Monthly Archives: February, 2012

ADHD: White Myth or Black Denial – A look at cultural differences in Special Education

I have finally tracked down an old paper I wrote regarding the cultural differences and bias in the classification of children, specifically between ADHD and ED, in Special Education.

While this paper is over five years old, that different cultures and minorities are treated differently in the Special Education process hasn’t. Further, in the five years since writing this, I would add another component to the mixture, the relatively wealth and academic achievement of the district. In other words, rich schools that routinely have the higher scores in the state will generally offer better Special Education services to more student than a poor school with lower scores.

One line from my paper regarding ADHD stands out, even more so today, then perhaps it did five years ago. “While the condition has been around for over a century, today it is still one of the most debated disorders in the DSM IV.” There are many who do not believe in the ADHD diagnosis and there have even been recent articles that continue to push the view point that ADHD is nothing but bad parenting. See Ritalin Gone Wrong With rebuttals/Responses at Time and Child Mind Institute .

While I respect everyone’s right to disagree on a diagnosis, articles like Ritalin Gone Wrong ultimately hurt the children who’s parents do not seek help in order to avoid being blamed or given guilt trips for doing this to their child. They avoid getting a proper diagnosis because they believe it is something they have done wrong and all they have to do is change something or because they do not want to feel judged. And the statistics of this happening are astounding. But seems that every time we make progress on the cultural divide, we see articles like the above, that forces us to take a few steps back.



More news on disability and unemployment

The USA today recently ran an editorial regarding the rise of disability applications during the recession. In the editorial the length of the process is blamed on attorneys dragging their feet to increase their fees, implies people are cheating the system, and seemingly ignores many facts that those who work in disability understand. The Social Security Process isn’t long because of attorneys, its long because a hearing office can only process so many claims each year. Period, end of discussion. A judge can only clear so many cases. They cannot hear claims 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. They need time to review the massive amounts of records in each claim. They need time to look up law, regulations, and SSR’s. Finally, they need time to write and review decisions.

As the average hearing runs about an hour, a judge holding hearings 1 day a week will clear 6-8 cases each time, resulting in clearing about 416 hearings each year (this is outside of cases they award without a hearing). Twice a week a judge will clear about 850 cases a year. For a hearing office with 10 judges, this results in resolving between 4000-8000 cases a year. Thus a hearing office with a 12 month backlog is clearing close to the same number of cases each year as their are being filed.

Further, this article ignores the fact that SSA at the initial and reconsideration level works under some time restraints. Many of these cases are decided without the benefit of all the claimant’s medical records because the doctor or hospital failed to provide them in a timely manner.

While NOSSCR did a rebuttal piece, I don’t believe it went far enough to explain the reality of the system. Or to explain that generally those that apply for disability exhaust their unemployment benefits because they need funds to live off of while they wait. Or the disabled are the first to generally lose their jobs in a recession because they miss work, under-perform, or need accommodations. They become expendable when economies retract and are left to suffer through a system that can lead to their condition worsening. They lose their medical insurance and can no longer afford the medications that were helping them to remain employable. By the time many of these claims are heard and awarded, the claimant’s condition has deteriorated to the point that returning to work becomes impossible.

I’ve heard over and over from my clients, I would work if I could, if someone would hire me. They struggle to pay their bills, obtain medical care, and take their medications. Instead of attacking a system they believe is an easy fix, they need to talk to those that work in the system. The attorneys that work hard to prove their clients cases and do everything we can to speed up the process, talk to the claimant’s to understand the struggles they go through, in order to find ways to improve the system.

The Language of Social Security Disability

I have attached a PDF guide called the Language of SOcial Security Disability A guide to getting yourself and your doctor speaking Social Security’s Language.

It is a short list of some ways to help improve the quality of your medical records and the language used in them to increase your chances of approval. It includes some information from my earlier blog posts in a single downloadable PDF.

The PDF can be downloaded at The Language of SSA

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