Harvard researcher, Aditi Shankardass, Ph.D., discusses at a TED Talk how brain imaging is being used to properly identify mental disorders in children so that they can receive appropriate intervention. Could this be a resource for your child or student? What is the potential for this technology in the improvement of individualized instruction for different types of learners, I wonder?
Thanks to Andréa Marcus, attorney at law, for sharing this link with us.
This is one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever had to write, but the challenges it presents to me are nothing compared to what the families of Adam Lanza and his shooting victims continue to suffer, as well as their communities. Maybe I’m feeling a touch of survivor’s guilt. Unlike the dead, I still have the ability to soldier on.
When I initially heard the news, it was over brunch with a colleague and our mutual client. My colleague saw the news on his smart phone and let out an audible, emotional gasp. When he told us what had happened, I didn’t feel anything at all; it was just information and wasn’t real to me, yet.
I was still trying to assimilate everything that had happened in the IEP meeting we’d all been in earlier that morning on the tail of a grueling week that had left me already emotionally exhausted. A mass murder on top of that was evidently more than what my nervous system could handle at the time. Since then, however, I’ve been following the news and the weight of the situation has sunk in quite deeply, now. I can’t read about the victims without tearing up.
An event like this hits me from every side because I have devoted my career to protecting children’s educational and civil rights. Among those is certainly the right to attend a safe learning environment that fosters their development and growth.
On the other hand, the evidence that has been publicized thus far reveals that Adam Lanza was disabled, possibly with a personality disorder, possibly with an autism spectrum disorder. The latter sounds more likely based on the descriptions given of him, though unless someone who has actually diagnosed him is permitted to disclose his confidential patient information, we’ll never really know.
What the reports from those who encountered Adam confirm was that he was socially awkward and withdrawn and that he evidently didn’t process physical pain the ways other people do, which put him at risk of unwittingly hurting himself during high-risk activities, such as soldering electronics. That sounds a lot like a sensory integration problem to me, which is not uncommon among those challenged by autism, along with the social skills deficits he was also reported to suffer.
Regardless of his diagnoses, it was clear to the outside observers who encountered him that he was impaired. And, while none of the lay people interviewed by the media thus far can point to anything that would have tipped them off that this atrocity was going to happen, we are not privy to what any therapists or others who interacted with him on a professional level may have had reason to fear from him.
Even if no one saw this coming, the fact that Adam remained socially impaired into adulthood reflects a lack of adequate intervention when he was younger, particularly given the peer-reviewed research regarding what works with children challenged by autism. The reports from those who encountered him in high school describe a young man who couldn’t relate to other people, would engage in elopement, and experienced meltdowns at school that “required” his mother to come to school and help calm him back down. The Associated Press described these latter experiences as “… crises only a mother could solve …” which reflects an utter failure with respect to school-based behavioral interventions and a gross lack of understanding regarding parental ability versus the mandated duties of the public education system.
I’ve lost count of the number of students I’ve represented whose schools have chosen to call parents away from their jobs in the middle of the day – and parents who have lost their jobs as a result – because it was less costly to the local education agencies to call the parents to come intervene than to staff these students’ programs with expert personnel. Unless the parent has a BCBA, the parent is not the person to call when behavioral problems occur and it is unethical and unlawful for school districts to shift that burden onto parents.
The special education advocate in me finds this outrageous and?inexcusable. Just because no one necessarily saw Adam’s potential for murder when he was a public education?student with special needs is no excuse for having failed to serve him when the opportunity presented itself to do so. When given the opportunity to prevent this from happening, nothing appropriately effective was done. The burden was shifted to his mother, who ultimately became his first murder victim. Clearly, this was not a crisis that only a non-expert, gun-collecting mother could solve.
While I’ve yet to see evidence that Adam was on an IEP while in public school, based on the descriptions given of him in the media by those who knew him at the time, if he wasn’t on an IEP, it was the world’s biggest child find violation. I have to believe he was on an IEP when he was a public school student.
November 27, 2012 is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, this year. The folks at #GivingTuesday want to make it an official event the same way Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become modern holiday traditions, only with #GivingTuesday devoted to giving ?back to the community.
The idea is that?#GivingTuesday?will become a national event every year where people volunteer, make charitable donations, and engage in online slacktivism that benefits charitable programs and those they help. Non-profit organizations like ours sign up at the?#GivingTuesday?website and tell the world what they will be doing as their #GivingTuesday?activity.
You can see on our #GivingTuesday page that KPS4Parents is providing free IEP reviews during the holidays to special education students served by homeless programs in Ventura County. ?We have now mailed out letters and flyers to homeless programs throughout the County advising of our #GivingTuesday?commitment.
While?#GivingTuesday?is supposed to be a day devoted to giving, the kind of work we do isn’t anything that can be finished in a day. ?So, we’re committing ourselves to supporting this project during the holiday season beginning on November 27, 2012 through the end of the year.
We’ll be scheduling days throughout the holiday season where I and our volunteers will be stationed at an agreed-to location for each participating program for its clients who are parents of kids with IEPs to come in and let us take a look at their documents and answer any questions they may have. If you are in Ventura County, know a thing or two about IEPs, and want to help, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
If you aren’t in a position to volunteer but want to help us cover our costs of serving special education students from families with low SES, please make a charitable donation to KPS4Parents using the PayPal button below. Poverty increases the chances of a child having a disability as well as lacking adequate developmentally appropriate learning opportunities.
All donations are tax-deductible.
A solid educational foundation is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and we can’t do it without your help. Thank you for your support of our?#GivingTuesday?activities!