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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Fighting Vaccine Hesitancy

From January 1 to December 5, 2019, 1,276* individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 31 states. CDC will now be updating these data monthly.
  • This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992. More than 75% of the cases this year are linked to recent outbreaks in New York. Measles is more likely to spread and cause outbreaks in U.S. communities where groups of people are unvaccinated.
  • The majority of cases are among people who were not vaccinated against measles.
  • Measles can cause serious complications. From January 1 – December 5, 2019, 124 of the people who got measles this year were hospitalized, and 61 reported having complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis.
Psychology Today:
A systematic review published earlier this year in the journal Vaccine identified the top reasons U.S. parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children. The review included 71 studies that asked participants open-ended questions about vaccinations.
The review found the most commonly-described reasons were that vaccines can cause illnesses, can overwhelm a child’s immune system if they get too many vaccinations at once, and that vaccines contain harmful ingredients. Parents also expressed fears that naturally-developed immunity is better than immunity from vaccines, and that vaccines are simply an avenue for profit-making.

But, in reality, the evidence shows that childhood vaccines are extremely safe. A systematic review published in the journal Pediatrics found rare cases of skin rash, an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine, and fever. It found no evidence that childhood vaccines lead to autism or leukemia.

This is notable because a fraudulent study published in the British journal The Lancet linked the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism and colon inflammation. In 2010, the journal fully retracted the study after media reports that the author manipulated the evidence. Since then, medical scholars have called the debacle “the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years.” To help, public health officials have created interventions that can help pediatricians talk with vaccine-hesitant parents.
 Tess Lanzarotta at The Washington Post:
Pro-vaccine advertisements are more likely than anti-vaccine advertisements to be removed from Facebook, often because they fail to meet the requirements for “political” advertising. This probably occurs because pro-vaccine advertisers believe their messages convey scientific truth, rather than a political position. This failure, however, also reflects a broader mistake by pro-vaccine forces: They have assumed the scientific merits of vaccination are self-evident and sufficient to convince a skeptical public.
But they need to stop assuming and start organizing as a political movement that employs calculated marketing, applies political pressure to de-platform anti-vaxxers, strengthens legislation surrounding vaccination and maintains social pressure to undergo vaccination. This set of strategies could potentially calm anxiety among parents, which has been fueled by misinformation online, and beat anti-vaxxers at their own game.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Baker Act

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not, things get out of hand.

 Leonora LaPeter Anton and John Pendygraft at the Tampa Bay Times:
Florida’s Baker Act directs police officers and some mental health professionals to hospitalize the mentally ill, but it was never intended to be used on children with autism or children who act out in class. The 48-year-old law even says those with developmental disabilities should not be committed unless they’re also mentally ill and a danger to themselves or others.

But more and more kids who do not meet the criteria are being taken from schools to crisis centers for up to 72 hours and more.
Across Florida, the number of children involuntarily transported each year to a mental health center has doubled in the last 15 years to about 36,000, or 100 a day, according to the Baker Act Reporting Center at the University of South Florida. More than 4,000 were under the age of 10.
There’s more awareness about reporting concerning behavior and more children making troubling statements on social media. And since the mass shooting at a Parkland high school in 2018, every public school in Florida has an officer or armed guard with a hard set of rules for dealing with kids in crisis.
Interviews with dozens of parents around the state reveal a system that sweeps up too many kids.
“She was 8,” said Lindsey Rezin, whose daughter, Marisol, has autism and was involuntarily committed for three days from an elementary school in Manatee County after she said - once - that she felt like stabbing herself. The officer asked if she knew where the knives were kept at home, and that was enough.
“It was unbelievably shocking. It rocked our world.”
The Tampa Bay Times found officers hospitalized children who had a meltdown, refused an order or drew a troubling picture. Some kids vaguely threatened to hurt themselves. Other children exhibited behavior that was typical for their development disabilities and identified in their federal education plans.

Often, the Baker Act of a child happens without parents’ knowledge or consent, and once the process is underway, they have no rights under the law to challenge a decision. These interactions with police can be particularly scary for parents of special needs children who struggle with tantrums and communication.
“In that moment, that decision may seem like a good one in order to err on the side of caution or avoid issues of liability,” said Kristin Kosyluk, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida’s Department of Mental Health Law & Policy who studies the impact of mental stigma. “But in the long term, the impact is a traumatized child, a traumatized family and an experience that can never be undone.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said police are “hands down, unequivocally the least qualified people to deal with this. The mental health training that law enforcement officers receive in the academy is minimal … so you end up with a lot of situations that are resolved by over-Baker Acting.”

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Greta Thunberg Wins Honor, Trump Insults Her

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."  Perhaps the most prominent is climate activist Rachel Thunberg:

Rachel DeSantis at People:
The Swedish 16 year old — who was named TIME‘s Person of the Year on Wednesday, making her the youngest person to ever be given the honor — hasn’t shied away from flipping the script on her Asperger’s, at one point referring to it not as an obstacle but as her “superpower.”
“Being different is a good thing,” she told PEOPLE in October. “It’s something we should aspire to be.”
The pride with which she embraces her diagnosis has not been lost on others with Asperger’s, who now view Thunberg as a role model. Case in point: the trending Twitter hashtag “Autistics for Greta.”
“She is my SHERO!” user @hmcooperauthor wrote in September. “Such a fearless, articulate young woman. We might be considered ‘odd, weird, quirky….’ Or whatever adjectives that you prefer to insert but I’m convinced folks on the Autism Spectrum have superpowers that you all just don’t…”
User @ThruThePrismArt agreed, writing, “I’m on the spectrum. Anyone who underestimates Greta has NO IDEA how powerful the autistic brain is when set to a specific goal. The strength of being #ActuallyAutistic is LIMITLESS.”
Those strengths have served Thunberg well, as she explained on CBS This Morning that her Asperger’s actually helps her in seeing the world through a different lens.
“In some circumstances it can definitely be an advantage to have some kind of neurotypical diagnosis, to be neurodiverse, because that makes you different, that makes you think differently,” she said. “And especially in such a big crisis like this, when we need to think outside the box. We need to think outside our current system, we need people who think outside the box and who aren’t like everyone else.”

Trump insults her:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

ABA Shortage

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  In many states -- particularly those with large rural populations -- one problem is a shortage of behavior therapists.

A release from The American Psychiatric Association:
The supply of certified applied behavior analysis (ABA) providers is insufficient to meet the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in nearly every state, according to a study published online today in Psychiatric Services. The new study found there is substantial variation across states and regions—for instance, the per capita supply of certified ABA providers is substantially higher in the Northeast than in any other region.

The rising prevalence of ASD underscores the importance of access to evidence-based interventions such as ABA. An estimated one in 59 children had ASD in 2014, up from one in 125 a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ABA uses behavioral learning principles to help children with ASD increase positive behaviors and social interactions and decrease problematic behaviors. It is the recommended treatment for children with autism and is supported by more than 30 years of research. ABA is most effective when it is started in early childhood and the therapy is provided between 20 and 40 hours per week.
Study authors Yidan Xue Zhang, M.C., and Janet R. Cummings, Ph.D., with the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, used 2018 data from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. They compared the per capita supply of certified ABA providers in each state with a benchmark established using the board's guidelines. They found that the per capita supply of certified ABA providers fell below the benchmark in 49 states. The supply was highest in the Northeast, which included the top seven states in the U.S. based on per capita ABA providers. In the Midwest, however, no state had more than one-third of the minimum number of ABA providers needed for number of children with autism.
In addition, the study found that states with higher public education spending had significantly more certified ABA providers per capita than states with lower spending. Similarly, states with higher median household income had more certified ABA providers per capita.
This study provides the first known examination of the supply and geographic variation in certified ABA providers. The authors conclude that new workforce policies are needed to increase the supply of certified ABA providers to ensure that youth with ASD have access to evidence-based interventions.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Waiting in Illinois

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. ... People in the disability community refer to this point in life as “the cliff.” Once autistic people go over the cliff, they have a hard time getting services such as job placement, vocational training, and assistive technology. IDEA entitles students to transition planning services during high school, but afterwards, they have to apply as adults and establish eligibility for state and federal help. One study found that 39 percent of young autistic adults received no service at all, and most of the rest got severely limited services.

An editorial in The Chicago Tribune:
Illinois was ordered eight years ago to improve its community-care offerings for residents with developmental disabilities. Yet thousands of these individuals still wait too long for placement, languishing at home while parents and caregivers despair that the disabled are losing hard-won ground in life skills and behavior.

The state’s failure to comply with a 2011 consent decree translates to people having “suffered substantially” in a situation that is “for lack of a better phrase, messed up,” U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said at a hearing in October, reports Marie Fazio in the Tribune.

Illinois began aiming to move more people out of large institutions in the 1970s, spurred on at various points by court rulings and other nudges to improve care. Beset by budgetary strains and stalemates, the state has not yet found a way to move the disabled who age out of school into appropriate ongoing services, leaving them and their families struggling if they can’t afford private options. “We should walk you hand-in-hand to adult services, but what happens is we’re pushing you off a cliff,” said Josh Long, principal of Southside Occupational Academy.

The Illinois Department of Human Services provides funding for a variety of services for people with disabilities, including placement in community-based group homes or entry into day programs in the community, adaptive equipment and job training. Ideally, these options position people to live full and productive lives and provide reassurance that they will be cared for when Mom and Dad can’t do it anymore.

A federal lawsuit 15 years ago accused the state of remaining stuck in an “antiquated” over-reliance on placing people with such disabilities in large public or private institutions that were “segregated and isolated from the rest of society.” The result was the 2011 consent decree requiring the state to provide community-based programs to those who requested them, whether they were in large institutions or living at home at the time. After a six-year period of corrections, the state had to continue moving people off a statewide waiting list, known as Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services, “at a reasonable pace.”

Currently there are thousands of people on the Human Services Department list. The typical wait for services is seven years. That’s thousands of Illinois residents whose mental well-being and behavior may well deteriorate as they wait for services — and thousands of caregivers whose own health and productivity can be impacted by a lack of anywhere to turn.

Experts agree this gap in services causes terrible setbacks. "People lose all the skills they’ve established over the years,” Long said. "It’s completely heartbreaking.”

Part of the reason placements don’t happen faster: a lack of funding to ensure safe staffing of group homes. The state reimburses care providers less than the minimum wage for workers, leaving the organization to pay the difference itself or skimp on staffing. The Illinois attorney general’s office said in a recent filing that staffing problems have resulted in “restrictions in community integration opportunities, overworked staff and significant overtime being paid.”

Count this as yet another way taxpayers see dysfunctional Illinois failing them. Some of the parents on the seemingly endless waitlist have quit jobs to care for their child or even pulled up stakes and moved: Unsurprisingly, there are other states that manage these common needs more competently than Illinois.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Neurodiversity Challenge

At The New York Daily News, Rob Hahn writes about his son's college application experience:
In emails I exchanged with the university’s associate vice president of undergraduate enrollment, I addressed, among other things, whether my son’s Asperger’s was adequately considered in the admissions process. Bobby wrote about the condition in an application essay, and his high school counselor also addressed some of the challenges.

The responses I received, one of which focused critically on how Bobby’s GPA compared to other applicants, indicated ignorance or simply apathy when it comes to matters related to autism and other forms of neurodiversity.

Bobby’s experience and my email exchange with the university official led me to create “The Neurodiversity Challenge.” Through this initiative, I communicate with and strongly encourage institutions of higher education and corporations to do a better job in three areas: one, understanding more fully the value of neurodiversity; two, actively recruiting, admitting and hiring more neurodivergent individuals; and three, celebrating neurodiversity by publicly highlighting how these individuals contribute uniquely to the overall diversity of a school or business.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Keyes and Chlorine Dioxide

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss autism quackery.  One particularly dangerous "cure" involves bleach.

Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast:
The “Miracle Mineral Solution” (“MMS”) movement falsely claims a dangerous chlorine dioxide cocktail can cure almost any illness, from autism to infertility. A new addition to the Facebook-fueled movement is IAMtv, a conservative web-based channel fronted by Alan Keyes, former diplomat and adviser to President Ronald Reagan who appears in pro-MMS broadcasts with bottles of MMS from a dubious bleach “church” featured prominently on his desk. IAMtv figures even claim Keyes is helping the network spread its mission from Uganda to the halls of power in the U
“I'm convinced that chlorine dioxide is going to be what God uses to bring down Big Pharma,”    [IAMtv host Bob] Sisson said in an October episode of Keyes’ show titled “Big Pharma: The Truth of MMS.” Sisson directed viewers to Genesis II’s website and encouraging them to buy MMS. “But I do know that that it will detox your body and then God himself will heal you. And we're finding in like in Uganda, curing malaria and poisoning and diabetes and AIDS by the way. It's amazing."
Keyes listened approvingly, then said those claims were “why I was so interested in MMS and going to Uganda so far [...] There will be no excuse for pretending that you should price it at hundreds of dollars a dose so that people can make billions off of it.”
Sitting on Keyes’ desk for the entire episode: two bottles of Genesis II bleach.

From FDA:
If you’re drinking “Miracle” or “Master” Mineral Solution or other sodium chlorite products, stop now. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received many reports that these products, sold online as “treatments,” have made consumers sick.
The FDA first warned consumers about the products in 2010. But they are still being promoted on social media and sold online by many independent distributors. The agency strongly urges consumers not to purchase or use these products.
The products are known by various names, including Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, and Water Purification Solution (WPS). When mixed according to package directions, they become a strong chemical that is used as bleach.
Some distributors are making false—and dangerous—claims that Miracle Mineral Supplement mixed with citric acid is an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial liquid that is a remedy for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, and other conditions. But the FDA is not aware of any research showing that these products are safe or effective for treating any illness. Using these products may cause you to delay other treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective.
The bottom line: Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them

In this clip, Sisson and Keyes talk about chlorine dioxide at about 11:00.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Antivaxxers Get Worse

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autismTwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.   Measles can kill.

At NBC, Brandy Zadrozny and Erika Edwards report that antivaxxers are getting nastier and more aggressive.
Opposition to immunizations was once largely limited to online bullying, but now opponents are increasingly taking their harassment tactics into the real world: aggressively following legislators and doctors and, in some cases, using physical violence.
Online conspiracy theorist Austin Bennett livestreamed himself physically shoving the author of California's law, state Sen. Dr. Richard Pan. Bennett was later charged with a misdemeanor. The next month, Rebecca Dalelio, a participant at a protest at the California state Capitol, was charged with assault and vandalism when police say she threw a menstrual cup full of blood on lawmakers in the gallery.
Pan, who is also a pediatrician, suspects he was Dalelio's target.
"Everyone around me was hit" when the blood splattered on the legislative floor, he said.
Pan said anti-vaccine groups have stalked him at conferences, speaking engagements, even the March for Science in Washington.
As legislators, "we deal with all sorts of contentious issues — guns, abortions, lots of issues people are very passionate about," Pan said. "But the degree to which the anti-vaccine extremists takes this is in excess of any other group."

During an infectious diseases conference in New York in November, Dr. Peter Hotez was followed throughout a hotel by several aggressive anti-vaccination protesters who filmed while pelting him with questions predicated on vaccine hoaxes. Hotez is a vaccine scientist, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, and author of the recent book, "Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism."
Hotez tweeted from the event, thanking hotel security for “getting me out safe.”
“I've been targeted by them for 20 years,” Hotez said. But the real-life harassment is part of “an awful new normal.”

Friday, December 6, 2019

IDEA Dispute Resolution

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the experiences of different economicethnic and racial groups.   Inequality is a big part of the story. Affluent school districts have more resources than poor ones.  Educated professionals are better able to protect their children's interests than poor people who never went to college.
Attorneys have become major figures in the world of autism, because people often need legal counsel to get services from school districts and other government agencies. Soon after a diagnosis of autism, parents seek advice from those who have already been on the path. And soon they will hear, “Get a lawyer.”
The rights approach puts a great burden on parents to serve as advocates for their children.  Highly-educated, affluent parents are in a better position to do so than the poor and uneducated:  for one thing, their social networks are more likely to include lawyers and expert witnesses.  
But even the best-equipped parents are at a disadvantage against school district administrators and other bureaucrats. Like their representatives in Washington and state capitals, they are “repeat players.”  Their experience and expertise give them an edge that the parents’ special-education lawyers can only partially overcome.

The summary:
In school year 2016-17, 35,142 special education disputes were filed nationwide, and in five selected states GAO reviewed, dispute resolution options varied across school districts with different socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides parents several ways to file and resolve disputes about plans and services that school districts provide to students with disabilities. A greater proportion of very high-income school districts had dispute resolution activity as well as higher rates of dispute activity than very low-income districts in most of the five states GAO reviewed. GAO also found that in most of these states, a smaller proportion of predominately Black and/or Hispanic districts had dispute resolution activity compared to districts with fewer minority students; however, predominately Black and/or Hispanic districts generally had higher rates of such activity. Technical assistance providers and others told GAO that parents used dispute resolution most often for issues related to school decisions about evaluations, placement, services and supports, and discipline of their children. 
Parents may face a variety of challenges in using IDEA dispute resolution, and the Department of Education and states provide several kinds of support that, in part, may address some of these challenges. Stakeholders cited challenges such as paying for attorneys and expert witnesses at a due process hearing, parents’ reluctance to initiate disputes because they feel disadvantaged by the school district’s knowledge and financial resources, and parents’ lack of time off from work to attend due process hearings. Education and state agencies provide technical assistance to support parents’ understanding of their rights under IDEA and to facilitate their use of dispute resolution options, for example, by providing informational documents and phone help lines to parents.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Autism Classifications and the Great Recession

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the uncertainty surrounding estimates of autism prevalence

In a letter to the Journal of Autism of Developmental Disorders. Maureen S. Durkin and Barbara L. Wolfe write about a 2007-2009  "plateau" in the number of white children in the U.S. with an autism special education classification:
Perhaps the best explanation for the plateau noted by Nevison and Zahorodny is that the recession adversely affected the ability of families of children with autism to access diagnostic services. The cost of obtaining a diagnosis of autism in the U.S., at more than $2000, would have been prohibitive during the recession for many parents who experienced lapses in insurance coverage and loss of income needed to cover out-of-pocket payments for autism diagnoses. Research has shown that parental job loss often leaves children with private health insurance uninsured, with an estimated 311 children in the U.S. losing coverage for every 1000 parents who become unemployed (Fairbrother et al. 2010). In addition, while data specific to autism testing are difficult to find, we know from research on cancer that people without health insurance are less likely than others to report use of recommended diagnostic testing (Seeff et al. 2004). During the great recession, five million Americans lost employment-based health insurance, with white Americans being disproportionately affected due to their greater reliance on this type of insurance than other groups (Holahan 2011). These findings are consistent with Nevison and Zahorodny’s (2019) observation that the plateau in autism prevalence occurred only for white children, and with the possibility that the recession could have had as big an impact as any other hypothesized environmental exposure on the number of children receiving services for autism during this period.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Measles in Samoa

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autismTwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.   Measles can kill.

Anna Ball at VOA:
The government of Samoa announced on Monday that five more children had died within the past day from measles.

That raises the number of measles deaths on the Pacific island nation to 53 since late October. Forty-eight of the victims were children.

The government has closed schools and is restricting travel before the Christmas holiday season.

The French news agency AFP reports that the government said almost 200 new measles cases had been recorded since Sunday. There was no sign of the rate of infection slowing on Samoa, even with a mass vaccination program in effect.

This is the latest outbreak of a worldwide epidemic of measles. The highly infectious virus found an at-risk population in Samoa. The World Health Organization, WHO, says only about 31% of the population was vaccinated when the outbreak started.

Now there are more than 3,700 cases of measles recorded among the 200,000 people on the islands.
 Local media reports that Samoan officials blamed low coverage rates in Samoa in part on fears caused last year when two babies died after receiving vaccinations. The country’s immunization program was temporarily suspended. The deaths were later found to have been caused by medications that were wrongly mixed.
Beth Mole at Ars Technica:
Still, news of the heartbreaking deaths shook the island nation’s confidence in the healthcare system. And anti-vaccination groups pounced on the circumstances. Most notably, the deaths were picked up by the Children’s Health Defense, run by the prominent anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. As The Washington Post noted, Kennedy’s organization spent months highlighting the deaths on Facebook while questioning the safety of the MMR vaccines. But the organization did not correct the posts or update its audience with information regarding the nurses’ error and convictions.
Kennedy visited Samoa in June, appearing alongside local anti-vaccine advocates and even a staff member of the US embassy. In November, Kennedy’s organization sent a letter to the Samoan prime minister, encouraging officials to question the MMR vaccine. Kennedy peddles the false and dangerous claim that vaccines are linked to autism, despite the fact that numerous scientific studies have robustly debunked the baseless claim.
On Sunday, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi encouraged residents to fight back against misinformation. “Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic,” he said.
At the same time, he announced that all government services will be closed from Thursday, December 5, to December 6 so that public servants could carry on with the mass vaccination campaign.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Special Education Day

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  

Today, December 2, is Special Education Day.

On this day in 1975, President Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which Congress later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

From the University of Minnesota:
Inclusive education provides all students, regardless of any learning difficulties, access to age-appropriate general education classes and the instruction, intervention and support to meet core standards.
University of Minnesota experts Kathy Seifert, a senior lecturer in the special education program, and Cynthia Zwicky, a lecturer in the elementary education program, train teachers working in special education and general education settings. Both are available to comment on how special education teachers, general education teachers, school support staff and parents can work together to provide inclusive classrooms settings that benefit all students.
Kathy Seifert, Ph.D., Department of Education Psychology
“Special education teachers are trained primarily as academic and behavioral interventionists. Therefore, many don’t have the subject matter expertise of, say, a math teacher. Inclusive education protects the civil rights of students with disabilities by ensuring — since all students are assessed by the same common core curriculum standards — they receive the content instruction they need to meet these standards.
“Multi-tiered systems of support is a model that helps teachers and other school support staff identify students who are at risk for educational difficulties from both an academic and behavioral standpoint. General education teachers serve as the first line of defense.
“In inclusive classrooms, students with learning, behavioral, or social/emotional difficulties participate in general education classrooms alongside their peers. Sometimes a special education teacher will teach alongside a general education teacher. Other times, students may be in a general education classroom for most of (or part of) the day but may require more specialized support in another setting such as a resource room

Teachers in inclusive classrooms use a variety of teaching methods to build flexibility into their curriculum. Offering more than one way to learn and demonstrate a concept helps all students, not just those with difficulties, learn in a way best suited to their academic strengths.”

Cynthia Zwicky, Ph.D., Department of Curriculum and Instruction
“When students are part of an inclusive classroom, they all benefit, regardless of ability. This is because differentiating instruction, a student-centered instructional approach that makes learning accessible, provides more student choice and increases engagement for all children. There are multiple ways to learn and understand a topic (e,g, movement, song, literature). Understanding this, and then offering students multiple ways to engage with a subject, helps students thrive.
“We live in an inclusive society. We don’t live in a place where, as adults, we are separated out by reading levels or math ability, so it makes sense to structure classrooms to model the society we live in. One of the key outcomes of inclusive education is helping students to be more empathetic and compassionate to others. Fostering, at a young age, an understanding that there are many ways to learn and engage in schools truly benefits us all.
“Training teachers to provide inclusive environments is key to the success of students. The U of M has a unique teacher training program, requiring elementary education students to take a practicum in special education. They spend a semester in a special education class or a general education inclusive classroom while taking courses in special education and classroom management. This ensures teachers are trained with strong foundational knowledge of how to best reach all learners regardless of abilities and learning styles.”