School’s Re-opening: Protect Your Child’s Privacy

August 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

As children return to school, parents are often swamped with forms and informational packets. One of them, however, is something that you really need to pay attention to if you want to protect your child’s privacy.

Under FERPA, schools that receive public education funds must notify parents every year as to what types of information the school district considers “Directory Information” that they can share with others – without your knowledge or consent – unless you opt out of information sharing.

Given how massive databases compile more and more data about ourselves and our children, and given that you do not know how that information may be used against your child in the future, you may want to be cautious and opt your child OUT of sharing of directory information.

Remember: if you do not actively opt your child out by returning the opt out form, they will be able to share lots of information about your child without your consent throughout the school year. Read the form they provide and then decide what is best for your child.

Keep in mind that opting out of sharing directory information has nothing to do with opting out of Common Core testing. They are totally separate issues.

For more information on the dangers of directory information sharing, see this informative site from the World Privacy Forum.

If your child is over the age of 18 or attends college, they will receive the notice about directory information and the opt-out form. Remind them to look for it.

Washington State Legislature Moves to Limit Schools Pinning Down and Isolating Kids

April 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

by Annie Waldman ProPublica, March 10, 2015, 11:31 a.m.

A bill that would limit Washington public schools restraining or isolating students is working its way through the state Legislature, making it at least the fourth state to move to limit restraints in recent months.

Last year, an analysis of government data by ProPublica and NPR revealed that educators frequently pin down kids and isolate them. During the 2012 school year, these practices were used on students more than 267,000 times. Nearly three-quarters of the reported restraints involved children with disabilities. Hundreds of children are injured each year during restraints and at least 20 have died as a result.

Washington’s House of Representatives passed the restraints bill earlier this month and the state Senate is expected to vote on it in the coming weeks. It would prohibit pinning down kids or isolating them unless a student’s actions could lead to the harm of a person or property. Such interventions would also no longer be allowed in the pre-approved behavior plans of special needs students.

State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, who supports the bill, said she hopes it will decrease the dropout rate, in particular for students with special needs.

“Some districts use handcuffs and some use scream rooms,” McAuliffe told ProPublica. “Many of these children have a fear of isolation and restraint and I don’t think they’re going to want to go back to school.”

Several other states have also moved to decrease schools’ reliance on restraints and seclusion.

Virginia legislators passed a bill earlier this year requiring state leaders to set limits on the use of these practices in schools. In Massachusetts, new rules will be enacted by the end of 2016 requiring educators to get permission from principals before giving students “time-outs” that last more than 30 minutes. New York City, which in the past has faced criticism for its lack of transparency on restraining kids in schools, recently reformed its discipline code to mandate the tracking of such interventions.

According to federal data, Washington children were restrained or isolated more than 10,500 times during the 2012 school year. Although the reporting of restraints is required under state law, exactly how and when the techniques could be used was not clearly defined in the statute.

“Districts were using this as a form of punishment,” Arzu Forough, the founder of Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, said in an interview. “It was intended to be an emergency response.”

The new bill clarifies that restraints should only be used as a last resort.

Not all legislators support the proposed reforms.

“Let’s be honest, some of these children are very large and very strong,” State Rep. Brad Klippert told Tacoma’s News Tribune. “I do want to be able to give our teachers the latitude to protect everyone.”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

My Other Sites

March 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Of Note

This site contains a lot of information for school personnel, but if you can’t find what you’re looking forward, check my other sites, as each site has its own focus.

And if you still can’t find what you are looking for, please e-mail me. Please note that I cannot respond to e-mail requests for advice on a particular case as it would be unethical to offer advice about a child or teen I’ve never assessed.

Site Update – Sleep

March 5, 2015 by  
Filed under News & Updates

The Sleep Disorders section of this site was updated in March, 2015. It now includes more information and practical tips for school personnel to help students suffering from sleep disorders.

Looking for a Good Conference?

March 5, 2015 by  
Filed under News & Updates

Don’t miss out on some great opportunities to educate yourself about the disorders covered on this site. See the Events listing on my companion site, The TS+ Blog, where you can also keep current on new research on these disorders.

The 2015 Conference on School Culture, Climate, and Positive Behavior Support

March 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Of Note

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I’m pleased to announce that I will be a keynote speaker at this year’s Conference on School Culture, Climate, and Positive Behavior Support. I will also be conducting a break-out session. Here’s some information about the event, which will be held August 12-13 in Bedford, New Hampshire:

This Institute will focus on sharing examples, tools, and practices within a multi-tiered system of supports framework in order to help schools and communities to improve their culture, climate, and safety and features a youth strand to engage young people who are interested in learning about how to become leaders of and advocates for positive change to their school’s culture and climate.

Last year’s Institute included over 150 people from New Hampshire and 5 other states, including youth, families, educators, mental health providers, policy makers and community members. The Institute is focused on the intersection between schools, students, teachers, administrators, behavioral health, youth/family organizations, and community systems at the pre-school, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels.

This year’s conference theme is Strengths, Strategies, and Systems of Support and will include presentations by national leaders, New Hampshire educators, youth, and community partners with opportunities for teams to work together, including instruction on cutting-edge strategies for school improvement.

This conference is a collaboration between the UNH Institute on Disability, the New Hampshire Center for Effective Behavioral Interventions and Supports (NH CEBIS) at SERESC, Strafford Learning Center, the New Hampshire Department of Education, DHHS – Bureau of Behavioral Health, NH Communities for Children, and Youth M.O.V.E. New Hampshire.

Sign up at to be among the first notified of new conference details and when registration opens.

Conference details and registration information will be available here.

Hope to see you there!

Tourette Syndrome in secondary schools: the real picture

December 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

A press release from the University of Nottingham about some new research on Tourette Syndrome that seems wholly consistent with what I’ve observed over the past 2+ decades:

Secondary school can be a stressful enough time for any teenager, but for those living with Tourette Syndrome (TS) their neurological condition can present a whole new set of challenges.

Now a study led by researchers at The University of Nottingham has given a unique insight into the impact of TS on secondary education by talking to parents, teachers and, for the first time, the young people themselves.

As a result of the study commissioned by the national charity Tourettes Action, and funded with £335,751 by the Big Lottery, the powerful words of young people with TS are being used to train teachers on how to recognise and respond to the condition.

Huge impact

Professor Georgina Jackson, who led the research in the University’s Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology, said: “This study is the first to address the experiences of young people with TS from their own point of view.

“TS is often seen purely in terms of the tics that affect many with the condition but for these children there is often an awful lot going on inside their heads too, often related to anxiety over how to control their visible symptoms.

“Like any teenager, they are keen to fit in and the quality of their school experience and the development of friendships at this important stage of their life can have a huge impact on how they adjust to living with the condition in adulthood.”

TS is an inherited neurological condition affecting as many as one in 100 school-age children. The condition is characterised by tics — involuntary, uncontrollable and repeated sounds and movements — which start in early childhood and peak from the age of 11 through the teenage years.

Symptoms pose challenges

These tics can change in type, severity and frequency and can be temporarily delayed with effort — meaning that pupils with TS can present a changing picture and there may be periods when their tics become more severe and disruptive in the classroom.

This can pose a challenge for teachers, many of whom have little experience of the condition, in recognising TS symptoms rather than perceiving a child to be deliberately disruptive or ‘naughty’.

The study recruited 35 young people with TS through Tourettes Action and through mainstream secondary schools in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire.

Academics interviewed each young person, one or both of their parents and one or two members of staff from their school — which included teachers, teaching assistants and Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs).

They were asked to talk in detail about how having Tourette syndrome affects them in school, including their classwork, behaviour and relationships with others.

The three challenges more frequently reported by the young people were problems concentrating in class, unhelpful responses by school staff and teasing and bullying by other students, such as name-calling and mimicking tics.

Some also reported that homework, examinations, writing, anxiety and managing anger were additional challenges for them. For example, severe movement tics involving the hands can cause difficulties with completing homework and with handwriting. Vocal tics, such as making sounds or saying words out loud could sometimes attract unhelpful responses from school staff, such as being told off.

The young people reported significantly more victimisation than normal but relatively few staff were aware that their students were being teased or bullied.

Practical guidance

The results of the study have been used to devise a new training package for secondary schools, which covers the basics of TS, its symptoms and how it’s diagnosed as well as common misconceptions — for example TS does not affect IQ and is not a learning disability but can be a barrier to learning.

It goes on to explore the issue of tics and outlines the social, emotional and economic impact of TS and the challenges facing those with the condition. Quotes given by the young people in the study are used to illustrate what it is like to have Tourette Syndrome in school and to help staff to better understand the day-to-day reality of the condition.

Most crucially it also offers practical guidance to staff on supporting pupils including better communication with pupils and parents, greater recognition and respect for the management strategies that pupils use to control their condition and greater awareness of when teasing and bullying may be taking place.

In addition, it also advises not to punish pupils for behaviour which they cannot help.

The academics have delivered the training package to around 80 school staff to-date and are currently recruiting more schools interested in taking advantage of the resource.

It will also be used by Tourettes Action to update the information materials on their website which are aimed at children, their families and their teaching staff.

SOURCE:  University of Nottingham

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Join me at the Tourette Syndrome Conference in Atlanta!

November 26, 2013 by  
Filed under News & Updates, Of Note

The Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation is hosting a conference in Atlanta on February 8, 2014. The theme is “Breaking Down the Barriers.” Speakers include Dr. James Leckman of the Yale Child Study Center, Dr. Douglas Woods of  Texas A&M University, Brad Cohen (teacher and author of “Front of the Class”), Sheryl Pruitt of Parkaire Consultants, and yours truly. It’s a great opportunity to learn about TS and its educational and behavioral impact. More information about the conference is available at and Early Bird Registration opens December 1. Hope to see you there!

Upcoming conference on Tourette syndrome

September 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Of Note

The Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation is hosting a conference in Atlanta on February 8, 2014. The theme is “Breaking Down the Barriers.” Speakers include Dr. James Leckman of the Yale Child Study Center, Dr. Douglas Woods of  Texas A&M University, Brad Cohen (teacher and author of “Front of the Class”), Sheryl Pruitt of Parkaire Consultants, and me. It’s a great opportunity to learn about TS and its educational and behavioral impact. More information about the conference will be available at Hope to see you there!

Teaching middle and high school students about Tourette Syndrome

March 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Of Note

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Greenhaven Press publishes a series of books for students called Perspectives On Diseases & Disorders. They recently published a volume on Tourette Syndrome:

This volume includes an overview of tourette syndrome, including diagnosis; symptoms; and treatment, a look at controversies surrounding tourette syndrome, focusing on effectiveness of various treatment including diet, environmental factors, and deep brain stimulation, and personal stories of people living with tourette syndrome such a student that faces bullies, a woman who describes in detail the ‘anatomy of a tic’, and a concert pianist living with tourette syndrome.

One of the chapters in the book is based on material I had prepared for this web site.

If you are looking to incorporate lessons on various disorders into your curriculum, you may want to check out their offerings in this series and the table of contents for each.

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