Monday, April 30, 2012

Staffers who abuse special-education students don't appear to have the skills they need...

CHERRY HILL, N.J. – When harsh words flew in a classroom for autistic children here, the school employees who spoke them likely thought no one in authority would ever hear.

"Go ahead and scream because guess what? You're going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.

"Oh Akian, you are a bastard."

But after the boy's father, Stuart Chaifetz, released excerpts of the tape in an online video last week, millions of people learned what was said at the Horace Mann Elementary School.

Now, educators and others are trying to figure out just what the incident means.

"What happened in the classroom is not excusable and should not have happened," Cherry Hill school officials said in a statement Friday. But while vowing to learn from the experience, the officials assert, "We believe this regrettable incident is an anomaly."

Others aren't so sure. They say special-education programs in many communities may lack the support and expertise needed to benefit children with disabilities.

Staffers who abuse special-education students "don't appear to have the skills they need … and clearly don't have the supervision they need," said Brenda Considine, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform.

"It's ironic that this stuff is garnering so much attention because we just passed one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country aimed at stopping kids from bullying one another," said Considine. "Here's clear-cut evidence that (school employees) are engaged in bullying."

The Cherry Hill incident wasn't the first such case in New Jersey.

In Deptford, a 15-year-old special education student made a covert video last year that appeared to show bullying by his teacher. The Gloucester County Special Services District is seeking to dismiss the teacher, who was suspended without pay in November.

And Stuart Chaifetz says he's heard from thousands of concerned parents and bullying victims, "some with special needs," since he posted a YouTube video with excerpts of the recording. The video has drawn more than 3.7 million viewers in the past week.

Chaifetz says people responding to the video include parents "who have suffered and who are in the exact same situation as I am and who are asking for advice on how to put a wire or a digital recorder on their child."

Assemblyman Dave Rible, a Republican from Monmouth who has called for improvements to special education in New Jersey, said he understands the outcry. "No one wants to see their children degraded or hurt."

Rible last week urged legislative action on a measure he's sponsored to create a task force of special-education experts.

"The whole crux of my bill is to examine special education, how we're spending money there and how we can improve it," said Rible. "If we're providing a service, we've got to provide the best possible service."

He and Considine expressed concern that special-education students could suffer as districts seek to cut costs by bringing such services into their schools, rather than paying steep tuitions to private organizations.

"I'm not against public schools," said Rible. "But we've got to make sure those teachers are provided the tools that they need."

Among other measures, Considine said, administrators should regularly pop into special-education classrooms to monitor staffers' performance. And she said detailed records should be kept for each student, so that potential problems can be addressed as early as possible.

"There has to be a school-wide culture of support," said Considine, acknowledging that would require an investment of time and money. "Educating kids with disabilities is more challenging."

That challenge can require special-ed teachers and aides to have an extra reserve of tolerance.

"If you take autistic children, for example, they can get upset over something and it may have nothing to do with the actions of the teacher," observed Jay Kuder, chair of the Language, Literacy and Special Education Department at Rowan University. "It could be something sensory like a smell in the room or even how bright the lights are."

Chaifetz said he hid the recording device in his son's pocket after the school reported uncharacteristic outbursts by the child.

Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, said the overwhelming majority of teachers, and especially those in special education, respect their students.

"Becoming a special education teacher is not for everyone," said Wollmer. "It is challenging work, and the vast majority of special education teachers are sensitive to the needs of their students and know how to keep them safe in the classroom."

At the same time, he noted, "We live in a brave new world and the reality is people have access to technology on a massive scale. Teachers are susceptible to audio- and video-recording, and you should know that what you say can be captured and replayed."

Cherry Hill officials say all staffers heard speaking inappropriately on the video are no longer with the district, and that others in the classroom that day are on leave while an investigation continues. The district has not identified any of the employees, but an attorney for Akian's teacher, Kelly Altenburg, says she was not present when the offensive language was recorded.

READ MORE: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-04-29/autism-education-abuse-reform/54616582/1

Obesity-Linked Diabetes in Children Resists Treatment

Obesity and the form of diabetes linked to it are taking an even worse toll on America’s youths than medical experts had realized. As obesity rates in children have climbed, so has the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, and a new study adds another worry: the disease progresses more rapidly in children than in adults and is harder to treat.

“It’s frightening how severe this metabolic disease is in children,” said Dr. David M. Nathan, an author of the study and director of the diabetes center at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s really got a hold on them, and it’s hard to turn around.”

Before the 1990s, this form of diabetes was hardly ever seen in children. It is still uncommon, but experts say any increase in such a serious disease is troubling. There were about 3,600 new cases a year from 2002 to 2005, the latest years for which data is available.

The research is the first large study of Type 2 diabetes in children, “because this didn’t used to exist,” said Dr. Robin Goland, a member of the research team and co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. She added, “These are people who are struggling with something that shouldn’t happen in kids who are this young.”

Why the disease is so hard to control in children and teenagers is not known. The researchers said that rapid growth and the intense hormonal changes at puberty might play a part.

The study followed 699 children ages 10 to 17 at medical centers around the country for about four years. It found that the usual oral medicine for Type 2 diabetes stopped working in about half of the patients within a few years, and they had to add daily shots of insulin to control their blood sugar. Researchers said they were shocked by how poorly the oral drugs performed because they work much better in adults.

The results of the study and an editorial were published online on Sunday by The New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings could signal trouble ahead because poorly controlled diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage, amputations and kidney failure. The longer a person has the disease, the greater the risk. So in theory, people who develop diabetes as children may suffer its complications much earlier in life than previous generations who became diabetic as adults.

“I fear that these children are going to become sick earlier in their lives than we’ve ever seen before,” Dr. Nathan said.

But aggressive treatment can lower the risks.

“You really have to be on top of these kids and individualize therapy for each person,” said Dr. Barbara Linder, a senior adviser for childhood diabetes research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which sponsored the new study.

Sara Chernov, 21, a college senior from Great Neck, N.Y., learned that she had Type 2 diabetes when she was 16. Her grandfather had had both legs amputated as a result of the disease, and one of the first questions she asked was when she would lose her legs and her eyesight.

A doctor scolded her for being fat and told her she had to lose weight and could never eat sugar again. She left the office in tears and did not go back; soon after, she joined the study at Columbia. Like many of the children in the program, she did not even know how to swallow a pill.

Ms. Chernov believes that the disease “is not a death sentence,” she said, if she is careful about controlling her blood sugar. But it has been a struggle. Her family tends to be overweight, she sometimes craves sweets and she has orthopedic problems that have required surgery and have made it hard for her to exercise. She is also being treated for high blood pressure.....

 READ MORE: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/health/research/obesity-and-type-2-diabetes-cases-take-toll-on-children.html?_r=1&ref=global-home