with the infants for 15 minutes and rate their behaviors.

The two surveys have 19 items in common, including questions about eye contact, hand-eye coordination, social smiling, repetitive motion and back-and-forth vocalizations.

Parent and clinician answers often differed on the overlapping questions, and parents noticed behaviors missed by clinicians at both 12 and 18 months. At 12 months, the clinicians did not spot any behaviors the parents had overlooked; at 18 months, they noticed one behavior the parents had missed: reacting to changes in facial expressions.

Once the children had reached age 3, independent clinicians assessed and diagnosed 59 (31 percent) of them with autism.

The researchers found that parents’ answers on the 12-month survey had correctly predicted an autism diagnosis in 30 (51 percent) of those 59 children. Clinicians’ correct prediction rate was slightly higher — 38 children (64 percent) — but they were wrong much more often than the parents. The parents incorrectly predicted autism in 24 children (19 percent), versus 54 children (41 percent) for the clinicians.

Taken together, the results show that parents predict autism more accurately than clinicians at this age, says Lori Sacrey, study investigator and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta. In addition, parents picked up more individual behaviors at 12 months that augured autism than clinicians did.

On the Lookout

At the 18-month screen, parents’ answers correctly predicted an autism diagnosis in 26 (44 percent) of the children, and incorrectly predicted the condition in 15 (12 percent).

Clinicians’ answers at 18 months correctly predicted autism in twice as many children as the parents’ — 48 (81 percent). (Clinicians were still wrong much more often, however, incorrectly predicting autism in 62 children, or 42 percent.)

The study appeared 22 January in Autism Research.

Clinicians still bring a lot of value to the diagnostic process, however. This fact is evident in the 18-month assessment from this study and in other research using the toddler Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Lord says. “It isn’t useful as a pronouncement that parents are more important than clinicians,” she says.

One promising aspect of the study is that the children later diagnosed with autism are generally at the mild end of the spectrum, says Deborah Fein, professor of psychological sciences and pediatrics at the University of Connecticut, who was not involved in the study.

“It means that even kids with pretty high-functioning autism can be picked up early; it doesn’t have to be the kids with big delays,” she says.

The study should be repeated in the general population, and involve parents of children who do not have an autism diagnosis, Fein says. Parents of a child with autism typically know more about the condition than most people and are more attuned to its signs in a younger sibling.

Zwaigenbaum is repeating the study in toddlers at low risk for autism.

  • Sacrey L.R. et al. Autism Res. Epub ahead of print (2018) PubMed

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Vaccine Myth Persists as Families Affected by Autism Refuse Shots

From HealthDay
via CBS News

By Alan Mozes

March 26, 2018

Vaccine skeptics appear to be swaying many parents of children with autism to forgo critical childhood vaccines, a new study suggests. And the hesitation to fully immunize includes the children's younger siblings, the researchers added.

This means that "children with autism spectrum disorder, and their siblings, may be at greater risk of vaccine-preventable diseases," said study author Ousseny Zerbo. He is a postdoctoral fellow with the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center at KP Northern California, in Oakland.

But the greater risk doesn't stop there, thanks to a concept called herd immunity.

"In order to disrupt the chains of infection in a population, a large portion of the population needs to be immune to the infection," Zerbo explained. "A higher vaccination rate can break those chains of infection. This is why it is important for a large proportion of the population to be vaccinated."

And despite the fact that anti-vaxxers believe there is a link between childhood vaccinations and autism risk, Zerbo stressed that "we know through numerous scientific studies that there is no association between childhood vaccination and the incidence of autism spectrum disorders."

Nevertheless, Zerbo said his team found "large disparities in vaccination rates between children with and without autism spectrum disorders, as well as between their siblings."

The main subjects of the investigation were over 590,000 children born in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state between 1995 and 2010 who did not have autism, alongside more than 3,700 children who did.

Investigators tracked vaccination histories among all of the children through 2015. Vaccination records among younger siblings (born between 1997 and 2014) were also reviewed.

Family vaccination records were then stacked up against immunization recommendations for kids between the age of 1 month and 12 years old.

Among children aged 4 to 6, the team found that children with autism were "significantly less likely" to receive the full range of recommended vaccines, compared with other children.

Vaccination rates among siblings of children with autism were also "significantly lower" across all age groups.

Compared with parents of children without autism, parents of children with autism were found to be more likely, overall, to decline at least one vaccination for a younger healthy sibling, and more likely to fail to fully vaccinate younger offspring before they reached 1 year old.

Behind Minnesota's worst measles outbreak in nearly 30 years

Given the large number of participants, Zerbo said the findings are likely generalizable to all Americans, despite having focused on the West and Pacific Northwest regions.

The findings were published online March 26 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

"Our next steps in this research will be to better understand why parents of children with autism may be hesitant to vaccinate them and their siblings," Zerbo said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, suggested the findings of this "exceptionally well-designed study" are a legitimate cause for worry.

"It is concerning that children with autism spectrum disorder and their younger siblings were under-vaccinated compared to the general population, since the key to preventing various childhood infectious diseases is to make sure as many children as possible are fully vaccinated," Adesman said.

In fact, Adesman said he was "a bit surprised the differences were not even greater, especially given that this study was conducted in California, where under-vaccination had been a significant problem until the state recently changed its laws requiring vaccine exemptions."

However, "since all of the data for this study was collected in California prior to when the new laws went into effect -- July 1, 2016 -- it is likely that the under-vaccination rates that these researchers found have dramatically improved, and may even have disappeared," Adesman added.

The Education of Playful Boys: Class Clowns in the Classroom

From Frontiers in Psychology
via the National Institutes of Health

By Lynn A. Barnett
March 1, 2018


This longitudinal study identified degrees of playfulness in 278 kindergarten-aged children, and followed them through their next three school years to determine how playfulness was viewed by the children themselves, their classmates, and teachers.

Perceptions of the social competence, disruptiveness, and labeling as the class clown, were assessed from all perspectives in each of first through third grades. Hierarchical linear modeling was conducted to account for the nesting of the data (children within classrooms within schools) and for the lack of independence between the measures.

A central finding confirmed extant literature in that gender differences were dominant, with playful boys regarded as distinct from their less playful counterparts, while no such discrepancies appeared for girls.

Playful boys were increasingly negatively regarded as rebellious and intrusive and were labeled as the “class clown” by their teachers. These findings were in direct contrast with children's self-perceptions and those of their peers, who initially regarded more playful boys as appealing and engaging playmates.

The data further revealed that the playful boys were stigmatized by their teachers, and this was communicated through verbal and non-verbal reprimands, and classmates assimilated this message and became increasingly denigrating of the playful quality in the boys.

In stark contrast, girls' playfulness levels were not a consideration in ratings by teachers or peers at any grade, nor did their classroom behaviors show significant variation.

These negative perceptions were likely transferred by teachers to peers and to the children themselves, whereupon they changed their positive perceptions to be increasingly negative by third grade. The results contribute to the literature by demonstrating that playfulness in boys (but not girls) is often associated with the “class clown” designation, and is viewed as an increasingly lethal characteristic in school classrooms, where compelling efforts are undertaken to discourage its expression and persistence.

Read this entire article HERE.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ADAPT Protests Lack of Action From FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Shock Behavioral 'Treatment'

From The Mighty

By Elizabeth Cassidy
March 21, 2018

On Friday in Washington D.C., about 50 members of the disability rights group ADAPT set up outside the residence of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. The group is protesting the use of shock devices as “treatment” for people with disabilities at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts. ADAPT said in a statement they will not leave until Gottlieb takes action.

The electric shocks to the skin are used to deter aggressive or self-injurious behaviors by people with disabilities — the “treatment” is also known as “graduated electronic decelerator,” and the JRC is the only place in the U.S. using this practice, according to the Washington Post.

The Mighty reached out to JRC for comment and have not heard back.

The JRC is a day and residential school, according to its website, and treats primarily children. The center’s treatment programs are based on Applied Behavioral Analysis, which is a common form of therapy for people, especially children, on the autism spectrum. 

BA is heavily criticized by the autistic community, especially adults who have had ABA therapy as kids. They state that ABA is cruel and an attempt to make them “normal” instead of accepting neurodiversity.

In 2016, the FDA proposed banning the use of electric shock devices because the administration “determined that these devices present an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.” Despite this determination, the proposed regulation has not been finalized and sits in limbo, allowing the JRC to continue its use of the devices.

A spokesperson for the FDA told The Mighty the FDA is working on finalizing the proposed ban but cannot give a time on when the ban would be finalized.

ADAPT said in a statement that they are through waiting for the FDA and Gottlieb to act on this issue. ADAPT has tried to speak to Gottlieb in the past and was met with arrests instead.

“We have tried time and again to get them to do the right thing and they refuse to do anything,” Dawn Russell, a member of ADAPT, said in a statement. “They have had these regulations done for two years now. We are not going to let them put this off any longer! There is no way they would tolerate these horrors being perpetrated against non-disabled people.”

ADAPT members at Gottlieb’s residence, which is a condominium, are singing and chanting, “Gottlieb, Gottlieb, do your job! Gottlieb, Gottlieb stop the shock!” Members are also providing information to the commissioner’s neighbors, some of which have encouraged the members and others who have complained and called the police.

ADAPT members also went to the White House on Monday to ask President Trump to step in and help ban the use of these shock devices.

“We will not be ignored,” Mike Oxford, an organizer of Kansas ADAPT, said in the statement. “We are in this fight for members of our community who are being treated in the most inhumane ways imaginable. We should be able to count on our government to protect all disabled Americans from torture.”

School Segregation is Not a Myth

From The Atlantic

By Will Stancil
March 14, 2018

Skeptics claim that concerns over racially divided schools are false alarms—but they’re missing the full picture.

Is school segregation getting worse?

Plenty of people say yes, including scholars, journalists, and civil-rights advocates. For the first time in years, there’s something approximating a consensus: Racially divided schools are a major and intensifying problem for American education—maybe even a crisis.

There’s seemingly compelling numerical evidence, too. According to my analysis of data from the National Center on Education Statistics, the number of segregated schools (defined in this analysis as those schools where less than 40 percent of students are white), has approximately doubled between 1996 and 2016.

In that same span, the percentage of children of color attending such a school rose from 59 to 66 percent. For black students, the percentage in segregated schools rose even faster, from 59 to 71 percent.

But not everyone is on board. In the eyes of some writers, the warning signs of segregation are all a false alarm—little more than a statistical mirage. The National Review writer Robert VerBruggen recently made this case, attacking what he called the “resegregation myth.”

VerBruggen and other skeptics contend that methods meant to identify school segregation are instead detecting something much more benign: The growing diversity of the American population.

This is possible because many measures of school segregation are narrow, focusing only on a single symptom. For instance, one common research technique is to count the number of schools above a certain demographic cutoff (for instance, more than 90 percent nonwhite). Another is to focus on “exposure,” or how common it is for white and nonwhite students to encounter each other in the education system.

Doubters like VerBruggen argue that people using these metrics have been fooled by demographic change. The past several decades have seen a precipitous increase in the racial diversity of U.S. schoolchildren. For example, since 1996, the share of Hispanic and Asian students in public schools has grown from 17 to 31 percent. As a result, across the board, schools have tended to become less white.

When diversity increases, some measures of segregation are likely to get worse, more or less by default. For instance, if an integrated school is growing, but most of the new students are Hispanic, at some point, it’ll tip over and become segregated.

If white students become a smaller share of the American population overall, all else equal, “exposure” to white students will probably decline.

VerBruggen claims that this shift, and little else, is responsible for the perceived crisis. “The rise in ‘segregation’ disappears when one measures segregation properly,” he asserts. He and others say that, with slim evidence of increasing segregation, policies designed to proactively integrate schools are an obsolete form of social engineering.

It’s a simple case. Too simple: There is plenty of evidence that resegregation is urgently real.

School segregation seems like it would be easy to gauge: Just add up the number of segregated schools, and see whether that number is going up or down over time. But the reality, unfortunately, is a lot more complicated.

The core problem is that the nation’s schools are evolving in many ways at once. Student populations undergo slow shifts; new schools are constantly opening and closing; attendance boundaries are drawn and redrawn. As a result, the effects of large-scale demographic change and those of local school policy get tangled up with one another. It can be hard for researchers to separate one factor from the other.

Making things even tougher, increased national diversity tends to generate mixed signals about whether segregation is happening. As skeptics like Verbruggen point out, some measures of segregation, especially those that focus on the prevalence of white students, tend to look worse when student diversity increases. But other measures tend to look better.

For example, one statistic known as a “dissimilarity index” calculates how many people would have to swap places to achieve demographic balance. When diversity increases evenly, dissimilarity indexes will improve—because the share of minority students in the least-integrated schools will grow, making fewer swaps necessary.

Contrary to the assertions of VerBruggen and others, there is broad statistical evidence of new racial stratification in schools. A recent (and helpfully illustrated) piece in Vox runs through some of that evidence, focusing on the changing role of attendance boundaries. The short version: Entire school districts are becoming more racially distinct from each other, even while racial diversity within those districts may be increasing.

In addition, while sweeping statistical indices have their uses, they tend to overlook some lower-level trends, like school openings and closures. That’s a major blind spot when talking about the causes of new segregation. According to my analysis of the most recently available federal data, closures are about three times as common among segregated schools, and new schools account for a substantial share of current segregation.

In 2016, 38 percent of all segregated schools had opened within the last two decades, compared to 20 percent of predominantly white and integrated schools. In at least this sense, nearly four-tenths of educational segregation is the result of students being shuffled into newly opened schools.

And there are other numbers that suggest a worsening trend. Almost everybody agrees that economic segregation is growing in schools, and many of those dubious about racial segregation like to advance this idea as a competing, alternative theory for educational inequality. But while income segregation can be simpler to measure than race, race and income are closely interwoven. The poorest schoolchildren are very disproportionately nonwhite; the poorest schools are usually racially segregated.

The existence of economic segregation does not contradict evidence of racial segregation—it helps confirm it. It shows that, underneath the confounding effects of growing diversity, American schoolchildren are still being divided on the basis of social caste.

While resegregation skeptics are relying on oversimplified statistical evidence, there are even larger holes in their argument. One major reason civil-rights advocates fear resegregation is because they’ve directly observed changes to school policy that seem likely to contribute to racial isolation. Changes like this won’t necessarily show up in statistical measures of student demographics—at least, not right away—but they’re still important.

For example, most researchers believe that court-ordered integration plans, maintained by many school districts throughout the 1970s and 80s, were effective at reducing segregation. But since the turn of the century, hundreds of court orders have been terminated, and virtually no new ones have been created.

In places where segregation is already firmly established, government action can have the effect of “locking in” those racial lines. Here, an analogy might help: Imagine a housing subdivision where almost everyone is white, surrounded by neighborhoods that are heavily nonwhite. Now, imagine that the subdivision builds a large wall, hires a security guard for the entrance, and refuses to sell houses to anyone new.

You’d be hard-pressed to argue these changes weren’t segregative, even if, for the time being, everyone continues to live in the same place.

In American schools, metaphorical walls are going up all over the place. For instance, school districts in the south are traditionally larger than elsewhere in the country, often including entire counties. As a practical matter, this makes southern districts easier to integrate: Their wide expanse means they contain many white and nonwhite students alike. But in recent years, southern districts have begun to fragment.

Sometimes this is caused by white neighborhoods and cities that attempt to “secede” and form their own, all-white districts. In other places, fragmentation is driven by statewide political forces, such as in North Carolina, where a conservative legislature is currently weighing breaking up large districts. No matter the cause, the ongoing splintering of districts places integration further out of reach.

In Memphis, Tennessee, for example, new racial lines are being drawn around the area’s schools. In 2013 the majority-black Memphis city school district merged with the schools of the surrounding county, which were majority-white. At first blush, this was a move that promised integration. That is, until the next year, when six cities seceded from the merged district.

Five of the six new districts are even whiter than the original county district had been—a new geography of segregation, freshly imposed.

And there are other ways to raise barriers to integration. In many big-city school districts, policymakers have spurred the growth of new charter schools to compete with traditional public schools. But because charters usually operate independently of the district they’re in, students transferring into them can’t be as easily included in a district’s integration plans.

This is another form of fragmentation, with charters acting as islands, administratively detached from the district around them. Perhaps not coincidentally, charters are also usually highly segregated, with students often sorted into distinct racial groups. Legal barriers are still barriers; this, too, is resegregation.

Underneath all of this is a deeper question: How much does the cause of segregation matter?

Imagine if a landlord, confronted with a leaking roof, responded by saying that the real problem is just too much rain. It’s true that, in some sense, rain causes leaks—but only because there was something wrong with the roof in the first place. And at the end of the day, the leaks are still a problem that needs to be fixed.

Likewise, it’s true that diversity in schools is increasing. But it’s only making segregation worse because of flaws that already existed in the education system. The fundamental defect in American schools—the hole in the roof, if you will—is that they have long exhibited patterns of racial concentration, mostly due to housing segregation and decades of discriminatory education policy.

If schools were already integrated to begin with, you’d expect increasing diversity to raise all boats relatively evenly. Most schools would get less white, but few would find themselves truly segregated. Instead, in a long-segregated system, the effects of increased diversity are inevitably lopsided. Schools already suffering from a relatively high degree of segregation have found themselves completely isolated.

Because of this, demographic changes are not experienced evenly. Because black students were already overrepresented in segregated schools, they often bear the brunt of an increase in racial isolation, whatever the proximate cause of those increases.

That’s why the share of black students in segregated schools has increased by 11 percent nationwide in the last two decades, faster than the share of either white students or nonwhite students overall, both of which have risen by about 6 percent, according to my analysis.

And, ultimately, there’s just not much reason to think that identifying the exact cause of resegregation will ameliorate its harms. The vast majority of research into school segregation does not focus on its causes, but rather on the costs of attending a racially isolated school. There are many. They include reduced academic achievement, increased exposure to the criminal justice system, and significantly worsened professional and educational outcomes.

Children in integrated schools find it easier to live and work in diverse environments; children in segregated schools are more prone to hold racially prejudiced views later in life. Racial isolation also tends to deprive children of color of what are sometimes obliquely called “networks of opportunity”—in plain language, the day-to-day connections most people rely on to get a job or get into college.

And of course, there’s another reason to worry about school segregation, regardless of its cause: the problem of second-class citizenship. Ironically, this problem generates less discussion than wonky, technocratic concerns about test scores and income mobility. But it was pivotal in propelling the school-integration push of the 1960s and 70s, and for good reason.

Civil-rights advocates are not wrong to worry that, beyond any set of individual outcomes, it is not healthy nor sustainable for a society to effectively consign most children of color to an alternative system of schools. Doing so helps construct or reinforce ideas about racial caste in the minds of Americans—and, worst of all, in the minds of the children themselves.

None of these ills will heal themselves so long as segregated schools exist, or grow in number. And right now, such schools are growing in number, for reasons ranging from the benign to the nefarious. Dedicated advocates and smart policymakers can thwart school resegregation, and eventually reverse it. But it will not reverse itself.

Can School Integration Make a Comeback?