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  • Writer's pictureJason A. Brasno

A Path for The Whole Child

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"

-Frederick Douglass

Consider this quote, from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services School-Aged Youth page:

“Mental health issues play a major role in the levels of education ultimately achieved by our children. There is also evidence that substance abuse is starting at younger and younger ages. Children with untreated mental health or addiction problems have many obstacles to learning that can affect whether or not they lead positive, productive lives.”

Now pair it with this, found within the same Department’s Key Issues: Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Behavioral Health of Ohio’s Residents literature review:

“School closures have disrupted millions of students’ daily functioning, and stress levels have risen in families when parents are not able to work or family members are ill. Witnessing the loss of loved ones to the disease and the cancellation of rituals and traditions that help families cope with illness and death can further expose children to poor behavioral outcomes.”


Needs of the Whole Child

Evidence of the vital need to educate the “whole child” existed well before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research indicates the importance of supporting social, emotional, and behavioral learning in concert with academic content areas. That existing need, compounded by a collective pandemic crisis, has made it more important than ever.

In a recent tweet, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona reminded us that “The science says it’s about more than just getting kids back in the classroom - it’s about making sure they’re socially, emotionally, and mentally prepared.”


A Plan for Ohio's Children

In its Each Child Our Future: Ohio Strategic Plan for Education (2019-2024), the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) outlines a shared plan to ensure an excellent Pre-K through 12th grade education for Ohio’s public school children. This document emphatically states, “Ohio can only reach success by meeting the needs of the whole child.”

References to the whole child are found throughout the strategic plan and in ODE’s accompanying Whole Child Framework. According to the framework, "A whole child approach broadens district and school focus beyond academics to include meeting students' social-emotional, physical and safety needs." It also further affirms:

“When students are healthy, feel safe, have strong supportive relationships, are challenged and experience success, and are engaged in learning that is relevant and meaningful, they are more likely to enjoy learning, develop positive social skills and achieve greater academic success.”


The Reality for Many of Ohio's Children

Each Child Our Future candidly admits, “The state’s education system is not effectively meeting the needs of specific groups of students, such as African American, Hispanic, English learners (EL), economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.” Furthermore, the document recognizes, “Ohio’s achievement gap has been evident since the state began dissagregating student data more than 15 years ago.”

To mitigate this long standing disparity in achievement for groups of students, particularly those with disabilities, ODE responded with a targeted action plan. This admirable and comprehensive document, Each Child Means Each Child: Ohio’s Plan to Improve Learning Experiences and Outcomes for Students with Disabilities (March 2021), addresses their educational landscape. It presents startling data which include the following:

  • Students with disabilities experience 46 disciplinary incidences per 100 children compared to 17 for nondisabled children.

  • Sixty-two percent of restraints (3,341 incidents) and 69% of seclusions (1,371 incidents) involve students with disabilities compared to nondisabled students, which is less than 1%.

The plan identifies target areas and strategies for improvement while it implores the reader to remember “The actions, commitment and collaboration among educators and other adults in the life of a student with disabilities is the most impactful contribution to success.”


The Path Forward

We should honor the efforts of the thousands of Ohioans who contributed to these plans. And we should commend the teachers and administrators who are responsible for their execution. However, children cannot wait for the implementation gap between systemic aspiration and action to close.

The voice of the student must be lifted up above those of the represented groups, implicit bias, stigmata, value driven (as opposed to research based) decisions, and the entrenched opposition to change that is endemic in large and longstanding governmental entities.

Success for Ohio’s students, especially those with disabilities, requires a supportive team of knowledgeable and experienced adults advocating for the child with benevolence, compassion, and clarity.


What I Offer

Deep experience and knowledge of schools, along with a proven track record of success supporting students and families, allows me to offer my insights and collaborative process to drive team decisions that truly represent the interests of children.

My life experience, replete with great success and failure, provides perspective to offer the compassion and the understanding that children and families deserve.

It is never too early nor too late to advocate on behalf of a child.

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