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Lord, I thought I knew you,

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Tossed away, will you find me?

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Just me and you when things were new,

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Nudge, push, shove into the Common Core

We can all agree that learning disabilities and mental illness a very real and serious matter. One hopes that because of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) a student soars to new heights; but there are many kids who have been placed in special education who may be wrongfully diagnosed, done in by the stroke of a pen on an observational checklist.  Why?  Meltdown?  Fresh mouth?  Incomplete homework?  Goofing off?  Stealing?  Bullying?  Teacher doesn't like the kid?  These days, being a problem, having a problem or posing a perceived threat, is a subjective, though, documented art.  Even an accusation based on an opinion can land a kid in a "think it through" group therapy lunchtime program, but why an IEP?

Look, every parent who knows the heartbreak of a principal saying that their child has a learning disability or an emotional disturbance also knows the drill.  A treadmill of paperwork, SST (Student Support Team) and IEP meetings, plans, goal setting, annual meetings, emergency meetings, patches and pills, uppers, downers, and for some, powerful psychotropic drugs.  In the case of ADHD, our old friend Ritalin is alive and well parading around in new formulations with catchy brand names. 

Yet, for all these theoretical diagnoses and well staffed case managers and school psychologists on the payroll, plus outside psychiatrists sucked into public education's mental health vortex at hefty per hour rates, there is still no scientific or physiological medical test on record for ADHD.  Fancy websites have popped up with full-color online diagrams of the afflicted mind, but no child has been given a brain scan or a blood or urine test to clinically find this dysfunction.  Nor is there a "gene" for it.  People may argue for or against it but, bottom line, to date, no one has anyone proven ADHD physiologically exists. 

These day, states like California give their public school children behavioral questionnaires that are left way open to interpretation. The latest shove pushes primitive data-mining tactics in the guise of maintaining "safe schools"?  So, what raises red flags in the news today?  An NRA t-shirt?  Today it's an emblem or a drawing.  Under the Common Core, we face one-size-fits-all education.  What happens to the curious child asking about the other side of the climate change story?  What becomes of the kid who disputes the historical accuracy of a CCSS primary source document?  What about that boy in his t-shirt?  What happens when a child refuses to take the Common Core assessment(s)?

At what point does everything our students say or do during school hours go under the perceived or real microscopic lens of mental illness?  At what point does this nudge, push or shove a child right onto an IEP?


Merrill Hope writes for City on a Hill, Save America Foundation and has freelanced pieces on Lady Patriots.  Over the years she inked articles for the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West. She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. Follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.  

This article originally appeared on





Nudge, push, shove into the Common Core

Somewhere on the road to the Common Core, schools ceased to be about the proverbial 3r's and transformed into high-stakes testing factories with a mental health wing stocked with administrators who take an unusual interest in your child's emotional and social growth.  They get to decide whose kid is okay and whose is not. Worrisome in times when local control and accountability in our public schools is rapidly slipping away. 

A disconcerting number of school-aged children, mostly boys, are being diagnosed with ADHD: 13.2 to 5.6 percent, boys to girls.  Quite the ratio. Parents should be in an uproar.  These kids are assigned IEPs (Individual Education Plans) even when they have no learning issues.

Originally, back in the ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) days, accommodations for students were made as they related to learning.  When the new and improved ADD was repackaged as ADHD, and it made quite the comeback -- with a much broader "spectrum" that included "classifications."  Inattentive.  Hyperactive.  Impulsive.  Any combination of one or more of these three and their many descriptive characteristics meant that school district administrators could step in and take charge of your child's psychological well-being.  Distracted? Depressed? Low self-esteem? Bossy? You may have ADHD.   Argumentative? Tuned out? Daydreaming? Slob? Fidgety?  Multi-tasker?  Risk-taker?  Lousy in math?  You may have ADHD.  Can't  "focus"?  Yup, ADHD.  Is it ever remotely possible that the kid's bored?  Or just burnt out?  You know that high stakes NCLB (No Child Left Behind) nee CCSS (Common Core State Standards) style of assessment learning often means there's a test every day, Monday through Friday. 

We are now a nation united by disorders in a time when authority figures can slap a label on any a child who may act or think ever-so-differently, a child who has a different kind of mind, a child who does not conform right down to his very core.  Sadly, the Common Core's data-mining is madness -- gathering, monitoring, and documenting our children leaving a fingerprint on the record of the rest of their lives -- even more so when your child's on an IEP.  That information is regularly updated and shadows students around for as long as the plan is active.  One can only wonder to what extend it may hover your child's life  in the Common Core culture. Active or not. 

But don't worry.  The intellectuals have come up with a list to make you feel better about your kid being diagnosed with ADHD.  Some very prominent folks have had it too: Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Henry David Thoreau, Tolstoy, Socrates, Lord Byron, Mark Twain, DaVinci, Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, William Randolph Hearst, Hitchcock, Napoleon and Nostradamus, and these are only the dead people on the list, the people who had no idea they had ADHD when they were alive because there was no ADHD.  Did you know that the ADHD mind has been said to look, when mapped, like the highly creative and/or genius mind? There are even pediatricians who find that by the teen years, quite a lot of kids "grow out of ADHD."   How do you grow out of a mental and emotional disturbance?  So, is ADHD really real? Or is ADHD being used as a tool to get a child to conform to an agenda?   To the Core?

Many of us recall elementary school as fun. A place to learn, grow and expand.  Some of us even remember high school as the place we learned to think.  Not how to think.  Not what to think.  Just think.  How many of our own kids have said, "I love learning but I hate school."   Is that because school has changed or are all our children just brain damaged? 

So, how is it possible to have so many kids diagnosed with ADHD? Well, when the spectrum is redefined, shifted and whittled away enough, you can bet your bottom tax dollar that you too will have ADHD.  I fear that if the spectrum gets any broader, ADHD will soon include sneezing and diarrhea.

How long before the line between what is now considered a disorder and what we traditionally recognize as clinical insanity ceases to exist at all?


In addition to City on a Hill, Merrill Hope is a contributing writer at Save America Foundation, and has freelanced at the Hollywood Reporter, Backstage West, & Lady Patriots. She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. Follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.  

This article originally appeared on





IEP Madness! Peek into a Case Study

Public education loves acronyms and that includes the Common Core but nowhere have these truncated codes more revered by school administrators than in the realm of K-12 mental health: ADA, AIM, IP, ESL, EC, FAPE, IDEA, SAP, IDEA, IDEIA, SPED; and snappy little buzzwords like "accommodations," "interventions," and "504."  Helpless parents feel intimidated by all this jargon coming at them at SST (Student Support Team) meetings usually held at a large conference table packed with administrators they have never seen before: PhDs, EdDs, Psys, MDs, LSWs, MS MFCCs, ED .JDs, and other assorted child advocates, non-licensed facilitators and SELPA mental health counselors all claiming intimate knowledge and loving concern for your child's social, emotional and/or academic well-being.  After the meeting, parents never see these folks again.  They are left with the overwhelming frustration that the team has identified a problem that only they, the team can fix.  Make no mistake, the IEP or Individual Education Plan is on the fast-track, aligning its shared goals with the national Common Core education plan.  Soon, no child will truly be left behind.

A Case Study (Abridged)

School requested SST meeting with parents following classroom incident where student threw tantrum.  Case Manager initiated checklists.  Consent forms sent to parents.  Mother completed and returned.  Noted that boy did not speak much until he was four years old.  Born with big head.  Boy likes math and science.  Not athletic.  1 friend.  Teacher noted boy's thoughts drift in class.  He does not meet benchmarked age-appropriate eye contact. Boy was moved to sit facing her desk but boy now stares at wall.  "When boy does speak, the other children don't 'get him,'" teacher adds.  His language, although in the superior range, is not age-appropriate.  Cognitive and verbal functions appear to be in the normal range.  Further testing for non-verbal cognitive skills and executive function range.

Case manager administered Wechsler and Stanford-Binet 5 IQ tests. Clinical interviews and school psychologist's observations completed. Student scored in profoundly gifted range (160-180) in linear cognitive reasoning (mathematics and sciences).  Significant lags: linguistic reasoning skills and non-verbal processing skills.  Boy is borderline high intensity. 



This student qualifies under the AUTISM category of AUTISTIC DISORDER per IDEA. in accordance with the DSM-IV definition of autistic spectrum disorders categories when qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

a.       marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.

b.      failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

c.       a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)

d.     lack of social or emotional reciprocity...


Team invited parents to SST.  IEP to be enforced under IDEA and by the Office of Special Education of the U.S. Department of Education. Parents asked why county, state, and federal agencies are involved in child's education. 


Student assigned to a social skills, empathy, and etiquette class during math and science learning block.  He interrupts with repetitive questions like "why is a yard duty"  teaching us?  Monitoring conduct.  May require emergency meeting for IEP reevaluation in 3 months.  Potential high risk:  CONDUCT DISORDER. Window of prevention from future sociopathic manifestations, 2 years.


 Mr. and Mrs. Einstein did not agree with school findings and have since un-enrolled Albert from the 5th grade.



In addition to City on a Hill, Merrill Hope is a contributing writer at Save America Foundation and other online sites following a lot of freelance writing for publications like the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West. She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!), & a dachshund lover. Follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.  


This article originally appeared on







IF ... went to public school today

These days, with all the "safe school" questionnaires, pupil observation monitoring and the data-mining component of the Common Core, our public schools seem to be blazing a trail of emotional ills-for-all.  Can you just imagine what it would be like ...

If Thomas Alva Edison was in elementary school today …

He would be diagnosed with ADHD because he had the attention span of a flea in class and was only interested in subjects that were of interest to him. He appeared confused and distracted to his teachers.  He was said to be “un-teachable."

If Helen of Troy was in elementary school today …

She would be diagnosed with paranoia.  She was convinced people were out to get her.  On occasion, she also had psychotic episodes, believing her mother to be a swan and her father, a god.  At puberty, she was kidnapped.

If Sir Isaac Newton was in elementary school today …

He would be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance/Conduct disorder because he threatened to kill his cruel stepfather and burn his house down after the uncaring man whisked his mother away and left Newton to be raised by a grandmother.

If Moses was in elementary school today …

He would be diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He saw visions, heard voices and was believed God talked to him.

If Jane Goodall was in elementary school today …

She would be diagnosed under Cluster B Personality disorder since Narcissism doesn't exist anymore.  Fascinated with the “Tarzan” stories, she believed she would make a better “Jane” than Jane.  Only her mother believed that someday she would make a name for herself in Africa.

If Gandhi was in elementary school today …

He would be diagnosed as bipolar.  On the one hand, he was quiet, shy and retiring, often tongue-tied.  On the other hand, he was over-reactive, over-emotional and prone to binges of meat-eating, smoking and petty acts of pilfering. 

If Madame (Marie) Curie was in elementary school today …

She would be diagnosed with depression and reactive psychosis.  Her youth was marred by the deaths of her sister and mother.  As a teen, she suffered a nervous breakdown and thereafter was deemed an under-achiever.

If little Teddy Geisel was in elementary school today…

He would be diagnosed with Impulse Regulatory Disorder.  He was class clown, the trouble maker who broke rules, cut class, exaggerated and he drew bizarre pencil drawings.  He saw the world in a way considered abnormal by his teachers.  They warned him that he would never be successful.  His parents wanted him to be a doctor but he was voted "least likely to succeed" until Ted followed his passion and became a doctor after all... Dr. Seuss.


In addition to City on a Hill, Merrill Hope is a contributing writer at Save America Foundation and other online sites following a lot of freelance writing for publications like the Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West. She's married, the mother of a teenager (God help her!) & a dachshund lover. Follow her at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.  


This article originally appeared on



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