Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bullying / Harassment Part II

Effects of Bullying
Bullying can affect everyone including those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative consequences including substance abuse, serious mental health issues, and even suicide. It is important as a parent, teacher or school administrator to talk to kids to determine whether bullying or something else is a concern.  
Kids Who are Bullied
Children who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Children who are bullied are more likely to experience:
-          Depression and anxiety increase in feelings of unhappiness, sadness, and feelings of isolation.
-          Changes in sleep and eating patterns
-          Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
-          Health complaints
-          Fear of going to school
-          Decreased academic achievement –GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school
A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990’s, the school shooters had a history of being bullied according to http://www.stopbullying.gov.
Kids Who Bully Others
Children who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:
-          Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
-          Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or even their own children as adults
-          Engage in early sexual activity
-          Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
-          Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
Children who witness bullying are more likely to:
-          Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and/or other drugs
-          Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
-          Miss or skip school
Please see http://www.stopbullying.gov for more information

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bullying / Harassment

Bullying / Harassment
It is a parent’s worst nightmare when a child comes home from school injured either from another student or even from school staff. When you send your child off to school, you expect to be sending them to a safe learning environment, however this is not always the case. Sometimes parents can feel helpless because of their lack of control and inability to protect their child in the school environment. Bullying should be taken seriously and can  have serious consequences on a child.
While the pain of a physical attack often fades quickly, being a social outcast can last for months or years, and the social and emotional impact can persist into adulthood (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).
Special Education and Bullying
Children in special education or who have a 504 plan are especially vulnerable to bullying and abuse – but fortunately, they have more protections legally than regular education children do in many instances. In one study, 90% of the mothers of children with Asperger’s syndrome reported that their child had been a target of some form of bullying within the previous year (Little, 2002). Researchers believe this value may be a conservative estimate because targets can be reluctant to report bullying even to their parents (Hay et al. 2004, Attwood, 2004).

80% of adolescents and 90% of 4th through 8th graders reported being bullied at school (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). Students reported that 71% of the teachers or other adults in the classroom ignored bullying incidents (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). There is evidence showing peer group support for aggressive behaviors as early as the first grade (Estell, et al., 2002).
Most states, including Indiana, do not yet collect information on bullying incidents, although the accumulation and dissemination of such data would seem to be useful in examining bullying in schools and determining why it persists (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). As of 2003, twenty-two states have adopted policies to deal with bullying; Indiana is not one of the states (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). In 2005 Indiana adopted a token attempt to address bullying by amending the discipline rules governing school corporations to (1) prohibit bullying, (2) include provisions concerning education, parental involvement, reporting, investigation, and intervention apply to students (1) on school grounds, (2) at school activity, function, or event, (3) traveling to or from school or school activity, function, or event, or (4) using property or equipment provided by the school. However, noncompliance with this section by the school may not be used as evidence against the school (IC 20-33-8-13.5).

If you suspect sexual or any other type of abuse of your child by other students or school staff, you should contact police and Child Protective Services immediately, as well as attorney. Whether you and your child are entitled to monetary damages or other remedies for what has transpired is a time-sensitive, fact-sensitive inquiry.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Detecting Autism

Detecting Autism
There have been many debates regarding the causes of Autism. It is a question that has haunted many parents who wonder if they have done something wrong to cause their child to have Autism. Although some types of Autism have known causes, most are found to be idiopathic, or without a known cause. There are many theories as what causes autism, including vaccinations, immune deficiency, food allergies, genetics and many other theories. However, none of these theories have been proven.
You would think that with so much information available, someone would have figured out the cause of Autism by now; though, it is still seemingly a medical mystery.  However, researchers from Boston Children's Hospital may have brought us one step closer to discovering the cause of Autism. The researchers have found that recent tests measuring the electrical activity in the brain can distinguish children with Autism from children with typical brains as early as 2 years of age.  Their study was published last week in the online journal, BMC Medicine. Researchers compared raw data from the electroencephalogram tests, or EEGs, of 430 children with Autism and 554 other children from 2 to 12 years of age. Children with Asperger Syndrome did not participate in the testing. The researchers found that children with Autism had consistent EEG patterns showing altered connectivity between different parts of the brain. In general, they showed reduced connectivity compared with the other children's brains. As we get closer to pinpointing the brain’s functions and its effects on human behavior, we grow closer to solving the mystery of the causes of Autism.
There are other ways to identify whether children have any type of autism, but many of these signs go unnoticed. Early detection, however, can have a huge effect how students progress and develop if they get early-intervention services to match their needs and support their development. There are also some known causes, including Depakote (also named Valproate), which is an anti-seizure medication taken during pregnancy; Fragile X syndrome, which is a genetic disorder; Rett Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder affecting only females, Tuberous Sclerosis, which is a rare genetic disorder; and Prader-Willi Syndrome, which is also a rare genetic disorder.
According to The National Association of School Psychologists, students with Autism are most often diagnosed by school staff. It may be possible, however, that the EEG patterns could change the way children are diagnosed. The researchers believe that their findings could lead to a diagnostic test for Autism, particularly at younger ages when behavior-based measures are less reliable. The researchers plan to next study the EEG patterns of children with Asperger Syndrome and children with Autism. This promises to reveal why it affects some children in one way and others in another.
Regardless of the cause, getting a good support system in place for your child is vital. If you are struggling with your child’s school to diagnose and/or provide appropriate support to your child with Autism, we can help. Please visit www.hzlegal.com for more information. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology, (hereinafter "AT") is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. AT can be an important asset to your child's success and should be included in your child's IEP. AT promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks. 

For example, a child who struggles or is slow with writing down their thoughts and ideas because they have weakened fine-motor strength would be permitted to use a computer in the classroom to type their notes or papers. This accommodation would be detailed in the child's IEP.  

Assistive Technology and the IEP
1.      Needs for technology must be identified on an individual basis.
2.  Assistive technology needs must be considered along with the child's other educational needs. 
3.      Identification of technology needs must involve family members and a multidisciplinary team.
4.      Parents or IEP members can ask for additional evaluation or an independent evaluation to determine assistive technology needs.
5.      When an evaluation is being conducted, consider: fine-motor skills, communication, and alternatives to traditional learning approaches.
6.      Lack of availability of equipment or cost alone cannot be used as an excuse for denying an assistive technology service.
7.      If included in the IEP, assistive technology services and devices must be provided at no cost to the family and, if so indicated, devices must be allowed to go home with the student.
8.      Parents always have the right to appeal if assistive technology services are denied.

NOTE: The National Council on Disability has issued a report on the availability of assistive technology to persons with disabilities. The report contains a specific section on education and emphasizes the major role technology now plays in education. To see the report go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11418/

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Special Education Law

Hollingsworth and Zivitz’s Education Law Team has one goal in mind; Your child’s success in education and in life. We believe that ALL children deserve an Education and should feel safe in the school they attend. We believe all parents deserve to be informed of their rights and their options as it pertains to their child’s education. We believe in creating positive relationships with schools, but we are not afraid to fight for your child when it is necessary.
Sometimes this means going to a due process hearing in order to force the schools to comply with the federal and state protections afforded to children with special needs.
Parents frequently do not know or understand what their children's rights are in terms of the education and services offered by the schools, and they often can feel intimidated by school staffs.  Each child qualifying for services are required by federal law to receive an Individualized Education Program often referred to simply as an IEP. The IEPs are put together by a team within the schools and are supposed to include parents in this process. However, parents often feel as though they have little say as to what goes into an IEP for their child because they are unaware of what their child’s rights are. This can have serious impact and their children's progress can be impaired by that lack of knowledge. "What we have is what you get" is NOT what the federal and state laws provide. The schools are required, by law, to devise an IEP for each child qualified for services based on that child's individual needs (not on the school's staffing or budget problems) that is reasonably calculated to confer a meaningful educational benefit.
Anything less than that does not comply with the federal law, and is actionable through a due process proceeding.
Examples of how the schools commit violations:
  1. Failure to find child eligible for services despite evidence that the child was struggling academically or behaviorally.
  2. Failure to develop an appropriate IEP based on the child's individual needs.
  3. Failure to implement the IEP as written.
  4. Failure to involve the parents to meaningfully participate in the IEP development process.
  5. Failure of proper personnel to be present during the case conference committee meetings.
  6. Failure to give notice of rights.
  7. Failure of the school to prevent punishment of the child for actions or inactions that are manifestations of the child's disability (caused by the child's disability).
  8. Failure to train staff and aides in the child's areas of disability.
  9. Failure to train parents in the child's areas of disability.
  10. Failure to maintain proper records.
  11. Predetermining placement and services before the case conference committee meeting.
  12. Failure to conduct necessary evaluations of the child.
  13. Failure to provide education and services in the least restrictive environment, based on that child's individual needs.
  14. Failure to offer extended school year services to the child, resulting in regression of skills during the summer vacation that cannot be recouped quickly.
  15. Failure to convene a case conference committee meeting.
  16. Failure to provide records within 45 days when requested by parents.
  17. Failure to allow the special needs child to participate in extracurricular activities to the same extent as his non-disabled peers when the child could participate with accommodations provided by the school.

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