Articles Posted in Special Needs Children

imagesCA88JHUN.jpgParents send their children to school with the expectation that they will be educated, not mistreated. Although teachers are given the authority to discipline children when they are acting out of order, the methods of physical restraint and seclusion have gone too far.

It was reported that Orange County schools have physically retrained 195 students approximately 1,910 times during this school year, a number that represents almost one quarter of the 8,222 cases reported in Florida. 2,944 disabled students were restrained by teachers who forced them to sit or lay face down on the floor. Teachers also used a strap-and-mat contraption to immobilize the children. Orange County educators claim that they only use the technique in emergencies with children who have behavior problems or engage in acts such as hitting, kicking, biting, or slapping themselves in the face. Many parents, disability advocates and law makers want to put an end to the retraining methods because it could traumatize and injure students. Also reported were 3,386 incidents of seclusion involving 1,047.

Parents of five-year-old Alex Ortaliz, a disabled child, were outraged when they found out that their child had been physically restrained against his will. Alex was born prematurely and suffered brain bleeds as an infant. He was the poster child for the United Cerebral Palsy charter school where he has excelled since age two. The teacher involved in the restraint claimed that Alex was acting out of control and dangerous.

leash%20metal%20close%20up.jpgSection 10-63 of the Gadsden County, Florida, Code of Ordinances, prohibits dogs on public places if not under direct control. For purposes of this section, “direct control” is defined as:

1. The immediate, continuous physical control of a dog at all times by means of a secure fence, leash, cord or chain, or other means of sufficient strength to restrain the dog and the dog is controlled by a person capable of restraining the dog. Or, the dog is safely and humanely secured within a vehicle.

2. There is an exception made for hunting dogs and specifically trained dogs.


In a recent opinion-editorial (op-ed) piece on, a Jacksonville, Florida father shared his feelings about the alternative therapies his family pursued for their Autistic child. The man’s Autistic son has been through several alternative therapies for Autism, including vitamin supplements, B12 injections, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, anti-fungals, and other experimental, or alternative, Autism therapies. He reported that his family spent four years and thousands of dollars on what he termed an “uncontrolled, flawed experiment.”

He believes that the Defeat Autism Now! group and doctors and therapists who subscribe to its methods should be approached with caution. Doctors who are the foremost experts in the field of Autism and represent some of the most esteemed medical institutions in the world frequently criticize the group for promoting therapies that have no scientific basis. The man reports that his family decided to cease all experimental therapies several months ago and his son is progressing without any regression. He encourages families to seek therapies for their Autistic children that are based on sound medical evidence.

You can find out more about this family’s path to help their autistic son at Guest column: Be wary of alternative therapies for autism.


Keitler Pierre-Louis shares his Broward, Florida home with thirteen family members, including five children, one with Down Syndrome. Pierre-Louis owns a home-improvement business, at which he employed most of his family members. When the economy went bad last year, his business dropped substantially and he and his family were unable to afford their mortgage payments. An attempt to negotiate with lenders ended in a loan modification scam that cost him $1,000. The family has officially been evicted from the home, but they don’t have anywhere else to go and are illegally camping out in the house, hoping they can stay beneath the radar until the financial crisis is over. They have been sleeping on the floor on air mattresses, which they pack away along with other essential items every morning when they leave. In the morning they go to the storage unit where they packed away their belongings to pick out clothes for the day. If they are caught, they have no money for other housing and will be forced to live in their cars or in the storage unit.

In 2009 there have been over one hundred thousand foreclosures filed in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. That represents a six-fold increase over 2006. Most former homeowners move in with relatives, or wait out the process in their own homes, since a foreclosure in the overburdened system can now take more than a year from initial filing to final judgment. Children, especially special needs children, in these families are put at a great risk by their homelessness. In most cases the families are reluctant to contact state services because they are afraid their children will be taken away from them.

You can read more about the Pierre-Lois family and other Florida families who have lost their homes in the recession at American Dream strands South Florida family of 14.


The State of Florida is having a serious revenue problem again this year. In 2009, the State of Florida cut billions of dollars to try to make ends meet, and may have to cut a billion more for 2010, even though the 2009 cuts were considered to be “down to the bone.” Social services officials and volunteers are begging the legislature not to cut even more of their funding for 2010.

In Bartow (Polk County, Florida), representatives from juvenile crime prevention agencies and groups that work with special needs children, the ill, the poor, and the educationally disadvantaged appeared before the Polk County delegation to ask for no budget cuts. They argued that they need the money more than ever in order to help those in need. They told stories of children and teens they had helped have better lives, of drug addicts and delinquents helped by their programs, and talked of the difficulty of struggling under growing caseloads with dwindling funds. They are likely to be unsuccessful in their attempts to keep their budgets intact.

You can read more about budget cuts for special needs and other social programs in Florida at Cuts May Bleed Social Programs.

Fingerprint.jpgAccording to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 62 million people volunteer at least one day a year. Those volunteering to work with the elderly, children or the disabled persons are likely to be screened for “red flags” in their criminal history, such as convictions for drugs, violent crimes, sex crimes and child abuse. The ability to use national criminal history checks to screen out volunteers with certain types of criminal records has been made possible by the National Child Protection Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

In Florida, a state law requires schools to check volunteers against the sexual predator and offender database. A proposed law would also require youth sports organizations to check the backgrounds of coaches and referees. Some Florida volunteers who have been turned away from positions have hired a lawyer and plan to argue that the background checks violate their rights to privacy.

Checking someone’s background only costs few dollars. That seems like a small price to pay to be able to ensure parents and caregivers that their loved-ones will not be in the care of a person with a known or reported criminal history.

Meds.jpgThis past April, seven-year-old foster child, Gabriel Meyers, apparently committed suicide after taking prescribed psychiatric drugs. The death has caused a debate that is slowing the flow of prescribed medications to children in state care in Florida.

After the child’s death, the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) launched an investigation into his death, and found that many foster children were taking medications without the proper consent forms in place. Lawmakers have vowed to create new laws to try to prevent the overuse of drugs by foster children. Fear of an increased suicide rates among children taking psychotropic drugs has prompted the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to put a black box warning on them.

Child advocates approve the recommendation of getting the proper consent, but worry that slowing down or stopping treatment for troubled children could lead to more problems. In some instances, a foster child’s behavior that is not controlled by necessary medication may make it more likely that they will be rejected by foster families who do not know how to deal with these children.

Police%20Sirens.jpgA German Shepherd K-9 unit escaped from Sarasota, Florida Police Officer Sean Gleason and attacked 12-year-old Angela Berk as she rode down the street on an electric scooter. The girl required 14 stitches in her right leg. She was unable to take pain medication because of the interaction with her medication for utism. The dog was allowed to continue working as a K-9 unit until he was retired for old age some time later.

The city offered the family a $15,000 settlement, but the child’s father, Ray Berk, declined the offer and filed a lawsuit asking for more money. Her lawyers noted that her developmental disability makes it more difficult for her to get past the trauma of the event.

Police officers acting as K-9 unit handlers have a responsibility to keep their dogs restrained and under control at all times. The officer was apparently negligent in his duty having left the door of his car open while the dog was unrestrained in the back seat.


A special vaccine court recently ruled against parents seeking compensation through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. It was estimated that more than 5,000 claims were filed by parents and caregivers seeking compensation for damages related to Autism that were allegedly caused by Thimerosal-containing vaccine. The court concluded that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly did not support the claims of the parents on behalf of their children. Litigation on related issues continue. Nonetheless, the ruling in this case was a disappointment to families seeking compensation for injuries that, according to the families, their attorneys, and expert witnesses, were related to vaccines.

You can read more about this story at Court Rules that Vaccine is not Linked to Autism.


In Fort Pierce, Florida / Port St. Lucie Florida, Judith Leekin lived with disabled children that she adopted in New York. Ms. Leekin appeared to be more interested in the $1 million in subsidies and welfare that she received for the children rather than the education, safety and welfare of the children. Ms. Leekin was charged with aggravated child abuse for beating and handcuffing the children in a locked room. She did not adequately provide food for the children and frequently deprived the children of medical care and education. Ms. Leekin pled no contest to to the charges and was sentenced to a 20 year prison term.

The acts of Judith Leekin were truly heinous in that she preyed on disabled children while personally pocketing government funds to take care of her own needs rather than those of the children. You can read more about this story at Florida Woman Gets Prison Term After Pleading No Contest to Charges of Aggravated Abuse of Disabled Children.