I often hear complaints from parents that a child has been kept in at recess as punishment for misbehavior – misbehavior that is often a symptom of their disability.
Not only is punishing a child for their symptoms inappropriate and generally ineffective, but recess is important for academic performance and social development, as well as physical development.
A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools,” makes it clear that recess should not be withheld as punishment or sacrificed to academic instruction:
Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.
You can download the full policy statement from the AAP here (.pdf).
Michelle Diament reports:
More than 200 disability organizations are urging Congress to reignite efforts to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.
In a letter sent last week to key legislators, a who’s who of disability advocacy organizations including the Autism Society, The Arc and the National Disability Rights Network said action is needed in order to ensure student safety.
“It is time for a national policy addressing restraint and seclusion in our schools for all children,” reads the letter sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives education committees. “America needs more than the current patchwork of state laws to ensure that every child is afforded protection.”
You can read more of her coverage on Disability Scoop.
This is an issue I’ve been actively involved in since 2005, and it’s high time Congress got off the dime and adequately protected students from the unfair, inhumane, and harmful practices that we have seen all too frequently in schools. If you are a parent of a child with a disability, I urge you to contact both your representative in the House and your senator and tell them that children continue to be harmed while they are playing unacceptable political games. Enough is enough. You can find your legislators’ contact information through http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and can use your zip code to look up your Representative if you do not know what district you are in.
For an update on state laws on restraint and seclusion, see Jessica Butler’s report, How Safe is the Schoolhouse?, which has been updated as of July 2012.
Mark Hamblett has an article on New York Law Journal (subscription required) about the Second Circuit’s opinion in a case challenging the use of aversive behavioral interventions (ABI’s).
As those following the controversy may recall, in 2006, the New York State Education Department enacted regulations generally prohibiting use of aversive interventions, but the regulations allowed districts to grant themselves waivers from the prohibitions. The regulations also permitted those who were currently receiving ABI’s such as the electric shock at the Judge Rotenberg Center to continue receiving them during a “sunset period.”
Some parents, with the assistance of the Judge Rotenberg Center, challenged the regulations, and the cases have slowly worked their way through the courts.
Hamblett reports on the opinion issued in Bryant v. New York State Education Department, 10-4029-cv:
New York state’s ban on “aversive interventions,” such as electric skin shock therapy, does not undermine a child’s right to an individualized, free and appropriate education, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held yesterday.
The Second Circuit said the ban “represents the State’s considered judgment regarding the education and safety of its children that is consistent with federal education policy and the United States Constitution.”
Significantly, perhaps, one justice dissented from the dismissal of claims concerning procedural and substantive violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
Sullivan concluded sufficient facts had been alleged to survive a motion to dismiss and “because I find that the materials outside of the complaint relied on by the majority, do not establish, as a matter of law, the reasonableness of the State’s ban on aversive interventions.”
Will the parents appeal the ruling? I’m not a lawyer, but it seems their options are to ask for an en banc (full panel) review by the appellate court or they might try to get the Supreme Court to hear the case.
For now, however, I recognize that many parents will be genuinely distraught as they feel that the aversive interventions have been the only successful approach to reducing self-injurious or other-injurious behaviors that threaten their children’s safety and ability to benefit from their education program. And while some of us may be glad to hear that the ban has been upheld, let us not forget that it is incumbent on the treatment and education disciplines to develop effective interventions for these children and others like them. Where is the evidence of positive-based approaches that will or do work for these children? No – not broad claims that they exist, but specific evidence of effective interventions.
It’s a sobering question.
I am delighted to share this new resource for Canadian parents from the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada:
For the parents of a special needs student, the school system can present overwhelming challenges to getting the accommodations their children require. According to Statistics Canada, one-third of Canadian parents who reported needing special education services for their child said they had experienced difficulties accessing them, with nearly half citing problems communicating with the school.
In response, the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, thanks to a $25,000 Longo’s grant, created Advocacy To The Rescue, an e-learning course for parents of exceptional children. Led by instructor Dr. Norm Forman, psychologist, professional advocate, author and Advocacy To The Rescue creator, it is designed to create effective parent advocates by building critical advocacy skills over seven units.
It is the only such course offered in Canada at the national level by a national organization.
The summer session begins in August, finishing in time for parents to apply their advocacy skills in the new school year.
Full media release and contact details at www.tourette.ca/media-room.php.
I’ve blogged about the unnecessary and inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion a number of times, and the need for federal regulations that prohibit their inappropriate use. Now there is an important hearing coming up this Thursday in the Senate. Nirvi Shah reports:
Educators’ use of restraints, seclusion, and alternative strategies for managing disruptive student behaviors are scheduled to be the focus of a first-of-its-kind hearing Thursday before the Senate education committee.
The hearing, “Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students,” will mark the first time the issue has an airing in that chamber. Late last year, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the committee, sponsored a bill that would sharply restrict or ban the use of restraints and seclusion, which have come under fire because of multiple reports of students getting injured or dying as a result of such actions. Similar legislation in the House of Representatives was passed more than two years ago and has been reintroduced, but since then, both bills have stalled.
Read more on Education Week.
I’m not sure if the hearing will be televised, but you can check C-SPAN to see. But do take a moment now and check to see if your Senator is on the committee. If s/he is, contact them to tell them that you want the Senate to pass a bill that will protect the safety and dignity of children with disabilities and that educating the educators to: (1) recognize behavioral symptoms of disabilities, (2) use functional behavioral assessments to analyze problems, and (3) provide positive behavior supports will reduce the use of aversive techniques significantly. Clicking on the link to your Senator’s name will take you to their Senate home page with information on how to contact them.