Thursday, July 16, 2009

Article: Resilience Matters in Traumatized Children's Lives--and Sensory Activities Make the Difference

Enhancing resilience is a matter of engaging the senses.
July 14, 2009
Psychology Today
By: Cathy Malchiodi

The capacity to bounce back - more commonly known as resilience - enhances trauma recovery in children. But what about children who do not have the innate capacity to bounce back? Or those whose lives have been compromised by abuse, neglect, fetal alcohol syndrome, or exposure to multiple traumas? There's good news--sensory activities, along with positive relationships and a positive environment, can make all the difference.


According to John Micsak, symposium keynote and director of a resiliency outreach program for youth, addressing three regions of the brain can help. These regions are defined as 1) the thinking brain[cortex] responsible for abstract reasoning; 2) the emotional brain [limbic] responsible for affect regulation, empathy, affiliation, and tolerance; and 3) the survival brain [brain stem or reptilian] responsible for fight or flight, heartbeat, and other body regulation functions.

From an expressive therapies perspective, it's promising that mental health is beginning to realize that the arts, play, and imagination address the whole brain and support what Bruce Perry calls "neurosequential therapeutics"--a method of working with severely traumatized children using body reactions [survival brain] as a starting place and eventually addressing other brain functions through progressive interventions that focus on refining neural pathways in other regions. The NT process essentially tries to match specific interventions to the developmental stage and specific parts of the brain that mediate presenting neuropsychiatric problems. Application of sensory interventions are key to helping meet the needs of the child and to the development of resilience.

In brief, using this approach distills down to addressing the traumatized brain from an arts therapies perspective as follows:

1) The survival brain needs modulation through rhythmic and patterned sensory input, such as activities like drumming, singing and music at the resting rate of the human heartbeat, basic movement and rocking, breathing techniques, and massage;

2) The emotional brain needs the self-soothing reinforcement through tactile experiences of art and play as well as the relational aspects of mutual engagement between adult and child using creative arts, imagination, and play as means to establish and reinforce positive attachment;

3) The thinking brain needs the opportunity to engage in storytelling through all the creative arts, relating not only the trauma story, but also as a means to express the self and practicecognitive-behavioral skills used in long-term self-regulation.

Click here to read the full article.

MO: Seclusion rooms restricted in Missouri bill signed into law this week

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
07.14.2009 4:15 pm

School boards in Missouri are now required to define in a written policy its district’s use of seclusion rooms and restraint methods for students with behavioral problems.

The requirement is one part of an education bill Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law on Monday. School districts must complete policies within two years. The law also says the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must develop within one year a model policy that draws on advice from organizations for students with disabilities and experts in behavior management.

The law comes after state Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, proposed banning so-called seclusion rooms earlier this year after hearing complaints from parents of children with autism. His proposal came on the heels of two St. Charles County families speaking out against the use of seclusion rooms in the Francis Howell School District. The district has said that parents knew about the use of the rooms, and that the timeout rooms were used only as a last resort as part of a student’s individual education plan when behavior causes him or her to be a danger to themselves or others.

The new law prohibits educators from confining a student in an unattended, locked space, except in emergency situations while waiting for police.

Rupp said the policies will better ensure the protection of special education students and that school district personnel and volunteers are properly trained to care for them.

You can read more about the other items in the education bill signed into law Monday here and here.

IL: School nurse pleads guilty to sex with minor

July 15, 2009 11:40 AM

A Bolingbrook elementary school nurse faces a three to seven-year prison sentence after admitting to having sexual relations with a minor in 2006, authorities said.

Laura J. Obzera, 50, of the 800 block of Bonnie Brae in Bolingbrook, was arrested in September and charged with three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly having had sexual relations with three teen boys in 2006.

Last Friday, Obzera entered a guilty plea without any attached conditions in Will County Circuit Court to one charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, according to Charles Pelkie, spokesman for the state's attorney's office. The other two charges were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea, Pelkie said. The offense is a Class 2 felony and carries up to seven years in jail with the option of probation, Pelkie said. Obzera will also be required to register for life as a sex offender. Sentencing is set for Sept. 29.

Obzera worked as a health assistant for Valley View Community School District 365U in

In September 2008, the
Bolingbrook Police Department joined with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate possible sexually inappropriate text messages between Obzera and male teenaged victims, a police press release said. The boys ages ranged from 13 to 17. The investigation did not reveal that any criminal behavior occurred on school property or that Obzera met her victims through work, the release said.

She had been a licensed practical nurse since 1982 and had never been disciplined by the state before. She is free on bail, Pelkie said.

Caroline K. Smith

KY: Former teacher charged with sexual abuse

July 15, 2009 18:27 EDT

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- A former central Kentucky high school teacher has been charged with having sex with a 16-year-old student.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Melissa Arnett was arrested on Tuesday morning, and charged with first-degree sexual abuse. She was released on $5,000 bail the same day.

Lexington's WLEX-television reports that Arnett taught special education at Bourbon County High School.

Police say Arnett admitted having sex with the boy several times over a two-month period and resigned from the school.

Investigators say Arnett is the third teacher in the county to be charged with engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior with a student in the past six months.

She is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 13. It was not clear Wednesday afternoon if Arnett had an attorney.


Information from: WLEX-TV,

TX: GISD trustees appraised of budget, corporal punishment policy

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE The Greenville Independent School District board of trustees met privately for 50 minutes with an attorney Tuesday night to discuss the district’s corporal punishment policy and to review the drug testing policy.

Prior to the executive session, superintendent Don Jefferies said he had asked for the meeting. He said he had questions about whether teachers could defend themselves in the classroom.I asked the attorney to come. I felt pretty good that we have protected our teachers, and was assured that is the case,” Jefferies said.

After the closed session, the district’s attorney, Marianna McGowan, said the district prohibited corporal punishment but said the law, “provides protection for a teacher who uses reasonable and necessary force,” to disarm a student or end a classroom disturbance. “You can’t terminate them for that,” she added.

Board president Charles Sivley said that the drug testing policy was reviewed in executive session but did not elaborate. The board adopted a random drug testing policy for students at its May 19 meeting.

District Chief Financial Officer Shelly Tubbs presented a budget workshop and said the district aims to have a balanced budget during the 2009-10 fiscal year. “One-third to one-half of the districts in the state won’t be able to do that,” she said. “There are no guarantees, but I think we will be able to pull that off.”

Other topics upon which Tubbs touched included the decline of Average Daily Attendance in the district from 4,723 in 2005-06, to 4646 in 2006-07, to 4,442 in 2007-08 down to 4,377 in the most recent school year. She said the proposed staff in the 2009-10 school year is 763 employees, an increase of 3.25 position from last school year. According to Tubbs, the district will receive $2,360,949 in stimulus funding. In addition to programs, the federal stimulus funds will pay the salaries of 23 staff members and Tubbs said that would need to be addressed soon, as the stimulus funds will be nearly exhausted.

The board is scheduled to hold another budget workshop next week.

OH: New budget includes ban on Corporal Punishment

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Reginald Fields
Plain Dealer Bureau Chief

Look deep enough in the 3,500-page budget bill and you will also find a hodge-podge of items that don't seem to have an obvious connection to the state's bottom line: things that involve studying fish, smoking in prisons and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Slipping these items into the all-important budget bill puts them on a fast track, avoiding the sometimes slow and contentious Statehouse law-making process.

As Gov. Ted Strickland readies his pen to strike out a few items before signing off on the rest of the $51 billion, two-year budget, he will find a few of those well-meaning but seemingly out-of-place issues awaiting his review.

From Page 2:

Corporal punishment:

Paddling and other forms of corporal punishment in public schools is out. This was a Strickland idea that survived largely unscathed through the budget process.

At least 29 other states already ban corporal punishment in schools but similar bills in recent years in Ohio have died in legislative committee rooms.

The truth is, most Ohio schools no longer use paddling to control students, but a few still do - at least until the governor swats the punishment away by signing the budget bill.

I D: Family sues school after arrest of autistic girl

Staffers accuse third-grader of spitting, inappropriately touching instructors

updated 2:18 p.m. ET, Wed., July 15, 2009

SANDPOINT, Idaho - The family of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested at school wants the school district and county to pay more than $500,000 in damages.

Charles and Spring Towry's third-grade daughter, Evelyn, has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. She was arrested in January on suspicion of battery at Kootenai Elementary School after staffers said she spit on and inappropriately touched two instructors.

The child was handcuffed and taken to the county's juvenile lockup, where she was released to her parents. The county prosecutor later dropped the charge against the girl.

The family filed a tort claim against Lake Pend Oreille School District and Bonner County, according to the Bonner Daily Bee newspaper. They have 180 days to settle the claim, or reject it and risk a lawsuit.