Weighing in on the last two months of chaos

Dr. Anthony C. Hollander

This has been a very chaotic past couple of weeks for me. There has been so much going on in the “autism community” that my head is spinning.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) wants to drop the classification of Asperger’s syndrome because they want to make this particular section of the anticipated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (due out in two years) to try to be more representative of a true syndrome. Collapsing the category by ridding this particular part will not accomplish what they seek.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s article in the Lancet was officially retracted. There has been so much written about this, I am sure that everyone knows about it. But have you heard that now there has been a mounted attack raging against the scientist that did the research to prove that vaccinations do not cause autism? The autism internet community is going nuts with all kinds of articles about this person, his science, his ethics, where he works or does not work anymore, and even saying that he stole $2 million from a grant fund. When will all of this stop?

New York State has unveiled the new guidelines for use of the Individual Education Plan (“Guide to Quality Individualized Education Program (IEP) Development and Implementation,” February 2010). This is going to rock some schools to their very foundation. There are so many examples of wording that can be drawn upon to make substantial changes to existing programs. For example, children with the autism classification should be getting Extended School Year (ESY) services. ESY has been defined to be a “12-month program.” Well, do you know of a district-based school program that really goes 12 months? Equally important is the reference that the 12-month program be a full day! Another area of major concern is the measurement of the student’s performance in an objective manner. Does this mean that schools will have to finally drop the “progressing satisfactorily,” or “no progress shown,” etc., in the mid-year progress report? Also very important is the addition of a comprehensive overview of whatever the child needs in order obtain maximal functioning in both school and the community. All goals are going to have to be written in a concrete, objective manner, showing both the method of instruction, and method of measurement (something I have been calling for during the last 20-plus years).

New York State is currently refining a new bill (S7000) that will require all insurance companies doing business in NYS to include insurance coverage for all kids on the spectrum. This is much needed and quite controversial. Hopefully, it will finally put to rest the issue of who is responsible for the diagnosis, care, and treatment of the child outside of the school building. However, each advocacy organization in NYS has seen this process as an open forum to become even more self-serving. There seems to be some sort of power struggle going on between agencies, especially Autism Speaks, as to who has the final say in the wording of the bill. At this point, is seems as though whatever agency gets the most of their phrases into the final bill will declare themselves as the “winner.” As I have predicted many times in the past, when agencies cannot present as a united front, and agree on major issues impacting on the children and families, the lawmakers see this as an opportunity to give up, and just settle for something that is not as strong as intended. Some are referring to agencies, and parent groups, as “crybabies,” and representative of the old adage “it is the squeaky wheel that gets oiled.” I predict that the fallout from all of this in-fighting will result in a less responsive legislative body in the future.

I came across an article in the recent edition of National Association of Secondary School Principals (Principals.org/content.aspx?topic=61219). In the article “Mind-Sets and Equitable Education,” Carol S. Dweck makes the point that people have two distinct types of mind-sets: a fixed mind-set and a growth mind-set. A fixed mind-set is a belief that intelligence is static, some students/people are smart, and some are not, and that is that. A growth mind-set is a belief that through effort and instruction that you can further develop intelligence in an individual.
Professor Dweck goes on to discuss that these two mind-sets exist in the students we work with, and that the teachers themselves have both a mind-set of themselves, and also in terms of the students that they teach. So, what are the expected outcomes for students that have a fixed mind-set of themselves? Moreover, what are the expected outcomes for these students if the teachers themselves also have a fixed mind-set of that particular student?

Locus of control
Years ago, I conducted several true experimental, double blind studies, looking into the use of magnets as part of the rehabilitation process. As part of the intake of the subjects for the investigations, we had the subject complete a ‘locus of control’ questionnaire. There exists a body of research that says that the person’s locus of control (internal locus of control in where a person believes in their own ability to get things done, and that fate is not part of the picture; external locus of control is where a person believes that there are outside forces, such as fate, that control their ability to accomplish things). We did this to control for any possible Locus of control having a predictive impact on the rehabilitation process; and not the magnets. Locus of control seems to be very closely related to Professor Dweck’s growth mind-set, and fixed mind-set (respectively).

Courtesy of Spectrum Publications

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