Anthony Antosh was recently presented the 2012 Paul W. Crowley Award by the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association. The award is given annually to a Rhode Island citizen who has demonstrated a commitment to improving the quality of education in the state. Antosh is a professor of special education and founding director of the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College.
PBN: In addition to being director of the Sherlock Center, you were responsible for initiating Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in Rhode Island. Can you tell us about this program?
ANTOSH: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is an evidence-based practice … rooted in two core principles: everything occurs in a context; and everything has a function. Research has demonstrated that the two most effective strategies for eliminating negative behavior or for increasing positive behavior are (a) designing an ecological structure that clearly defines expectations and increases the likelihood that desired behaviors will occur, and (b) teaching proactive strategies for achieving desired functions.
PBN: What kind of impact did the Great Recession have on special education programs in Rhode Island?
ANTOSH: As with most other segments of the country, the recession diminished the resources available to people with disabilities. Diminished resources result in diminished opportunities. Diminished opportunities are a significant barrier to achievement. For example, the percent of people with disabilities who lost jobs during the recession was four times greater than the percent of people without disabilities who lost jobs. Similarly, schools and other service providers have experienced decreased capacity to provide needed supports. All of this has increased the pressure and stress placed on families.
PBN: You’ve led efforts to close the Ladd School and to move students with disabilities into regular classrooms; what do you hope to see happen next?
ANTOSH: People with disabilities can achieve at high levels if they have opportunities that foster positive outcomes. Segregated settings and segregated programs have historically led to lowered expectations and diminished quality of life. … The next focus should be increasing opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency. Nationally, only 25 percent of individuals who have a disability are engaged in the workforce. That number needs to double or triple. … Increased self-sufficiency will come from that. •