The new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), pushes schools to shift their focus away from academics to treating your child’s mental health.  This is something I take very seriously since some children come to school having to deal with all kinds of societal problems.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen well-intentioned counselors in some schools do more damage than good when treating students.  Public schools weren’t set up to become mental health clinics for children.  Children who need those services need highly qualified licensed practitioners treating them in the same way you would want a doctor who specializes in cancer treating your child if they were diagnosed with a serious disease.

Teachers have enough trouble trying to teach children to read and write, now they are required to become child psychologist, with just a few days training.  Would you want your child’s teacher getting a few days of training in order to treat your child’s cancer?  Of course not.  We see how absurd that would be.  But, that’s exactly what we are now doing with children and their mental health.

Recently I read an e-mail from the Director of Special Education in Alton, New Hampshire.  She explained to parents how they would be teaching “social thinking.”  She then included a link to a product that the school would be using in order to put this plan into action:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jennifer Katz-Borrin <[email protected]n.k12.nh.us>
Date: Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 1:28 PM
Subject: Special Education at ACS

Good Afternoon Families of Special Education – 

To promote increased outreach and communication with ACS families, I will be periodically emailing with information specific to ACS Special Education. 

Did you know that the Special Education at ACS is more than just IEPs?  Our hope is to share all the work that we do for students and families.  One initiative that we are very excited about is Social Thinking!  Check out the following link to learn more about Social Thinking! and what it is all about – 

https://www.socialthinking.com/LandingPages/Mission

Also if you haven’t see the Special Education website, you can check it out here:  https://www.myacs.org/domain/150

If you wish to opt out of this email group, please email me directly.

Have a terrific day, 

Jen

Jennifer Katz-Borrin

Director of Special Education

Alton Central School/SAU 72

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I went to the web site and caught a few things that caused me some concern.  For instance, the site said:

At Social Thinking®, our mission is to help people develop their social competencies to better connect with others and live happier, more meaningful lives. We create unique treatment frameworks and strategies to help individuals as young as four and across the lifespan develop their social thinking and social skills to meet their personal social goals. These goals often include sharing space effectively with others, learning to work as part of a team, and developing relationships of all kinds: with family, friends, classmates, co-workers, romantic partners, and more.

We are clinicians who create quality educational products and services that help parents, professionals, and others break down the social learning process to more effectively teach social thinking and related social skills…..

The Social Thinking Methodology is in complete alignment with the following:

The Social Thinking® (ST) Clinical Training Program is an intensive three-day training session that lets you explore the ST methodology in a deep and meaningful way.
 
Teachers, speech-language pathologists, therapists, OTs, autism specialists, psychologists, and social workers are some of the professionals who have completed the Clinical Training Program. All who complete the training in full will be added to the Clinical Training Program Directory below as a resource for those looking for professionals knowledgeable about the methodology.

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I knew enough about Social and Emotional Learning and, that it was a controversial product to sell to schools.

I decided to take this information to an expert in Child Psychology.  Someone who has credentials and expertise in the field of psychology.  I wondered how three-days of training could possibly make someone qualified to treat a child’s mental health.  Should this kind of treatment be provided to all children?  Should it be provided to special ed. students?  Should this be part of a school program o,r did these children deserve expert quality treatment from licensed professionals who’ve had years of education, training, and experience?

I asked Dr. Gary Thompson, Psy.D. Co-Founder-Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center, Inc.  I knew he had been treating children in the field of psychology for years and had the education, training and experience to analyze this program.  Needless to say, his analysis was an eye opener.

As our schools shift to becoming mental health centers, it’s important that parents understand that the quality of care their children are receiving may resemble quackery rather than authentic mental health services.  Our schools are struggling to do their job educating our children.  Now they are going to delve into the world of mental health.  

What could go wrong?  Plenty.  

Read Dr. Thompson’s reply to my request here:

January 23, 2018
 

Thompson

RE:  Response to NH Cornerstone.org Request For Program Evaluation

 
Dear Ms. Banfied:
 A little over two years ago, then U.S. Dept of Ed Secretary Arne Duncan initiated a nationwide program/rules which eliminated accommodations for special education kids taking the experimental Common Core tests, as well as emphasizing that the new Common Core Standards work well for every child, regardless of special education/mental health status.   Secretary Duncan and his staff publish the new rules, and cited a impressive amount of peer reviewed research to support what amounted to be the complete destruction of special education as we knew it.    
 
Our staff was so disturbed by the new rules, that we took a entire work week to examine the cited supporting peer reviewed research, and then drafted a “white paper” to disseminate to Secretary Duncan, the media, every State School Board member in Utah, Utah’s Gov, Utah’s lawmakers, and Directors of Special Education throughout the state of Utah……
 
What we found was shocking in nature:   The cited “research” supporting these purely agenda based massive changes to our most vulnerable children, was used by Secretary Duncan in manner that would get him expelled from any graduate school in the nation.    The research cited, absolutely had ZERO to do with the proposed Rule change.   Bluntly put, Secretary Duncan committed fraud in order to bring about agenda based social change on our nation’s most vulnerable children.    
 
 
Early Life clinicians and researchers did not receive one response from many leaders in the State regarding this well written, scholarly response to Secretary Duncan, and not one inquiry from the 32 media outlets we forwarded the above cited White Paper response.    Arne Duncan quietly and surprisingly resigned from his post 7 days after the publication of our findings, and my ego would like to think our white paper had something to do with it, but that is probably delusional thinking.   Resignation or not, the “Rule” went into place nationwide, and we knew professionally that special education, as we knew it to be, has been destroyed.   Our only response at this point, was to prepare the clinic for the coming onslaught of parents (with financial means) whose kids were being destroyed by this agenda, and save our community one child at a time.   In addition, we vowed to never again volunteer our expertise or services to any special interest group, politician, or education related entity, unless we received a significant professional retainers fee.   The writing was on the wall:   This Agenda was here, and it was here to stay.    We also knew three years ago that special education programs would be replaced with “Social-Emotional Learning Programs” in the not so distant future.    When that day came, we also knew that when it was rolled out, it would be rolled in the same propaganda based manner that Mr. Duncan’s rule changes were rolled out.    
 
As with Secretary Duncan’s then proposed (and now implemented), special education rule changes, the potential destructive nature of N.H.’s SEL program on a wide swath of divergent learning children (as well as destroying the underlying premises of this SEL program), is too numerous to cite professionally without undertaking another combined 80 hours of research and profession response time.   Early Life does not discount the important role that social and emotional skills play in learning.  In fact, we have had (real) research based “SEL” training in place in our clinic for the past 7 years.  The difference is that our program is HIGHLY individualized, foundational based on a private/valid psycho-social-emotional-cognitve evaluation performed by a highly skilled, doctoral level pediatric clinical psychologist, supervised by the child’s licensed therapist as well as our Clinical Director, and most importantly….we partner with the individual parents regarding the structure of the program as well as obtain WRITTEN INFORMED CONSENT OF THE PARENTS.    
 
The State of New Hampshire, the chosen pilot state of SEL learning, has proven our theory correct.  Indeed, the State of N.H. has upped the ante with Secretary Duncan by producing a SEL program to their most vulnerable students, based on “peer reviewed research”, that is literally not cited anywhere in the impressively written, propaganda/agenda based material that you forwarded to our clinic.   One does not have to have a doctorate in the field to know that any program that states it will work for every child diagnosed with just about every diagnosis present in the DSM-V, while citing zero peer reviewed, independent evidence, has a statistically high potential for a epic fail.   (What it will do, is make quite a few vendors and education consultants, filthy rich).   
 
Although I highly respect your impressive advocacy in ensuring the safety and efficacy of New Hampshire education programs, our role in this has now shifted to that of “healers”, as opposed to advocates.   Someone has to heal these kids from the effects of this dangerous, agenda based roll out of experimental SEL programs on our State’s children.   There are quite a few politicians and advocates nationwide, but very few doctors around who won’t sell their soul to the powers to the collective powers to be and partner exclusively with parents of divergent learning children.   
 
Bluntly put, if  the State of New Hampshire is willing to enrich a ethically and scientifically challenged private  “doctor” and organization to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to roll out a experimental program without the consent of parents of divergent learning children in order to “feel good”, then the State powers to be (or concerned advocacy groups), can write out a check to my clinicians and researchers for a “mere” $10,000.00 to debunk this psuedo-science.  
 
In the meantime, we appreciate you keeping us informed about the ground level status of N.H.’s educational pilot programs in social, emotional learning.   We know it is only a matter of time before New Hampshire’s one-sized-fits-all programs will be similarly implemented by the Utah State Board of Education and leaders in our legislative bodies.   This allows us some amount of time implement research based programs to minimize the negative effects of the education communities desire to “play doctor” with our neighbor’s children.   We can’t stop what is already in place.  We can’t close Pandora’s Box.  What we can do is quietly assist our community one day at a time, one child at a time, and one parent at a time.   
 
 Best regards;
 
Gary Thompson, Psy.D.
Co-Founder-Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center, Inc. 
 
P.S.:  To those of you professionals, elected State Board members, and activists ‘cc’ed in this response, here is the original link to SEL program that Ms. Banfield asked me to review:
 

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

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Parents, consider that this means a Speech Pathologist is training a new Kindergarten teacher to pass out and interpret psychological and social emotional pre-tests  from a group called “Social Thinking Center.” They have no licensed mental health worker on staff and they are not requiring informed parental consent, according to their web site.
They will be implementing a psycho/social/emotional program that has yet to undergo peer review and/or independent program evaluation. Your child will be used as a guinea pig in some psychological experiment.My suggestion, have an attorney handy.  When they begin treating your children for mental health  by individuals who aren’t qualified, you may want to consult a legal professional.  Hopefully they haven’t done any damage at that point.

 

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can contact her at: [email protected]