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.”

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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

Make More Effective Use of Praise

March 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

Back in 2002, I wrote up some simple pointers for educators and parents in “Hone Your Skills When Using Reinforcers and Reprimands,” an article you can find in the Behavior section of this site. Over a decade later, new research suggests that it is time to refine or tweak that advice.  It seems that praising the child instead of the behavior may actually backfire for students with low self-esteem. You can read more about the new research and its implications for us in the Behavior section, here.


Recess is Crucial

January 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Of Note

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A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools,” stresses the importance of recess in physical, social, and cognitive development and performance. According to the AAP, recess should not be withheld as punishment or sacrificed to academic instruction:

Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

You can download the full policy statement from the AAP here (.pdf).

Talking with children about the Sandy Hook school shooting

December 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

Yesterday’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut are all over the news.  At times like this, parents often ask how they can help their children cope and how to talk to them about something that we can’t fully wrap our own heads around.   So here are some tips you can share with parents as to how they can talk to their children.

1.  Start the conversation.  If you don’t start the conversation, their first source of information may frighten them more.  Start by asking them if they have heard anything about what happened at an elementary school on Friday.  Avoid asking, “Have you heard about the tragic  shooting at a school?” or anything that would start out by elevating the level of emotion.  If they say they’ve heard something, ask them what they’ve heard and then begin to calmly tell them the facts.

You do not want to tell them everything at this point – providing too many details can flood the child and make them fearful. Try to keep your emotions in check so as not to overwhelm your child.  For some of us, this will be the hardest part as we have been crying ourselves and find this incomprehensible or overwhelming.  At this point you need to be focusing on your child and not your own feelings.  Turn the TV off when your children are around because if they see you responding to this with intense emotion and absorption, they will, too.

2. Give them information that is age-appropriate for them. I would not tell pre-schoolers about the tragedy at all, but for elementary school-age children or older, tell them what happened:  a young man got into an elementary school and started shooting teachers and children.  You do not need to tell them right away how many children died. Wait to see if your child asks you. Take your cues from your child’s reactions: if they ask you questions, answer them calmly, but do not give them more information than they are asking for at this point. This is your first conversation about what happened, and they may come back to you numerous times with other questions or concerns.  Each time, calmly answer their questions but do not give them more than what they are asking for.

3. Give them an opportunity to express their feelings about what has happened and what you are telling them. Avoid implanting strong emotions. If you say, “It’s tragic” or “It’s so awful,” your child will adopt your emotional response.  Do not be surprised if young children do not respond as strongly emotionally as you do. Their focus may be on “How does this affect me?” Help them express their emotion.  Children can do things to express their own feelings and to offer comfort to others.  Would they like to do a drawing for themselves? Young children can often express and work through their emotion that way.  Would they like to write “Sandy Hook” on a balloon and then go to a beach or park and release the balloon to release their sadness? Older children may want to send a letter to the children of Sandy Hook to express sympathy or comfort and  can send letters to Sandy Hook, 912 Dickinson Dr., Sandy Hook, CT 06482.  Or perhaps your child might like to go plant something in your garden to remember and honor the children who died. We don’t want to encourage them to overfocus on grief or worry, but do encourage them  to express their emotions and support them in a way that is appropriate for them.   Do not push your child to do any of these things, but be prepared to suggest them if your child seems to be having a difficult time expressing sad or worrying feelings.

4. Reassure your child that they will be kept safe.  This is probably the most important tip I can give you. It is understandable that your child might react by thinking, “What if this happened in my school?”  Tell your child that what happened in Newtown is a very unusual event and  that their school has always kept them safe and will continue to keep them safe. For older children, reassure them but you can add that all schools are working to learn from what happened in Newtown to make their own schools even safer.  If your child expresses concern about going back to school on Monday and wants you to take them, tell them that you will take them on Monday so they can see that their school is safe.

5.  Be prepared.  Young children cannot hang on to sadness or intense feelings for long. After a few minutes, your child may ask, “Can I go out and play” or “Can I go watch my show?” That does not mean your child has no empathy. It means that they are doing what children do – thinking about themselves and their needs.  So yes, let them go out and play or watch their show if you normally would.  Remember that this is just your first conversation with them, and we do want them to learn that even when there’s bad or sad news, life goes on.  Keeping your child in their normal routine will help them cope with the news.

6. Monitor your child afterwards.  Many of our children have OCD, anxiety, or depressive symptoms already.  If your child appears to be thinking about the Newtown tragedy too much in the week or weeks to come, if they suddenly become more clingy or demanding, or if they resist going to school,  they may need more help coping with it.  Keep the lines of communication open, but if you see significant mood or behavior changes, do not hesitate to contact your child’s psychiatrist, psychologist, or pediatrician.  Their school psychologist can also be a helpful resource for children who are having difficulty coping.

 (This material was originally published by the author on

Image credit: In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.  (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)  

School re-opens soon – is your child ready?

August 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, Of Note

I know that in some parts of the country, the school year has already started, but if you are in New York like I am, there are still a few more weeks.  I thought this might be a good time to remind parents of some back-to-school tips I had previously shared on my TSPlus blog.


Don’t Forget Added Safety Measures in the Student’s Plan

September 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

New research confirms what I’ve been saying for years: students with ADHD are twice as likely to be injured as their non-ADHD peers and they are likely to experience more serious injuries.

So where in your student’s 504 Plan or IEP has the school team addressed any safety concerns?

See the article on this site on ADHD and safety, if you haven’t read it already.

Don’t forget Executive Dysfunction Goals in the IEP!

March 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, News & Updates

It’s annual review time in many school districts throughout the U.S. And while many states now have computerized systems for generating Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), the programs are often sorely lacking in addressing the many kinds of deficits students with Executive Dysfunction (EDF) experience.

Remembering that our goal is to prepare the student for independent functioning post-school, it is not enough to lend them our frontal lobes to chunk their work or to prioritize it for them. We need to teach them how to generate prioritized to-do lists, how to monitor their progress towards a goal, how to pace themselves, how to plan, how to sequence, how to organize their materials, time, and space, etc.

It’s a lot. And we need to ensure that we have goals for each deficit area. So here are some terrific resources to help you formulate goals, objectives, and accommodations for students with EDF:

Tigers, Too: Checklists for Classroom Objectives and Interventions (Dornbush & Pruitt, Parkaire Press, 2010). Tigers, Too Checklists provides an easy format to identify necessary and appropriate goals for the student. The book is a supplement to Tigers, Too: Executive Functions/Speed of Processing/Memory – Impact on academic, behavioral, and social functioning of students with ADHD, Tourette syndrome, and OCD: Modifications and Interventions by the same authors (2009).


Need some accommodation ideas for students with EDF in a convenient format organized by issue? See my book, Find a Way or Make a Way: Checklists of Helpful Accommodations for Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Executive Dysfunction, Mood Disorders, Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Other Neurological Challenges (Packer, Parkaire Press, 2009). This book contains some of the great classroom accommodation ideas that are explained in more detail in Challenging Kids, Challenged Teachers (Packer & Pruitt, 2010).

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