South Carolina Teacher Charged With Murder After Special Needs Student Dies

When we send our kids off to school, we trust the adults who are paid to keep them safe to do exactly that. The apprehension we feel when placing that trust in people we don’t always know is often amplified when our kids have special needs or fail to fit in as easily as other kids do. But those adults don’t always keep our kids safe. They don’t always do their job. 

Such was the case in South Carolina only last week when a 13-year-old girl who had special needs was locked in a hot car. 

A 911 call was placed early Monday evening. The deputies who responded to the call arrived at the scene where the 13-year-old girl had been left in the car on Low Country Highway. According to the 911 call, she was not breathing. Family members had already pulled the girl out of the vehicle when authorities arrived, but it was too late. She had already succumbed to the heat.

Two people were charged with murder the next day, one a 49-year-old early childhood education teacher, Rita Pangalangan, who works at the Colleton County School District. School officials acknowledged that she was put on paid leave while an investigation into the matter is conducted. Also arrested was Larry King, a 41-year-old man.

Both Pangalangan and King were at the scene of the girl’s death, but no further information was provided as to why the pair was arrested or how they were connected to the tragic events that transpired that evening. They were denied bond on Tuesday last week.

An autopsy is being conducted. 

Students who have special needs are among the most underrepresented groups in the United States, and sustain more injuries at school than other children. Part of the problem is the result of understaffed schools. Children with special needs are more difficult to teach, and without the right training, their educators will make mistakes. Sometimes resources for properly training educators how to deal with individual disabilities or special needs simply are not available. 

Until new legislation is passed, this problem is only likely to become worse.

Was your special needs child injured during what should have been a routine education? We want to hear your story. Valiente Law is a Miami-based criminal defense law firm that also specializes in personal injury, and can help you seek justice for your child.

NYC Plans to Address Special Education Issues

Following on from a scathing report into the failures that have been found in the special education system in New York City, officials have acknowledged that there are some flaws at various levels of the system and that they plan to address them.

The education department issued a statement explaining the systemic failures that were identified in the state review which was published in May and found that the initial evaluations for the special education services were often delayed or had not happened at all. Officials have promised to make a series of reforms which will tackle a range of issues. One thing that was highlighted was the fact that mandated service needs are not always met, and that the appeals process is currently overwhelmed, which means that students who are in need often find themselves in limbo.

Advocates Unimpressed With The Response

Advocates were unimpressed with the response. The city has promised that there will be better special education programs for preschoolers and that hundreds of new staff will be hired to help to conduct evaluations and to handle any disputes regarding services.

Chancellor Richard Carranza said that the education department is committed to taking steps to improve special education, however, there are many who fear that the reforms may not have a big enough impact on the ground. Currently, there are more than 220,000 students who have disabilities. That is a significant portion of the population. Those with special education needs, as a population, face worse academic outcomes than those of a similar age who do not have special needs.

The latest statistics indicate that almost one-quarter of students with disabilities are deprived of access to one or more required services. Thousands of students in the city are not given access to any of the mandated services at all. Those children face poorer outcomes and this could greatly impact their long-term prospects.

The city is proposing the addition of 200 new special education preschool seats, as well as thousands of 3-K seats. There is demand for far more than 200 seats at the pre-school level, however, so campaigners are disappointed with the lack of support at that level.

Critics call the department’s goals unambitious, noting that just 68% of requested evaluations for special services at the preschool level take place on time. The goal is to boost this by five percent, which is still viewed as being too low by many.

What Parents Wish They Knew Before Their Child Was Diagnosed On The Spectrum

Finding out one of your kids is on the autism spectrum isn’t easy, especially because we’re still learning about how these kids can best be taught to interact as productive members of society. It can be a scary pill for parents to swallow. The good news is this: more and more information is available year by year. We’re learning. We’re growing. And we’re all helping one another up and over these challenging obstacles.

There are a lot of things many parents of a child on the spectrum wished they had known before diagnosis. Here are just a few:

  1. Although those on the spectrum might be invisible before interaction takes place, it doesn’t mean that completely separate medical issues won’t impact your child in mysterious (and unwanted) ways. A bout of diarrhea or stomach bug can wreak havoc on someone who is on the spectrum, but the victim won’t always shout out his or her symptoms. You won’t always know what’s wrong, but you’ll know something is up. Many parents wish they’d known how to communicate during these scenarios ahead of time.

  2. Doctors can be wrong, and often are. Parental instincts shouldn’t be ignored, and that means that sometimes it can be necessary to hunt down the second opinion you think will justify your concerns, which are often right on point. A proper diagnosis for someone on the spectrum means a lifetime worth of personalized, appropriate treatment and a real chance at living a “normal” life by the time adulthood comes around.

  3. Many parents are misguided into thinking their child doesn’t have a normal range of emotions during the early stages after diagnosis. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Autistic kids and others who experience similar diagnoses feel just as much as anyone else. Sometimes they likely feel even more. The difference lies in how they learn to express it.

  4. A child on the spectrum can mean change for the better. These struggles won’t just help parent and child learn to interact during the traditionally problematic years of adolescence, they will lead you to become that much closer. The entire family is more likely to learn patience, empathy, and compassion by having your child in their lives.

  5. Those on the spectrum don’t require a cure, they require constant support, learning, and human interaction on a deeper level than most other kids, who are more independent. They’re different. They’re unique. They’re not broken.

  6. When a baby cries, it means something: hunger, dirty diaper, no attention, etc. Kids on the spectrum don’t always use words to communicate even when they grow older, which can be a tremendous burden on parents. But the “enthusiastic” behavior always means something. It’s the parent’s job to figure out what that something is.

Does Special Education Teach Kids To Conform?

Soyoung Park, an assistant professor in equity and diversity in special education at the University of Texas at Austin, recently wrote in a piece that our Special Education system was an example of our country’s unhealthy obsession with conformity. She argues

Our education system is an enterprise designed to “fix” children who do not fit the norms of school. These norms are based on a white, middle class, able-bodied culture. Children learn from a very young age that if they are different — in their behavior, way of thinking, language, etc. — they will fail.

However, other leading experts in the field of Special Education counter her argument. In an article written by three special education professors: Andrew Wiley, an associate professor of special education at Kent State University; Dimitris Anastasiou, an associate professor of special education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; and Jim Kauffman, professor emeritus in special education at the University of Virginia.

In their article, they argue that Park mispresents the purpose and function of special need education. The main purpose of special education, which is mandated through the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA Act) is to maximize learning for students with disabilities. The three experts go on to say that learning to read from left to right does not mean that they are forcing students to conform or that they do not believe in diversity.

They continue to argue that special education does promote diversity because it promotes instruction and other services catered to the individuals learning differences. They continue

he idea that special education is “designed” to punish or stigmatize difference. Such a claim does a major disservice to generations of stakeholders who have fought for the civil rights of students with disabilities. Pointing out instances of special education practiced badly is one thing; condemning the whole endeavor is quite another.

As people who suppose Free Appropriate Public Education, do you agree with Parks or Wiley, Anastasiou, and Kauffman? It doesn’t take a Houston criminal defense law firm to understand that without special education that many students would not get the services and programs that they need in order to get a proper education. As presented on this site, there are so many different kinds of disabilities that making the disables an already diverse group of people. In our opinion, is no way teaching them to read and write forcing them to conform to society.

Why Is The Rate Of Diagnosis For Autism Spectrum Disorder Increasing?

A number of studies have tried to find a definitive link between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and early childhood vaccination, and each has failed. The old conspiracy theory has been properly debunked time and time again, but it seems that skeptics just won’t let it die. Of course, part of the problem are the unanswered questions that must then continue to be asked. If vaccination has nothing to do with rising ASD rates, then what gives?

Part of the reason lies in the way we collect and categorize information. The definition of ASD has changed a great deal over the last few decades, and the ability to diagnose the disorder has increased in proportion to the new information. One of the biggest reasons that people believe that cases of autism are on the rise is their confusion between actual cases and diagnosed cases.

Whereas autism is nothing new, the ability of medical professionals to better diagnose the disorder leads to “new” cases. The children had autism before; it’s just that now we know they do.

Certain demographics and populations of patients are often underrepresented because they lack proper healthcare resources. As the access these communities might enjoy starts to grow, so too do the statistics for the disorders and diseases that might affect them. A decade ago, white children were far more likely to be diagnosed by ASD than other less-represented ethnicities. The numbers have been playing catch-up for a long time, but we’re finally getting there.

Another part of the puzzle is proximity to the diagnostic centers. There aren’t enough of them in more rural areas where people are less likely to travel far distances for medical care, so one region’s diagnosed individuals can differ greatly from another’s. For example, there are more reported cases of ASD in New Jersey than Arkansas, simply because New Jersey residents are closer to help.

Beyond that, medical professionals are placed under a great deal of pressure to diagnose children with potential behavioral or developmental disorders as early as possible in order to avoid less desirable outcomes. Most children aren’t diagnosed until between age four and five, which is a “late” diagnosis of a disorder for which the signs are readily noticeable by the age of two.

The conclusion that should be drawn by the laymen? There is no real reason to worry about “increasing” rates of ASD diagnosis.

Inclusion Class Rooms Not Helping Special Needs Children

In the 2016 to 2017 school year, 63% of children in the classroom was considered a student with disabilities. Despite more and more students being included in the classroom, their performance evaluation remains poor. Allison Gilmour, assistant professor of Special Education at Temple University, published an editorial in Education Next called “Has Inclusion Gone Too Far” that addresses this issue.

Location isn’t the same thing as services. We need to shift our focus from where students are educated, to how they’re actually educated.

In her editorial, Gilmour points out some of the positives that inclusion has done for students with disabilities including a study that found some improved academics. But she concludes that while some students who might have disabilities are not the same as students who have special needs. For example, technically a student who needs glasses has a disability but not necessarily special needs. The editorial also points out how teachers who deal with behavioral disabilities spend less time on instruction.

However as pointed out by a criminal defense law firm, current state and federal policy is to try to push for more inclusion in the classroom. Gilmour writes,

Decisions regarding placement in a general-education classroom, special-education classroom, or a mixture of settings should be determined by students’ individual needs. If a student is not making progress in an educational setting, the student is not accessing the curriculum. Oftentimes, students may need intensive and individualized instruction to make progress and gain access to the general-education curriculum. This level of instruction might not be possible if a student is taught exclusively in a general-education setting.

Gilmour is pro-teacher and believes that general education teachers are not getting the support or training they need to best instruct children with disabilities in their classroom.

Essential Tips To Teach Your Child To Read

One of the most important steps in early childhood development is the introduction of reading skills. Once the road to mastering this has begun, the entirety of their future education and social success will be unlocked. It can’t be overstated or exaggerated just how integral the ability to read truly is. With that in mind, here are some essential tips to teach your child to read:

1 – Start With The Alphabet And Its Sounds

Simply learning the alphabet and how each letter sounds is the first block upon which full reading comprehension can be built. Introduce all of the letters in order, but individually. The old song that teaches the alphabet may be useful, but the manner in which it strings the L, M, N, O, and P together can be confusing. Go over this every single day until your child can recognize every letter and its basic sounds without any help.

2 – Introduce The Left to Right Concept

Once the letters and how they relate to sounds has become familiar, it’s time to start introducing actual words and how they are arranged together. You can’t overlook the simple left to right concept, however. It’s important to break down the process into its simplest parts. A child looking at a paragraph for the first time might not know where to start; illustrating the usefulness of simply starting from the top left and working their way across the page can be a huge turning point.

3 – Have Them Follow Along With You

After all of these early steps have been established, you should be sure to read to your child and actually have them follow along word by word. You can point to every single word in the sentence together as you work on each page. Go as slowly as you need to and work your way up to a more natural pace. Early familiarity with a lot of essential words can be absorbed this way.

4 – Illustrate How Words Relate To One Another

Finally, that familiarity can then be used as a jumping point for other words as well. Teach your child about consonants and vowels and how words that rhyme often relates. Examples include simple words like “box” and “fox”. After accumulating enough words that seem to connect to one another in basic ways, reading alone will soon be much easier. Teaching your child synonyms will help expand their vocabulary. For example, another word for a lawyer is an attorney. It will all start to fall into place from there!

Benefits of Pre-School

The decision on whether or not to send your child to pre-school can be difficult. Separation anxiety can occur in both the child as well as the parent. However, preschool can help you and your child grow in many ways other than learning foundational social skills and academic skills.

For many children, pre-school is the first time in a structured setting. This environment allows to learn how to follow instructions and respecting authority outside of the home. This structured environment allows children to make friends, learn to share and develop social skills to allow children to play with others. It allows them to expand their social development, teaching them emotional skills such as self-control and anger management.

Other skills that are learned throughout pre-school are decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, independence, and property ownership. Being around other children also helps increase verbal communication skills, expands vocabulary and promotes learning about cultures. More importantly, a pre-school environment provides an academic institution where they will learn pre-math and pre-literacy skills that are required for kindergarten but it’s also is a place where children can feed their curious nature. And if you still weren’t convinced, pre-schools also help children learn fine motor skills such as cutting with scissors, threading and gross motor skills like hand-eye coordination and running.

 

The Benefits of Quizzing Your Students Regularly

Testing is a touchy topic, mainly for students, but I’m sure there are some teachers out there who aren’t the biggest fan of grading tests. However you feel, numerous studies have pointed to the many benefits of testing/quizzing your students regularly. Quizzing your students will help motivate them, help them with information retrieval, encourage attendance, as well as various other benefits. Regular testing also has its benefits for teachers as well. It can help a teacher assess whether or not the students are grasping information. It will also let a teacher know if they need to adjust their teaching strategies.

Advantages of Quizzing Your Students

We broke down the advantages into three major categories: motivation, feedback, and teamwork. We feel that these broad categories adequately portray the advantages that regular quizzing can have on students and teachers.

Motivate

As shocking as it is, quizzes are a way of motivating your students. If a student knows that there is going to be a quiz, they will be more likely to show up to class, pay attention while they are in class, encourage students to study, and reduce procrastination. Quizzes also give the teacher an opportunity to reward those who perform well. Hopefully, the reward system will encourage students who did not perform as well to put in more of an effort for the next quiz.

Feedback

The feedback provided by testing is not only beneficial for students, but for the teachers as well. Quizzes allow students to study more efficiently as they can focus on questions or topics they struggled with. Additionally, regular quizzing will help increase students retrieval of knowledge. In other words, quizzes will teach students’ brains to organize information into clusters; allowing them to recall information more easily.

As far as teachers go, the feedback from tests will tell the teacher which students are grasping the content and which are not. Teachers might use this feedback to identify a specific students learning patterns and determine which students need extra help. If the class as a whole is struggling, the teacher may want to consider revisiting certain topics or rethinking their lesson plans.

Encourage Teamwork

Quizzes give a teacher flexibility. Since they are informal, a quiz can be administered as a group activity. Along with encouraging teamwork, communication amongst students will increase and new friends will be made. One effective way to encourage healthy debate is to split the classroom into groups and play a game, like Jeopardy. Reward the students who answer the most questions correctly with a homework pass or a gift, like candy or a toy.

The Benefits of Inclusion in General Education Classrooms

As was pointed out in an earlier entry on this blog, some parents often worry about what are known as inclusion classrooms: classrooms that include both children with and without special needs under the same teacher and, as is often the case, one or two special education instructors or assistant teachers in the same learning environment. Parents have often worried about children with special needs becoming a disturbance to their own children’s ability to learn or even simply be taught depending on how great a disruption such children could potentially be. And while this might have been a valid point in years past, there are some who would argue even more strongly in favor of inclusion nowadays.

In an article featured on institute4learning.com, Dr. Thomas Armstrong outlined a presentation he had made regarding school systems and their tendency (or lack thereof) to integrate classrooms to include children with special needs into general education environments. Dr. Armstrong highlighted some benefits of special needs children that often went overlooked as secondary in classroom settings. For example, while schools and classrooms are often seen as a place where children are educated primarily in fields regarding the likes of math, science and history, Dr. Armstrong noted the social impact of incorporating children that often fell to the background of parental concerns. He argued that while children with special needs were often seen as disruptive or held back the pace of learning in a general education classroom, their strengths allowed other children to flourish in a number of ways.

Dr. Armstrong argued for what he coined, “neurodiversity.” That is, the varying degrees of thinking or feeling that integrating children into the same classroom setting could expose them to and thus allow them to grown as human beings. He mentions in his presentation that children with disabilities are often primarily seen with the stigma brought on by their disabilities while their strengths often fade from our set. But, upon closer inspection and interaction, we can find that those who live with autism spectrum disorder often are highly technical and skilled with computers and other electronic devices. Children with Down syndrome, while hindered by developmental or intellectual disabilities, often come off as more charismatic and charming, lending themselves well to human interaction and are often described as be warm toward many people. Children with dyslexia were noted as being more talented with regard to spatial abilities and those with ADHD were seen as more creative thinkers. The diversity of such different viewpoints and skill sets, even despite their disabilities, allow them to excel in other ways and allow their peers to excel alongside them.

Armstrong also noted that children with imposed limitations rarely ever reach high, noting that seclusion from general education classrooms can often lead to ridicule and self-condemnation whereas including them in a general education setting where expectations are loftier allows them to reach higher than other expectations might have challenged them to do. And while it isn’t necessarily to say that all children will excel to the same or even similar levels, inclusion in an environment where goals are similar often gives children with special needs more drive to succeed than isolation from such an environment.

Dr. Armstrong also argued that including children into general education classrooms not only benefits the children with and without special needs, but also the educational system as a whole. Having such diversity present in one location challenges the status quo of the modern educational programs and sets new expectations for teachers and administration to alter their ways of thinking as far as their approach of educating children as a whole is concerned. Challenging teachers to think outside the box in their methods of educating not only broadens the scope of teaching, but also simultaneously benefits the children who can now be engaged to learn in a greater number of ways.

These were but a few of the points touched upon within Dr. Armstrong’s present regarding inclusion of children with special needs, and I urge you to review it at your own leisure.