Important issues for our Healthy Minds community
Individualized Education Programs (IEP) are both the foundation and culmination of team effort to address the needs of a student with a disability. There are many components to an IEP and seemingly as many acronyms. Many terms are used frequently but not necessarily defined meticulously and therefore some inadvertently become misused. Baseline and Present Level of Performance, for example, are often referred to interchangeably. This is understandable, as they are often closely related. There are, however, important distinctions between the two terms; they are not actually synonymous.
For centuries we have known about the impact prenatal alcohol exposure can have on a child’s development, yet the predominate culture in the United States minimizes this and turns away from acknowledgement of the repercussions. In fact, when it comes to both breadth and specificity, the known outcomes are rarely taught to professionals in the medical, educational, and mental health fields, leaving most in these disciplines ignorant of the significant needs of persons with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
It is time for this to change.
We know that expectations matter. In fact, there has been research done to measure the effect expectations have on others, with one of the most famous being completed by Robert Rosenthal more than 50 years ago. Despite the time that has passed, the information learned from this experiment is still extremely relevant.
For Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, parents and professionals must understand that access to language and language development is a crucial part of the of the overall functioning of children and adolescents. In fact, I might argue, that understanding its impact is the central issue that school and clinical psychologists must understand in order to conduct ethical and effective evaluations of cognitive, academic and social-emotional functioning.
One of my favorite professors in college, Shoshannah Stern, is a famous Deaf actress and an incredible teacher (See: Weeds, The Hammer, Jericho). She asked us one day to consider what our reactions would be if we gave birth to a child one day who could only speak French. Well, I can only speak English. And we’re not in France, we’re in America. Would my first reaction be to learn French? Well, maybe a few key terms, but my focus would really be on trying to teach my kid English. Try to assimilate them into the culture and country in which they live. Having a deaf child is no different. That child is automatically born into a culture different than the parent, and that doesn’t happen to other families unless in very special circumstances, like a black child being adopted by a white family. That black child will never be white, and a child who is born deaf can never become hearing. Even cochlear implants, which are highly experimental and do not take the place of true hearing, are questionable in their value when they are not accompanied by sign language. It’s understandable why a hearing parent would want their child to be implanted, and why they would speak tirelessly and refrain from using sign language. They just want their kid to be like the others. That attitude, however, is detrimental.
Deaf children need to be taught directly many of the skills that hearing children learn incidentally and exposure to language is the key to a successful transfer of information.
In 1975, congress passed what is now commonly referred to as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)(2). This act ensured that every child – no matter of ability or disability – is entitled to a free appropriate public education. In 1984, in response to major concerns that mental health services were not being adequately provided to students who needed such services in order to benefit from their education, California passed Assembly Bill 3632, which required counties to provide these services. From 1984 through 2010(3), the county departments of mental health were in charge of completing mental health assessments, recommendations, and case management for students. These services were coordinated with the students’ individualized education program (IEP).
Currently, schools (under IDEA) are required to provide any related services the IEP team deems necessary to support the student’s ability to benefit from his/her education..
There are so many complaints about how special education costs are depleting our tax dollars and diverting money that might be used elsewhere to support children’s learning. But in the view from the trenches, the expense of special education is not the culprit, inefficient spending is.
The more time spent in inefficient ventures, the less time they have to provide important services to students.
Many parents feel overwhelmed simply showing up to an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting. Looking across a table at a sea of education professionals can be daunting. Teachers and school professionals often feel similarly when attorneys or advocates attend IEP meetings. But intimidation and disempowerment do not have to be the result.
By understanding the individual and unique roles of each member of the IEP team, we can better understand and appreciate their perspective and contribution. Keeping in mind the various roles of everyone in the meeting will help in understanding where everyone is coming from and the reasons behind their positions.
The common denominator is that each person is at the meeting to ensure the student has an educational program that is designed to meet her needs.
Hello Healthy Minds followers!
We wanted to start off our blogging journey by sharing a bit about one of the specialized services we provide. We’ll venture through numerous topics in the Healthy Minds Blog, addressing a variety of subjects related to education, child development, mental health, and disabilities. Today, we start with our work in the court system.
Unique in its design, the Juvenile Mental Health Court (JMHC) is composed of an interdisciplinary team including a judge, public defender(s) and defense attorney(s), probation officers, a psychiatric social worker, a consulting psychiatrist and psychologist, and an education specialist. This specialized court room is part of the Los Angeles County juvenile delinquency court system and serves youth with developmental delays and/or significant mental health needs. The team has specialized knowledge and expertise in mental health and works collaboratively to ensure the youth and their families have the support needed to increase positive outcomes and reduce recidivism. In other words, we help the youth get back on track so that they don’t continue to get in trouble with the law.