(Taken from “Special Education Is Hidden Target in Health Bill”, Erica L. Green, New York Times, 5/4/17)
How will the new American Health Care Act, with deep cuts in Medicaid, impact special education students? School districts rely on Medicaid to provide costly services to millions of disabled students across the country, covering costs for equipment to therapy to feeding tubes. It also provides preventive care such as vision and hearing screenings. The new law, passed by the House on May 4, 2017, cuts Medicaid by $880 billion over 10 years and imposes a “per capita” cap for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly. In January a survey of almost 1,000 school districts in 42 states had 70% report that they used Medicaid money to pay for health care salaries for those who care for special education students. More than 50 school districts and advocates across the country, the Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition, sent letters to top lawmakers saying that the new bill would force rationing of care for children. Schools would have to compete with hospitals, clinics and other entities for Medicaid funding for children. The new bill no longer considers schools eligible Medicaid providers, so not entitled to reimbursements. There is uniform agreement that these cuts will be devastating to the vulnerable children in special education.
In San Francisco there is a special court for young adult offenders called the Young Adult Court, established in 2015 after the district attorney attended a neuroscience lecture at Harvard. It was learned that maturing brains do not fully develop until the middle 20s. After that lecture, punishments were based on neuroscience, tailored to the biology and circumstances of the offenders, ages 18-25. This experiment was implemented because current approaches across the country are not working, young offenders returning to jail off and on throughout their lifetime. Clinical psychologists trained the court’s staff in order for the offender to avoid lifelong entanglement with the criminal justice system.
Researchers emphasized that there is a difference between cognitive capacity and psychosocial maturity, which includes impulsivity, risk perception, thrill-seeking and resistance to peer influence. A test for “emotional brain age” was developed, finding that those with younger brain age tended to prefer riskier behavior. Variability was highest among young adults.
Six such courts now exist in states ranging from Idaho to Nebraska and New York. Sentencing to avoid incarceration includes checking in with the judge once a week, employment, housing, and educational support. Weekly therapy sessions and life-skill classes are also required.
Why isn’t this model used in public education? It is not even used in special education currently or in approaches involving Response to Intervention (RTI), used to prevent special education referrals. Schools and educators generally continue to look at behavior as though it had nothing to do with brain development and how that brain interacts with its environment. This is particularly true of the education of very young children. Teacher training programs do not emphasize the role of the brain in learning and behavior. If it did, outcomes would surely improve. It works for young adults in this Young Adult Court. Let’s apply it to our kids instead of paying only lip service to the role of neuroscience in education.
(Based on A Court Calls on Science, Tim Requarth, Science Times, The New York Times. 4/18/17).
A MAC Scholarship Concert event will be held on Sunday, August 14, 2016, at 3 P.M. at the MAC Center. It is titled “Secrets of Life: American Masters”. The music of James Taylor, Bill Evans, Stevie Wonder and Carole King will be performed by MAC founder, Marilyn Arons. Click this link for a copy of the program. The proceeds will go toward enrollment of a disabled three year old into the MAC program for a 10 month period, as well as parent training. The child will have a center-based intervention session for 60 minutes one time per week, with a home program developed for carry-over. Venues are sought for the purposes of repeating this fund raising program through September. Recommendations for this scholarship can come from any source, but documentation and pupil records must be provided for review. The program starts on September 19, 2016. For additional information, contact MAC at 201-692-7908 or through this website.
MAC is looking for parents, professionals, organizations, and interested others in joining in our effort to protect the INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT, IDEA. The Department of Education has given up on enforcement of children’s rights under IDEA and has now mandated a regular education component within every child’s IEP. See MAC’s letter of October 12, 2015. No involvement of Congress has taken place so that the DOE is changing the IDEA enacted by Congress without public involvement, notice, or oversight. We urge you to examine this issue and to decide to get involved. Contact MAC through this website and let us know your thoughts and your commitment to help in this effort to protect all children with disabilities in order to meet their unique needs.
Beginning in January, MAC offers a 6 month class on the brain and how we learn-The Brain & Me. We are asked by many why it is that children improve here when they have shown no progress in other places and methods. It is because we use neuroscience as the tool to examine and create individual programs, thinking “out of the box” and using the understanding of brain and biology as the basis for curriculum development. How is this done? Do you have questions about your child or students you teach that you want to explore? Join us, 7-9 PM, $100 per session including handouts. Enrollment rates are on a sliding scale for parents. Dates: 1/14; 2/15; 3/10; 4/14; 5/12; 6/9. Registration is required.
On 1/17, Sunday afternoon, MAC offers a group-sing and talk for ages 5-9: What is freedom? Songs include This Little Light of Mine, I Love Everybody, and If I had a Hammer. Time: 2-4 P.M. Fee: $30 a child. Registration is required.
Loretta D. Boronat is the mother of an adult autistic son in New Jersey. She has created a business to employ adults with developmental delays called My Sibling & My Pal. Each doll has a script that helps the sibling explain the disability of their brother or sister to others. The packaging and mailing are done by adults with disabilities and provides them with an employment opportunity. For more information see www.mysiblingdolls.com.