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]
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 –
Also if you haven’t see the Special Education website, you can check it out here: https://www.myacs.org/domain/
If you wish to opt out of this email group, please email me directly.
Have a terrific day,
Director of Special Education
Alton Central School/SAU 72
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:
- Social-Emotional Learning as described at www.CASEL.org
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:
RE: Response to NH Cornerstone.org Request For Program Evaluation
Gary Thompson, Psy.D.
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]