Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Sometimes Patent Medicine Works: A Reply to Braaten, Kauffman, Braaten, Polsgrove, and Nelson

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Sometimes Patent Medicine Works: A Reply to Braaten, Kauffman, Braaten, Polsgrove, and Nelson

Article excerpt

Sometimes Patent Medicine Works: A Reply to Braaten, Kauffman, Braaten, Polsgrove, and Nelson

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a patent medicine is "a drug or other medical preparation that is protected by a patent and can be bought without a prescription." * Concerned about the "reduction of special education services for behaviorally disordered (BD) students which may result from the movement known as the regular education initiative (REI)," Braaten et al. (1988) recently argued that (a) some students with behavioral disorders require special education, (b) such students can be identified in many cases on the basis of their problem behavior (s), (c) students with behavioral disorders are "notoriously" underserved, (d) these students are labeled before they enter special education, (e) these students require different educational technology, (f) teachers of students with behavioral disorders need different skills than most teachers, and (g) the "REI jeopardizes the meager services available to these students and probably would cause many to be shunted out of education altogether".

The fundamental concern that Braaten and his colleagues addressed was that proponents of the REI movement have proffered reform proposals with "little concern for available data or their political and pragmatic ramifications". They attacked proponents of the REI in such a manner that we are concerned that the REI perspective is misrepresented. In building a case to support their beliefs that the REI may be "patent medicine" to students with behavioral disorders, Braaten et al. addressed issues related to (a) integration and (b) right to treatment. We will review their arguments and point out inconsistencies with the basic tenets of the partnership movement to illustrate an alternative perspective on the REI.

INTEGRATION ARGUMENTS

These arguments by Braaten et al. are based on opinions about research on identification practices; opinions about labeling; opinions about the appropriateness of placing students with behavioral disorders in regular classrooms; opinions about teachers' attitudes, skills, and priorities; and opinions about the effects of the excellence-in-education movement.

The authors believe that students with behavioral disorders are not an overidentified group in special education (few have argued that they are). They share concerns about the stigma associated with the "behaviorally disordered" label (but they believe the stigma is more the result of what these children do rather than what they are called). They agree that "the mainstream is most appropriate for many handicapped students" (emphasis in original), but that research "clearly does not support the assertion that all students can be managed and taught effectively in regular classes" (emphasis added).

Moreover, they believe that "expecting general education teachers to welcome, successfully teach and manage, and tolerate the most disruptive and disturbed students is extremely naive and illogical, both from the viewpoint of common sense and from the perspective of available research". (With regard to their last concern, we believe that expecting any teachers to "welcome, successfully teach and manage, and tolerate the most disruptive and disturbed students" is asking a lot.)

RIGHT-TO-TREATMENT ARGUMENTS

The second group of arguments by Braaten et al. is based on opinions about eligibility for services, rights to privacy, and appropriate interventions. The authors believe that students with behavioral disorders are underidentified and that under the REI even more will be denied appropriate help. They fail to point out, however, how identifying them will solve their problems.

They believe that being served in special class settings affords these students privacy that they welcome in dealing with their problems (the argument that segregation is better than integration). …

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