I was recently contacted by a parent of a child with autism from out of state for some advocacy advice. The mother is educated, proficient in defense skills and an avid fighter for her son! She is extremely concerned that her school district is pushing her son into failure (because of her behavior) so that he can be removed from school. I have seen many special educators escalate a child’s behavior, call the police, and arrest the child. So it goes from school to prison pipeline — and it can happen to your child.
According to a recent article, the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey says experts attribute the high proportion of people with disabilities in the nation’s prison population – which has grown 700 percent since 1970 – in part to profound problems raising children. with disabilities. Here’s another shocking statistic: Nationwide, at least 73 percent of emotionally disabled youth who drop out of school are arrested within five years, according to a federal study.
What is a parent to do?
1. Know the behavior in general and some of the causes: a. A child’s behavior could very well be related to her disability. B. All behavior is a form of communication. C. Children often have behavioral difficulties if they are frustrated. D. Keep in mind that there is a huge connection between academic difficulties and behavioral difficulties. In other words, many children who have behavioral difficulties in school also have difficulties with their studies. And. Reaction to a child’s behavior will either make the behavior better or worse. This includes at school and even at home! Untrained special education personnel may escalate behavior (make it worse), rather than reduce behavior (make it better). F. The sooner the behavior is addressed, the easier it will be to change it.
2. Have special educators look up the ABC’s of behavior and follow up on the behavior for a week (writing down their findings). A stands for antecedent (what is happening in the classroom when the behavior occurs), B stands for behavior (specifically what the behavior is), and C stands for consequences (what happened because of the behavior, for example: your child yells and screams and gets to avoid school work).
3. Advocate on how best to manage negative behavior (a properly developed Functional Behavioral Assessment (FPA) which is used to develop positive behavior support/plans). Make sure the plan is “positive” because studies have shown that punishment only works in the short term to positively change behavior.
4. Find out about federal and state special education laws related to the discipline of children with disabilities. In my 25 years of advocacy, I find many school districts overrate laws for disciplining children, with few parents questioning their ability to do so.
5. Ask for a daily behavior sheet (to fill out and return home each day) so you can use positive reinforcement at home for good behavior. When educators fill in the sheet, they should write only positive comments. The Everyday Behavior Sheet can be used in a dispute with special educators (for example: they state the _________ day that your child did __________, and the sheet does not reflect this). The worksheet can be developed by a teacher or the person conducting the FBA. Make sure all sheets are dated for future reference.
If your school district calls the police about your child and has them arrested, you may be able to get help from Special Education Services judges. I have seen parents able to help their children get needed services if the criminal justice system gets involved. If this happens to your child, proactively advocate for needed special education services. Eventually your child may end up receiving a free, adequate public education with the school district having to provide the services a child needs! Good luck!