Tag Archives: student

Applying ABA to Non-Compliant LEAs

Positive Reinforcer ChartApplied Behavioral Analysis (“ABA”) has been around for decades, now. As one of the few scientifically research-based methodologies for providing instruction to individuals with autism, it has become regarded as an autism intervention. But ABA is not an autism-specific intervention at all. It is one approach to behavior modification that can be used with pretty much anybody.

Pure ABA has taken some criticism, and not necessarily without cause. Some practitioners have been overly reliant on Discrete Trial Training (“DTT”) to the point of training kids to be little robots without learning to understand or value?why social norms apply to them. The use of response-costs are also used inappropriately by far to many practitioners, particularly those who don’t really understand ABA. Response-costs are basically aversive consequences that are meted out when the individual engages in undesirable behavior.

From a purely scientific standpoint, response-costs can be delivered in a manner that facilitates the learning of more adaptive behavior. In our public schools, however, it far too often gets twisted into a justification to punish a kid for manifesting symptoms at school. (Of course, this presumes that there is any ABA being used in the school setting at all.)

Punishment is already epidemic and positive behavioral interventions are woefully lacking in our public schools. ?The idea of response-costs are far too appealing to school district administrators just looking for an excuse to punish a kid for displaying poor judgment or reacting to environmental antecedents because of a handicapping condition as though the kid is displaying willful defiance or misconduct.

These people don’t need any more ammunition to do the wrong thing. They can take the response-cost concept of pure ABA out of context and resort to reactive strategies in a knee-jerk fashion without putting forth the necessary effort to prevent the maladaptive behaviors and teach appropriate replacement behaviors in the first place.

In California where positive behavioral interventions are very regulated, there is at least some legal recourse for students who have been inappropriately subjected to reactive strategies, including response-costs, but the systems of accountability are far, far from perfect and way too many school districts still get away with harming children in the name of behavioral intervention.

But, like I said, ABA (including response-costs, when appropriate)?can be used effectively with anyone. I kind of look at our advocacy as behavioral intervention where the intent is to change the behavior of education agencies engaging in harmful, non-compliant behavior.

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California’s Regulations for Positive Behavioral Interventions

UPDATE:  Effective July 1, 2013, the Hughes Bill, which described the FAA procedures, was repealed and replaced with AB 86, which offers fewer legal protections to students with behavioral needs.  Click here for more information about this change in the law.  The material below now only applies to those students who were eligible for an FAA and possibly a PBIP prior to July 1, 2013. These students may currently have PBIPs in their IEPs, which remain in force until their IEPs are replaced at their next annual due date. Students with claims arising within the last two years from school agencies’ failures to comply with the Hughes Bill during the portion of the statutory period in which it was still in force may still bring claims regarding those failures, in which case, the material below is still applicable.


Click here to listen to the podcast version of this post.

As part of a series of articles regarding seclusion and restraint practices involving special education students across the nation, we’re starting out with a look at the regulations already on the books in California. We’re starting with these state-specific regulations because California is one of the few states to have regulations this specific and, as one of the most populous states in the nation, these laws impact a lot of kids. So, this information can potentially benefit a lot of students by helping their parents in their efforts to achieve appropriate behavioral interventions as well as help their educators understand their obligations, thereby preventing a lot of costly litigation that takes money away from actual instructional costs.

There is federal legislation pending to address this very issue. The lack of consistency among the states as to what constitutes a lawful restraint or seclusion varies so widely that what is regarded as child abuse in one state is considered perfectly acceptable in others.

Because California has such specific language in its regulations about one aspect of positive behavioral intervention, we wanted to examine these regulations more closely. Plus, I’ve been involved in a due process case in which an 8-year-old with autism was unwittingly provoked into an outburst by well-intended special ed staff with the whole thing culminating in a DARE officer who happened to be on campus handcuffing the boy in an effort to protect him from hurting himself. That whole incident involved both restraint and seclusion with disastrous results.

So, this issue is vivid in my mind right now after having met this sweet boy and his loving family, as well as in light of other work I’ve been doing recently that has also involved inappropriate behavioral interventions in public school settings in California as well as Texas. As advanced as humanity has become, we can still be a savage species when it comes to children, particularly those with disabilities.

The thing about California’s laws relative to the minimum requirements under the federal regulations is that California’s laws are specific to serious behavior problems, interpreted by most school districts to mean violent behaviors, where the federal regulations only specifically mandate behavioral assessment when a student is at risk of expulsion for behaviors that may be related to his/her disability. In both cases, that leaves a lot of latitude for things to get way out of control before a school district takes action, particularly in school districts that are reactionary to student needs once they’ve reached crisis proportions rather than proactive in preventing these kinds of problems from arising in the first place.

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Pain & Suffering in Special Education

In my last posting, “Teachers Who Cheat & Why They Do It,” I gave the advice to people employed within public education who are being pressured to do something unscrupulous to “grow a set” and refuse to willingly participate in the undermining of the special education system. But, telling someone to “grow a set” really doesn’t tell them exactly what to do when the pressure is on.

And then I read Alexander Russo’s July 7, 2011 article, “Education Will Break Your Heart,” on The Huffington Post.  Russo was writing after reading something that inspired him, “Liking is for Cowards. Go For What Hurts,” by Jonathan Franzen that was published in The New York Times on May 28, 2011.

Anyone struggling with a moral crisis over pressures to take unscrupulous steps in public education should stop to read these two articles. Franzen’s piece speaks to life in general. Russo translates it to the world of education.

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Feds Say RtI Can’t Delay Special Ed Evals

It’s that time of the school year when I think my head is going to explode. Every year from about the time of Spring Break to the end of the regular school year, all hell breaks loose as parents who have been paid lip service by their education agencies all year long realize, “OMG, the school year is almost over and my kid still can’t [plug in deficit skill area here]!

And then the emails and calls for our lay advocacy services start pouring in. Blogging during this time of the year is a particular challenge for me because I’m spread so thinly with casework.

But, the reality is that this is the time when constructive information about the special education process is most needed by parents. We can’t represent everybody and if there is a way to empower parents so they can effectively advocate for their children themselves, that is always preferred to parents having to pay us or anyone else to pursue appropriate educational outcomes for their kids.

So, today’s posting is about Response to Intervention, or RtI, with respect to assessment special education. Over the course of the current school year, I’ve seen more and more districts implementing RtI models and shooting themselves in the foot with respect to special education compliance, particularly the federal “child find” requirements, all at the same time.

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The Roles of District Assessors in Visual Processing Assessments

Click here to download the podcast version of this article.

Depth PerceptionThere is much confusion in many school districts about the assessment of visual processing disorders and appropriate remedies for needs that arise from visual processing disorders in special education students.

Many school districts do not provide expert assessment in visual processing at all, mostly because they don’t understand when expert assessment becomes necessary in order to render a FAPE. But, there is also an underlying fear that is sometimes very overt and other times left unspoken out of shame and guilt; it is the fear of the costs of any services that expert assessment may reveal is necessary for a given student.

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