Monday, June 30, 2014

Many Parents Of Kids With Autism Have Autistic Traits Too - Disability Scoop

Many Parents Of Kids With Autism Have Autistic Traits Too - Disability Scoop

Parents of children with autism are more likely to exhibit traits of the developmental disorder themselves, new research suggests.
In a study looking at data on moms and dads of 256 children with autism and nearly 1,400 without, researchers found that parents of those on the spectrum tended to score higher on a questionnaire known as the Social Responsiveness Scale.
“When there was a child with autism in the family, both parents more often scored in the top 20 percent of the adult population on a survey we use to measure the presence of autistic traits,” said John Constantino of Washington University who worked on the study published online this month in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Constantino was quick to emphasize that a higher score on the assessment is not necessarily a bad thing. More than likely, the traits parents display in small doses may be exaggerated in their children.
“It could be that a mother or a father is just a little bit repetitive or slightly overfocused on details,” he said. “The problem comes when those traits are so intense that they begin to impair a person’s ability to function.”
In cases where both parents had mildly elevated scores on the survey, researchers found that they were 85 percent more likely to have a child with autism. If just one parent scored high, there was a 53 percent increased chance of the developmental disorder occurring in their son or daughter.
Previous research has found that siblings of those with autism often have more autistic traits, but this study is believed to be the first to find as much in parents.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bus Assistant Accused Of Abusing Autistic Student - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Bus Assistant Accused Of Abusing Autistic Student - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) -A Pasco County School bus assistant is on paid leave following his arrest for child abuse.
James Robert Lambert, 57, is accused of striking a 10-year-old autistic boy several times on the bus last week.
The boy's mother, Lori Lamb, got a call from a friend the last day of school about her son.
That friend asked if he was okay, and told Lori to check him for bruises and scratches.
Sure enough, Lori said, there were several marks on his arms and the back of his neck.
"I asked Jeffrey what happened and he said 'Mr. Jim hit me,'" Lamb explained.
Pasco County School officials released surveillance video from one of three cameras on board the special needs bus.
"I'm disgusted. I'm sickened. I cannot believe someone that works with children would act that way. It's just inexcusable," Linda Cobb, Pasco school spokesperson, said.
"This is an isolated incident," she added.
Lamb viewed that video for the first time Sunday.
"It was the most disturbing video," she said. "It was frightening. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was disgusting. I mean this man had an open hand and was slapping him around like he was a rag doll."
The video shows what looks like a standard bus ride. There are several loud outbursts, the school district said, from the autistic child.
Cobb said the child was cussing repeatedly.
"If I have to come back there, you're going to get it," a man identified as James Lambert said.
Then the video shows a man walk back to the boy and strike him several times.
Lamb's daughter, Lori Phelan, said her brother tried defending himself.
"You can hear Jeffrey scream, 'Stop don't do that. Don't hit me," Phelan explained.
The boy's mom contacted district transportation about the incident. It pulled the tape and eventually turned it over to law enforcement.
Lambert was arrested Friday.
Lamb said she and other parents have complained to the school district about Lambert before.
"This is the point when we start asking questions," Cobb said.
The school district has no prior disciplinary issues during Lambert's 16-year career as a bus assistant. Lambert has years of experience working with special needs kids, according to Cobb, but she says "If it happened one time, we have to look to see if it's happened before."
There may be some challenges digging into the bus assistant's past.
Cobb explained the surveillance on some busses is recorded on low quality VHS tapes, and those tapes are often recorded over with other footage.
"It there were previous incidents with low quality video, there's a chance that we don't have it anymore," she said.
The boy's mother simply wants Lambert fired and never allowed near kids again.
"It was heart-wrenching because there was nothing I could do because he was by himself on the bus," she said.
Since the incident, Lamb said her son has had nightmares about the incident, and she's thinking about homeschooling him from now on.
The school district has offered to help the family in any way.
Lamb thinks the bus driver should have stopped the bus and should be held responsible as well.
Cobb touched on those remarks and said, "The driver has a responsibility to not only keep an eye on the road, but what's going on behind them in the bus."
Lambert was scheduled to work summer school but that’s since changed.
His employment will likely be discussed at the next school board meeting on June 17th.
Suspension and termination are possible.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Lee's Summit R-7 School District: Why Do Small School Districts Do More?

Lee's Summit R-7 School District: Why Do Small School Districts Do More?

I was at the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend.  I have sixteen acres down there.  It's not on the water.  It is in the woods and it is peaceful and quiet.  My taxes down there are so much less than they are in Lee's Summit.  If my cars were titled down there my personal property tax would be less than half of what I pay in Lee's Summit.

I went to the store to get some groceries.  The young girl at the register and I were talking.  She told me that her young brother was autistic.  She said that he was 12 years old.  He was diagnosed at 4.

She said that she wanted to be an Occupational Therapist.  She said that OT had made such a difference in her brother's life.  I asked her where he went to school.  She told me that it was the local elementary school.

I was so happy for her.  But, it saddened me.  My son didn't get OT after 5th grade.  Oh, the professionals that I took him to said that he needed it, but Lee's Summit R7 just didn't see it that way.  Of course, they didn't give him any services in middle school and very few in high school.

I wondered why a child in a very small school district would get more services and be given a better chance at success than a child that was in a school district that was supposed to be one of the best in Missouri.  It is isn't because that small district has more money.  They don't.  Their tax levy is so much less than Lee's Summit's.  Their tax levy is $2.8700.  Lee's Summit's tax levy is $6.0627.

It makes one wonder.  Maybe it is because we have a $12 million pool, an $8 million administration center, $250,000 band uniforms, artificial turf on our football fields, or our Superintendent is the highest paid in Missouri.

Whatever the reason is it makes me sad that my son didn't get what he needed and it wasn't because of resources.  I have paid more in taxes and my son was left behind.  I should have saved my money and moved to a district that cared.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pearson’s Behavioral Assessments for Students. Welcome to School Hell. | Missouri Education Watchdog

Pearson’s Behavioral Assessments for Students. Welcome to School Hell. | Missouri Education Watchdog

Anne previously wrote about permission requested from parents for their children to be subjects of a Pearson Research Project for Behavior Assessments.  Read about it here: Is Pearson Using Your Child For Research?
This letter came home to a parent in Saline County this week. It seeks parental permission to have their children be the subjects of a Pearson research project for their Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC). The letter says that this survey is looking at “student behavior,” that teachers will be using the “Teacher Rating Scale” survey to observe the child, and the big win for the school is that they will have the “opportunity” to earn iPads for “some” classrooms.
Let’s break this down.
1. Teachers and students are being asked to be free labor for an international for profit company. Sure they say they will give the school “some” iPads, but as far as the parents know that could be 1 or 2 that will not necessarily benefit their child directly. In fact, from the Pearson letter to parents, the only educational benefit to their child is that the school can get mentioned in the manual for this for profit product and that the school as a whole could get included in the “national norms.”  Hardly a measurable benefit for a child’s education. The teacher’s time is purely gratis.
And what is this product for which your school’s name could be in the manual? The BASC is, according to one website, “a useful tool that teachers or parents may choose to implement to monitor the progress and behavior patterns of young minds.”
2.  Ok, but what are those behavior patterns they are looking for? They include your child’s focus, intellectual and interest levels, how your child relates to others in a social setting. Teachers are looking for emotional triggers such as anxiety, anger and hyper-activity to see if they play a role in any learning difficulties. They also look at positive traits such as leadership, social skills and his adaptability to new environments.  This is some pretty deep stuff, the kind of thorough analysis typically left to highly trained professionals. Another website said, “The BASC system is generally used by professional psychologists, and may also be used by school psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical practitioners. It was originally designed to help health practitioners differentiate, diagnose and treat problems that young people experience.”
So now we think teachers, who need the heavy prompting of common core to teach basic skills, are qualified to do complex psychological analysis of a child’s behaviors with a simple survey that ” does not require your student to do anything.” They can make this assessment just by watching. That is an incredibly high bar to set for teachers, one that borders on professional misconduct.
And that other benefit, of being included in the national norm (as defined now by Pearson) means that they are developing the tools to determine if your specific child is “not in the norm.” We know that schools are very interested in your child’s academic performance. Since they have begun to identify “emotional triggers” that are causing  learning problems we can pretty much count on the school to make it their responsibility to apply an intervention to address those triggers. Can you see how this tool gives them yet another access point into your family’s private life? But hey its worth it because somewhere out there a little kid has an iPad.
3.  I would have liked to give more specific information about the BASC but Pearson does not make that public. You can read about their BASC here on their clinical page and see that it is guided by an education professional Randy W. Kamphaus, PhD, who is Dean of the College of Education and Distinguished Research Professor at Georgia State University and Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD a Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology, Professor of Neuroscience, and Distinguished Research Scholar at Texas A&M University, who is known for his work in psychological testing and assessment. So at least someone in this process has some special training in evaluating child behavior.
Alas, we cannot know more about this survey, as one mother found out when she called Pearson at the direction of her district, because it is “copyrighted.” She was told she could not look at the survey and that if she is found guilty of viewing any testing materials, in any form, not only she, but those responsible for that material – will be subject to penalties for copyright violations.
Apparently, in Pearson’s world, copyright has the same impervious protection of a Hogwarts spell. Understandable as Pearson is a primarily British multi-billion dollar international company.

There is some published information about this Pearson BASC-2 test that parents may want to know about before giving permission for their children to participate in these assessments.  Read the following from THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING IN COMMON CORE STANDARDS:
Common Core schools in various parts of the U. S. have begun to require students (without parental knowledge) to take the Pearson Clinical Tests. The questions on these tests contain very personal questions. Teachers (as seen on the BASC-2 link below) enter personal, subjective observations about their students into the Pearson database. Pearson’s privacy policy says they will share the information with their contractors and that the policy can change without notice.  However, the contractors have no privacy policy. It is not a stretch to imagine that students’ personally identifiable information could indeed be used against them for college admissions and/or future employment. ( MEW note: It should be noted that several Missouri parents have received letters requesting permission for this Pearson test.  You will need to contact your school to determine if your school is using the Pearson or some other behavioral assessment without your permission.)

Fox C-6 Watchdogs: Fox C-6 Is Hoping To Silence Critics Using Cease and Desist Letters

Fox C-6 Watchdogs: Fox C-6 Is Hoping To Silence Critics Using Cease and Desist Letters

Is this happening in our district?  Are you made to feel that you are the only person that is unhappy with the district?  You are not alone.

Fox C-6 Is Hoping To Silence Critics Using Cease and Desist Letters

Should the Fox C-6 School Superintendent use taxpayer money to threaten parents and patrons with "Cease and Desist" letters because she does not like the criticism that she and the district have been receiving?

Is the school board even aware of the fact that our Superintendent has been sending out "Cease and Desist" letters to parents and patrons in the Fox C-6 School District?

So far, I am aware of four "Cease and Desist" letters that have been sent to individuals within our school district. None of the letters that I have seen were copied to school board members other than mine. I received my letter on August 24, 2012. It was copied to Ruth Ann Newman since she was mentioned in my letter. It was also copied to Dianne Critchlow and Dan Baker. My letter stated that I had called Ruth Ann Newman "a liar" and that I had used other defamatory and derogatory comments which of course I never did. But, that is the typical misrepresentation of fact and tactic typically used in a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) type of lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit in order to silence and intimidate critics of a governmental body.

So, what actually happened? I attempted to speak to Ruth Ann Newman about issues in our school district after a scout meeting. We are both leaders in the same scout troop. She didn't want to talk about the issues and told me that she "wasn't going to dwell on the negative". She told me that all I ever did was complain; and, that I was the only one that complained about our district. During that same discussion she scolded me saying, "When was the last time that you came to a school board meeting and thanked the board for the great job we are doing? When? When?". I guess I should have expected that since I am typically the only person until recently who speaks during Public Comments at school board meetings. In fact, in checking all of the board meeting minutes back to 2001, I found that I now hold the school record for the most Public Comments since then. So, I now always try to say thank you to our board before saying anything that the board may not wish to hear because it may not be as glowing or as positive as they would like.

So, where does the "liar" part come in? Well, Ruth Ann Newman later denied ever saying that I was "the only person that ever complains about the district". I tried to remind her that she did in fact say that. I have known Ruth Ann Newman since I was a student in school. My dad was her teacher back in the day. So, I thought that she would be willing to listen to my concerns. But, I believe that she has been tainted from being on the school board for so long and because she was told in an email from our superintendent that was sent to all board members that the board could not speak with me. So, that could have something to do with it as well. So, who does the school board serve? Is it the community or our superintendent?

Back to those other "Cease and Desist" letters. The other three letters that I am aware of weren't copied to the board or board members. So it seems likely that our board members may not have been informed that these cease and desist letters were even sent becauseaccording to School Board Policy 0360:
"A decision to seek legal counsel or advice on behalf of the School District shall normally be made by the superintendent or by persons specifically authorized by the superintendent. It may also take place as a consequence of formal Board direction.
Many types of legal assistance to the district may be considered routine, and may not require specific Board approval or prior notice. However, when the administration concludes that unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required, the Board directs the administration to so advise it, and to expeditiously seek either initial or continuing authorization for such service."
Therefore, our school superintendent IS allowed to use legal counsel for "routine" issues and only needs to inform the board if "unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required". I know from past experience that our school board has simply been informed that district attorneys are taking care of things and board members weren't given any details using the premise of privacy concerns. Our board members accept that information from our superintendent. However, many people have expressed their concerns to me about the fact that our board members never seem to question our superintendent. That is why I believe our school board has lost credibility with the community and why the community is demanding change. When I made Sunshine Requests for billing invoices from our district's law firm in the past, I was told that they do not contain detailed billing information and that many things on those bills would have to be redacted. That certainly makes it difficult to determine how our taxpayer dollars are being spent on legal fees.

Why would our school district send out "cease and desist" letters to individuals expressing their concerns at school board meetings or voicing their concerns to other individuals? I've told numerous people about the letter I received last fall. I received mine after I sent out our superintendent's salary schedule to friends via email. I also expressed my concerns about the $18.5 million dollar bond issue and that I was not in support of it since the district had not been forthcoming as to how the money was going to be spent in a line item budget which I had to request via Missouri Sunshine Law. So, someone forwarded my email to someone who eventually routed it to our superintendent. Our superintendent must not have liked the fact that I was distributing her salary schedule to my friends and comparing it to the amount that the Vice President of the United States makes. Yes it is true. Our school superintendent makes more than the Vice President of the United States. That is a Fact by the way! Both salaries are public information.

So, why would our district use taxpayer money to pay school district attorneys that typically charge anywhere from $350 to $450 per hour to send out threatening cease and desist letters? It is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). This is done in the hopes of silencing anyone who exercises their constitutional right to speak and petition government. However, there is a law in the state of Missouri protecting citizens from this type of action. This law is known as Missouri's Anti-SLAPP Law. It was enacted in 2004. This law was written to protect individuals who are the victims of such actions made by entities such as our school district. Our school district has a lot more money available to spend on attorneys. Most SLAPP lawsuits or the threat of a law suit usually alleges defamation or business torts such as "tortuous interference with a contract" as was stated in my letter. Luckily I found humor in reading the responses I received from my friends in the legal community that I shared my letter with. That is how I learned about Missouri's Anti-SLAPP Law. In fact, there is a great article written by Stephen L. Kling that can be found in the May-June 2005 issue of the Journal of the Missouri Bar that explains in great detail with case references as to why SLAPP lawsuits are made or are threatened to be made against individuals. You can read Stephen Kling's article here:

As stated in Mr. Kling's article, SLAPP lawsuits are primarily not intended to resolve allegations made by the plaintiff such as as the school district or our superintendent. SLAPP lawsuits are intended to punish or retaliate against citizens who have spoken out against the plaintiff and to intimidate those who would otherwise speak in the future. It is intended to make an example of the victim and to spread fear throughout the community. How does Missouri's Anti-SLAPP law protect the intended victim? The Anti-SLAPP law mandates the payment of attorney's fees and costs incurred by a SLAPP victim and provides for expedited consideration for a special motion to dismiss. The U.S. Supreme Court has also recognized that  "[c]irculars, speeches, newspaper articles, editorials, magazine articles, memoranda and all other documents" espousing a petitioner's viewpoint deserve First Amendment petition clause immunity when they are part of an overall effort "to influence government action".

Does sending out "Cease and Desist" letters to citizens expressing their concerns and opinions publicly about our school district set a good example for a National District of Character?

Is this what our school board members consider spending our taxpayer money wisely in their campaign ads?

Please email your board members and tell them what you think. Every board member now has their own personal email address. Their email addresses can be found on the Fox C-6 Board of Education - Meet the Board of Education page.

Everyone I have spoken to in the community concerning this tactic taken by the school district has not been pleased. This is why it is very important that you vote in the April 2013 school board election and let our incumbent school board members know that we as a community are not happy about what has been going on in our school district.

The Fox C-6 School District needs new administrative leadership and a new school board.