May 2018

Consider This…

News and information about education, research, and support for SESPs; adoptive, foster, and kinship caregivers; and child welfare and education professionals helping children with trauma and other special needs get the most from their education.

What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation Anyway?
By Mary-Beth Landy
RTSC Training and Support Specialist

Technically, a neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions using a set of standardized tests. Simply put it is an evaluation of the chain of brain functioning, which looks for the strengths or weaknesses in each link. To clarify, it is an in-depth assessment of skills and abilities linked to brain function. The evaluation measures such areas as attention, problem solving, memory, academic skills, and social-emotional functioning. Is this the same as the educational/psychological evaluation that the school completes? What are the benefits of having a private neuropsychological evaluation done? Who can complete a neuropsychological evaluation?  Read Full Article

Things to Consider

A Bold Proposal for Taking Mental Health Seriously in Schools

There have been more the 60 school shootings since the Sandy Hook attack in 2012. Up until now, many schools have treated students with mental health issues reactively, rather than proactively. Too frequently, student’s behaviors may not be sufficiently chronic to warrant an out-of-district educational setting or even identification as a student who needs extra attention and services. Some students who receive treatment for mental health issues outside of school are not able to get the same kind of resources that they need in school. Because schools have no legal mandate to treat mental disorders, school providers of support-based mental health services are not required to have a specific license for such treatment. While Response to Intervention, or RTI, is a widely used process for intervening when students experience academic difficulties, schools can also utilize it to serve students who need urgent attention or who are at risk for behavioral problems. A coordinated mental health approach between an out-of-school clinician who is treating the student and the clinician within the school program can be a sustained treatment process.

How Girls With ADHD Are Different

“We were initially taught that ADHD is boys’ phenomenon,” says Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, chair of the psychology department at UC Berkley. “Three decades later we know this is an equal opportunity condition.” Equal opportunity, maybe, but equally recognized and treated it is not.

According to the CDC boys are far more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD—not necessarily because girls are less prone to the disorder but because in girls ADHD presents differently. The symptoms are often more subtle, and they don’t fit the stereotype. Also girls are more likely to blame themselves for the inability to accomplish, what they perceive as ordinary tasks. This takes an emotional toll on them. Research indicates undiagnosed ADHD can jeopardize girls’ and young women’s self-esteem and, in some cases, their mental health. 

The Problem With Hurrying Childhood Learning

When he lectured in the United States, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget would invariably get what he called “the American question” from a member of the audience. After he had explained various developmental phases that young children go through in their understanding of concepts like length and volume, someone would raise their hand and ask, “How can we accelerate a child’s progress through the stages?”

Baffled, Piaget would explain that there is absolutely no advantage to speeding up a child’s progression. The point of knowing the stages is to be aware of what stage a child is in, so that we can create the conditions and offer the guidance to help them move to the next one. It’s not a race. It is just as important to focus on the path and not just the destination.

New Research Suggests Practical Ways to Make School Discipline, Access Equitable

Education systems have been moving to address discipline disparities since the Education and Justice departments jointly issued guidance under the Obama administration suggesting policies that lead to disproportionate discipline for one racial group could violate civil rights laws. (Educaton Secretary Betsy DeVos has since suggested she wants to roll back this guidance.) Researchers have found that after the state changed its discipline policy, school districts added more than five new options to respond to the average offense for students of all races, with the most new options offered for serious offenses, such as property destruction, arson, and drug-related behaviors. School administrators became significantly more likely, for example, to refer special education students to their student support team, have the student enter into a “behavior contract,” or remove them from extracurricular clubs or sports, rather than suspend them out of school.

How a Tiny Native American Community’s Trauma Might Impact Education Law

Can a district’s or community’s poverty, and subsequent discrimination towards that community, cause adverse trauma that should be addressed through the school district? That is the question being posed in the U.S. District Court in the case involving children at the Havasupai Elementary School, which is located on the floor of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The plaintiffs “have adequately alleged that complex trauma and adversity can result in physiological effects constituting a physical impairment.” This case builds on a ruling in a class-action suit brought in 2015 on behalf of students in the Compton Unified School District in Los Angeles County. In that case, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled the students in the district could be classified as disabled due to the trauma and adversity they experience while growing up in one of the county’s poorest cities. These judgments can have great consequences, not just for these specific communities but for all traumatized students.

Supporting Students With Chronic Trauma

Three years ago, 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was murdered in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in Chicago. He was playing in a park when a gunman lured him into a nearby alley and shot him because of his father’s alleged gang ties. In response, Chicago Public Schools provided two weeks of mental health supports at the elementary school Tyshawn attended. They hoped it would be enough help to get the school back to normal. But what does normal mean when you grow up in a constant state of fear? Is two weeks of support enough to help Chicago’s youth cope with the trauma of these experiences? What are some long term supports for these students? Many times students with trauma don’t receive the services that they need until their behavior has reached the point of severe disciplinary action. When speaking with many educators, one of their top requests for professional development was training on how to handle these situations better. Called de-escalation, this approach focuses on helping students who are getting increasingly agitated to calm down before their behavior gets out of hand.

Useful Tools and Resources

Massachusetts IEP Improvement Project

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is seeking input from family members and students with disabilities. in order to strengthen the direction of the state’s new IEP. Feedback from stakeholders is critical in advancing the Massachusetts IEP Improvement Project and impacting outcomes for students with disabilities. The following survey is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. This survey is open now through the deadline of May 18th.  Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MAIEP3

A Practical Skill for Defusing Anger

Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialetical Behavioral Therapy, presents an easy, practical step to help defuse anger, as well as how to deal with someone who doesn’t want to let go of their anger.

Improving Education Quality in Juvenile Justice Facilities

The following webinar discusses how the Every Student Succeeds Act aims to “provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.” This is especially important for the students in the juvenile justice system.

Putting an End to Fake Reading

Many English and Reading teachers offer students time to read in class. Often the students will be quiet but they are in fact only pretending to read. One English teacher talks about five steps that they use to help engage students in a love of reading. Take a look.