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5 Celebrities Who Got Really Sick After Going on an All-Meat Diet – One Green Planet

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:56 pm

Although eating is a fundamental aspect of life, diet preferences are often complicated and polarizing. From plant-based to paleo to keto, the optimal human diet has been a long-contested topic. In the past few years, the carnivore diet has garnered mainstream attention and despite rigorous scientific studies showing the negative effects of this diet, anecdotal claims have inspired more people to try out carnivorism.

Proponents of the carnivore diet claim that this lifestyle is revolutionaryand contradicts conventional conceptions of nutrition science. Many advocates of carnivorism claim that this diet has drastically changed their lives the reported benefits range from stabilizing energy levels to curing autoimmune diseases. But how do these claims measure up to scientific scrutiny? Read on to learn about five celebrities who tried the carnivore diet and the impact that eating so much meat had on their health.

James Blunt was recently in the news for developing scurvy after two months on an all-meat diet. This ailment was the result of a petty vow to spite his vegan and vegetarian friends. His decision to eat only chicken and mince backfired as Blunt admitted he quickly became very unhealthy and was diagnosed with scurvy. As Azmina Govindji, the spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association pointed out, eliminating plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes can result in low levels of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. Govindji explained how crucial these nutrients are stating, not having enough vitamin C can leave you feeling tired and lethargic, while fiber from oats and barley can reduce your blood cholesterol levels; and potassium helps your heart muscle to work properly.

Its safe to say that if a particular diet results in a disease historically associated with malnourished sailorsyou should probably try other options.

Mikhaila Peterson, the daughter of the controversial psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson, has been advocating her self-titled Lion Diet since claiming that exclusively eating ruminant meat (cows and lambs) has cured her physical and mental illnesses. A couple of years ago she garnered mainstream attention when, despite having no educational background or training in nutrition, dietetics, or biology, she began to sell her expertise for $599 per year. Aside from her lack of formal education, Petersons branding for her Lion Diet has a few red flags alerting to the pseudoscientific nature of her claims. For example, all of her evidence for the success of this diet is based on anecdotal claims (most of which are personal) rather than scientific evidence. Similarly, she claims that this simple diet is a cure-all for ailments ranging from auto-immune diseases to mental illness. Many fad diets, such as Petersons, rely on pseudoscience rather than rigorous scientific research, so familiarizing yourself with the telltale signs of pseudoscience is essential.

When Mikhaila Peterson began her Lion Diet, her father Jordan and mother Tammy joined her. While Mikhaila made lofty claims that this new diet cured her and her parents illnesses, news stories of her familys health undermined these claims. In 2019, her mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer and her father attended rehab for antidepressants. So while Mikhaila kept claiming on social media that her Lion Diet cured her and her fathers health, she willfully omitted her mothers severe health struggles. Furthermore, kidney cancer specifically is linked to meat consumption, so omitting her mothers health is not only dishonest but also potentially dangerous to the people who are following her carnivorous lifestyle. Secondly, in a now deleted video, she made claims on her youtube channel that she had completely turned her fathers health around and gotten rid of his mood disorder (video can be found here at 3:44) However in February of 2020, she contradicted these claims by revealing that her father had been constantly taking medication and was now in rehab dealing with addiction to that medication. While Mikhaila might claim her Lion Diet has cured all of her health problems, the health of her parents demonstrates how misinformed she really is. In an interview with The Atlantic,Jack Gilbert, the faculty director at the University of Chicagos Microbiome Center, claimed the Lion Diet is a terribly, terribly bad idea, adding, if [Mikhaila] does not die of colon cancer or some other severe cardiometabolic disease, the life I cant imagine.

Joe Rogan is a popular podcast host who has routinely commented on veganism and in 2019, he even admitted that the lifestyle is perfectly healthy. His favorable comments came after hosting a debate between James Wilks, the producer ofThe Game Changers, and Chris Kresser, an advocate of the paleo diet. Despite claiming on Instagram that Wilks knocked it out of the park in defending veganism and his film, Rogan began a carnivore diet in January of 2020. While he claims that this month-long experiment caused rapid weight loss, he also vividly details his issues with diarrhea caused by this diet (he compares it to a rainforest mudslideyeah). Rogan fails to consider that his weight loss might not be caused directly by his diet, but rather indirectly through his excessive diarrhea. This problem could be caused by a number of things. For one, meat is known to cause a host of ailments sometimes resulting from salmonella or E. coli contamination. Furthermore, the lack of fiber in the carnivore diet could result in malnourished good gut bacteria which could lead to issues like diarrhea. Aside from these gastrointestinal issues, eating two servings of red or processed meat a week is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death. While Rogan only stuck to this diet for a month, the health problems could be long-lasting.

Shawn Baker is a prominent advocate of the carnivore diet and former M.D. who had his medical license revoked in 2017 due to incompetence. Despite his lack of qualifications, Baker continues to push his beliefs about the carnivore diet and, much like Mikhaila Peterson, claims that this diet is a cure-all. However, his health has been called into question several times, specifically regarding his cholesterol levels. In 2018, after 15 months on a carnivore diet, he discussed his bloodwork on Robb Wolfs podcast. Youtuber Mic the Vegan discussed Bakers blood test results in his own video. Mic points out that in the podcast Wolf concedes that Bakers total cholesterol is high (205 mg/dl), however, he conveniently neglects to mention Bakers LDL or bad cholesterol. Using a simple equation, Mic discovered that Bakers LDL cholesterol was incredibly high (149.2 mg/dl), in fact, his LDL cholesterol was about twice as high as the optimal level. Such high LDL cholesterol puts Baker at extreme risk for atherosclerosis. Not only that, but Mic points out that his blood glucose levels put him in the diabetic range and his testosterone levels were off the charts low.

While these individuals maintained an all-meat diet for the health benefits, scientific evidence demonstrates how detrimental the carnivore diet truly is. Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, who dubbed the carnivore diet the heart attack diet, has an explanation for the short term health benefits some carnivore dieters experience. In an interview for Inverse, Cheskin explains that sometimes the perceived health benefits are not from the diet itself, but simply the result of losing weight. He goes on to say that sometimes it looks like having all meat lowered your cholesterol when in fact if you had the same amount of calories but they were all red meat, then youd be raising your cholesterol.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D. and professor emeritus of food studies at NYU, believes that these carnivore dieters can think and eat whatever they want and thats fine. She is quoted at the end of the Inversearticle matter of factly, sayingIs [this diet] going to be good for them? No. But thats their choice. While technically Nestle is right that ones diet is ultimatelytheir choice, the unsustainable and unethical nature of the carnivore diet extends beyond the individual making the action.

Reducing meat from your diet is not only scientifically demonstrated to be beneficial to your health, but a meat-free diet has the lowest environmental impact. It is one of the best actions you can take as an individual to limit suffering and destruction in this world.

While the carnivore diet is extreme, even less restrictive meat-heavy diets pose a serious threat to ones health. As mentioned, just two servings of red or processed meat a week is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death (for reference, the average American eats five servings of red or processed meats a week). Take the Atkins diet popular for allegedly helping with weight loss, this diet restricts carbohydrates while increasing the consumption of proteins and fats. Research suggests that consuming large amounts of protein and fat derived from animal sources can increase ones risk for heart disease and some cancers. Similarly, the Paleo diet typically includes large servings of red meat and has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and certain cancers.

By contrast, research has shown vegan diets to be protective against ischemic heart disease and cancer. Similarly, individuals following a vegan diet are at the lowest risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Following a plant-based diet not only has a myriad of health benefits, but you can also feel good knowing that your choices are better for the animals and the environment!

Check out these recipes for ideas on how to obtain vital nutrients from a plant-based diet!

Read more about the health benefits of a plant-based diet!

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

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5 Celebrities Who Got Really Sick After Going on an All-Meat Diet - One Green Planet

Weight loss: How to lose water weight fast – Times of India

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:55 pm

Water makes up 60-70% of our body functions. There are processes which support water excretion (like peeing and pooping) but certain foods you eat could also lead to water retention, courtesy, the carbs and sodium levels in them.

Carbs and sodium are stored in the body for energy, in the form of glycogen. These nutrients can seldom attract the water present outside your cell linings and cause "swelling". Now, think of all the times you eat loads of fried stuff with high sodium content and how they made you feel bloated and heavy.

While the water weight differs from one person to another, it is said that on an average, a person carries 2-5 kilos of water weight. They are also the first kilos you slash in any weight loss journey, especially when you adopt a low-carb diet. In fact, diet experts say that up to 70% loss in the first week is due to the water content you are losing out on.

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Weight loss: How to lose water weight fast - Times of India

Lose weight the fast and healthy way with Ideal You –

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:55 pm

What if you could lose weight, do it the healthy way, and see results fast? Ideal You may be just what youve been looking for.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich When it comes to weight loss everyone is looking for a quick fix. But what if you could lose weight, do it the healthy way, and see results fast? Ideal You may be just what youve been looking for.

Dr. Geri Williams said people see results the first week of the program and can lose up to 40 lbs. in 40 days. Ideal You Health Center uses whole foods, all-natural supplements, and daily coaching to help people burn unneeded fat.

While on the program, participants communicate with a weight loss coach every day. Dr. Williams says Ideal You helps people get to their goal weight whether they just need to lose 20 or 100 lbs.

For more information about Ideal You visit

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What Is Reverse Dieting? A Nutritionist Explains –

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:54 pm

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What Is Reverse Dieting? A Nutritionist Explains

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Warning issued over weight loss coffee – The Bay’s News First – SunLive

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:54 pm

People are being warned against using a coffee that is marketed for weight loss as it has been found to contain phenethylamine.

Phenethylamine is a Class C controlled drug. It has amphetamine-like characteristics and may have similar adverse reactions such as: agitation and psychological effects, cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, and neurological effects.

A statement published by Medsafe and issued by the Director-General of Health under section 98 of the Medicines Act 1981 is warning consumers of the potential dangers of Elevacity Elevate Smart Coffee.

The Ministry of Health says the statement is being issued as an alert to warn consumers of the dangers of consuming a product marketed for weight loss, weight management or to improve mood, under the branding Elevacity Elevate Smart Coffee (Version 3) (powder in a tub).

"The product has been tested by Medsafe and found to contain phenethylamine, a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975," says a statement on the Ministry of Health website.

The warning is published on the Medsafe website.

The Ministry says consumers should not consume the product and should return it to the supplier or dispose of it safely.

"Elevacity Elevate Smart Coffee (Version 3) has been sold for weight loss / weight management and is claimed to improve mood and focus.

"Theres no reliable information about how many people have taken the product.

"This product is supplied through online marketing, so it is not possible to be sure that all sources / importers of these products have been identified."

The Ministry says consumers should seek medical advice if they feel unwell when taking the product."

Medsafe recommens that consumers exercise caution when considering purchasing any products from international websites or through New Zealand-based social media promotions.

"The products may be marketed as supplements or coffee products promoted as assisting weight management, appetite suppression, or mood enhancement.

"Product ingredient lists should be carefully reviewed and discussed with a health professional."

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Warning issued over weight loss coffee - The Bay's News First - SunLive

The Safest Ways to Gain Muscle in a Week – Fast Strength Growth –

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:54 pm

People often strive to lose weight, but there are times where you might want toor even need togain weight.

And while the timeline might vary, bulking up within a week, particularly in muscle mass, could be important for events, tryouts, auditions, or other life situations or health needs.

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And, if you're looking to start building muscle, well, you have to start some week.

Muscle is, after all, the key to improving bone density and boosting strength. And there are many benefits to keep the mass on beyond a week.

Maintaining muscle mass as we age is critical for longevity as it supports functional lifestyle movements as well as our skeletal system, which weakens with age, says Kelly Jones M.S., R.D.

As for the amount of muscle you can gain within a week, it's also important to be realistic. We're talking about your health here.

So don't expect, from a standpoint of safety, that you'll gain more than one pound of muscle per week, says Jones. Genetics play a role. Your metabolism plays a role. Your familiarity with weight training plays a role. Your ability to mainline protein plays a role (more on that later).

But, yes, the general rule is that you can gain about a pound of muscle mass each week safely.

So here are six strategies to gain weightand ensure that those added pounds come in the form of strong, lean muscle instead of fat.

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While some evidence suggests you can gain muscle while in a calorie deficit, its much more difficult this way and your potential for how much gained per week will be lower, says Jones.

Your best bet is to increase the number of calories you are eating each day. Think of your meals and snacks and add a little more to eachnot to overwhelm your stomach in one sitting, but rather increase the total for the day in spurts.

I would then suggest adding around 250 to 500 calories per day to your average calorie intake, says Martin.

And consider tracking calories.

The fundamental principle of weight gain is you have to be in an overall calorie surplusyou take in more calories than you burn, says Charlotte Martin, M.S., R.D.N.

If you find the scale isnt budging it may be helpful to track your calorie intake for a week or so to see how best to add more.

Carbohydrates are the most efficient energy source for exercising muscle, especially when reaching high intensity, so dont cut them out when following an intense training program and trying to gain lean mass, says Jones.

Without carbohydrates (or enough calories), youre more likely to use protein as an energy source rather than for its important structural and metabolic functions.

And eat lots of protein too, because its a key macronutrient for building muscle mass and repairing damaged muscles after a workout.

For muscle growth to occur, muscle protein synthesis must be greater than muscle protein breakdown. For this reason, those who wish to gain muscle must prioritize adequate protein intake, says Martin.

Spread protein intake throughout the day. I often notice men trying to eat large amounts of protein at once when trying to gain lean mass, but rather than extra scoops of protein powder post workout and 12 ounces of poultry at a meal, aim to include more energy from carbs and split protein intake up so that its delivered more regularly to the blood stream and muscles, allowing for more continuous recovery, says Jones.

Going long periods without food means its harder to spread your protein intake throughout the day, putting your body in a catabolic (breakdown) state for too long, says Jones.

This can mean tapping into muscle protein reserves for energy during your fast, regardless of how much you eat in your short eating window. So, dont fast, and make sure you eat every two or three hours during the day.

You might think you can indulge because you need those extra calories. Not quite true.

Regular or excess alcohol intake impairs recovery processes, which can mean slower gains in both muscle mass and progress with your training program, says Jones.

The dietary guidelines for Americans 2020 advisory committee recommended that moderate intake for men be considered just one drink per day versus the previous two, she says.

Thats rightsip on a protein shake before getting ready for bed. Consuming protein before bed has been shown to be effectively digested and absorbed during sleep, therefore stimulating muscle protein synthesis while you sleep, says Martin.

Casein is a favorite nighttime protein because its slow-digesting, meaning it provides a steady supply of amino acids for muscle recovery and helps reduce muscle breakdown while you sleep, she adds.

And go for a powder low in sugar, which can spike blood sugar levels and keep you awake.

Getting around 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night is crucial to increase muscle mass, because thats when your muscles repair most. Sleep plays a vital role in muscle recovery and growth.

Its a key time for the release of human growth hormone, which helps develop muscle mass, says Martin. Plus, getting enough sleep boosts levels of testosterone, a hormone that promotes increased muscle mass as well, she adds.

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Coronavirus isolation killing thousands of Alzheimers patients – Fox News

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Some 13,200 more people than usual have diedfrom dementiasince March, and health care professionals are placing much of the blame on isolation intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

According to a new report in The Washington Post, analysis of federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that more than134,2000 people have passed away from diseases like Alzheimerssince the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation.

Dr. William Burke goes over a PET brain scan Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, at Banner Alzheimers Institute in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Social and mental stimulation both play a critical role in slowing dementia, and doctors have reported increased backsliding in patients who had been stable for years.

The rapid deterioration of dementia made a man in Indianapolis swallow food the wrong way, which led to a lung infection and his eventual death. A Bostonian woman became so atrophied and frail that a slight fall sent her to the hospital multiple times. Others have been struggling with severe weight loss.

Although only a tiny portion of the U.S. population resides in senior care facilities, nursing home deaths have accounted for around40%ofU.S. deaths from COVID-19.

University of PennsylvaniaAlzheimers specialist Dr. Jason Karlawish told The Post that interaction with family is crucial.

Families fill ina lot of gapsat nursing homes. They do much of the feeding and bathing. They advocate and communicate, he said. If you think of Alzheimers as a disability, family members are almost like a cognitive wheelchair for patients who have lost part of their mind. Theyre essential.

Georgia residentDan Goerke, 61, told The Post that he had watched his 63-year-old wife, Denise, decline dramatically and pleaded with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to rescind emergency rules putting facilities on lockdown.

This month,FloridaandArizonasaid they want to reopen nursing homes but have yet to explain how they will do so safely.


Goerke used to visit Denise seven days a week and they had been together for 23 years. The last time he heard her laugh was four months ago. Now, Denise is no longer able to speak to him.

Its like we as a country just dont care anymore about older people, he said. Weve written them off.

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Coronavirus isolation killing thousands of Alzheimers patients - Fox News

HBOs Real Sports takes a deeper look at the dangers of weight cutting in MMA feat. Uriah Hall (video) – MMA Mania

Posted: September 16, 2020 at 3:57 am

If you ask most mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, they will be quick to tell you that the actual fighting part of the sport is sometimes the easiest, as lengthy training camps leading up to it is the most brutal part if it all.

Of course, that portion of the MMA game is accompanied by weight cutting, the grueling ritual nearly every fighter not competing in the Heavyweight division has to go through in order to be able to compete on fight night.

ONE Championship has done away with the practice and despite some overhauling of procedures by some athletic commissions and United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA), there are still several fighters doing everything they can in order to lose weight in a hurry safely every week.

While in some cases weight cuts help bigger fighters gain a size and strength advantage on the day of the fight, as we have seen multiple times it can lead to severe health complications and sometimes death.

Now, HBOs award-winning Real Sports will take a deeper look at the dangers of weight cutting in MMA in an episode dedicated to the practice, which is set to air on Tuesday, September 22 at 10 P.M. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

The event will feature several notable fighters giving their first hand account with weight cutting, including Uriah Hall who had a very scary incident in 2018 which caused him to collapse and go into a seizure.

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HBOs Real Sports takes a deeper look at the dangers of weight cutting in MMA feat. Uriah Hall (video) - MMA Mania

Westbury slimmers back together after months of virtual slimming – White Horse News

Posted: September 16, 2020 at 3:57 am

Story posted on September 15, 2020

SLIMMERS from Westbury are making a comeback as their Slimming World group reopens, with local Slimming World consultants Juliet and Katherine saying they are excited to be back helping members to lose weight and improve their health in person.

Slimming World has been supporting members virtually in online weekly groups since March, when lockdown closed all of the organisations community groups. Now, following the current easing of restrictions in many areas, real-life groups are beginning to reopen step-by-step.

Juliet and Katherine in Westbury are putting measures in place to ensure groups comply fully with government and local guidance and so that their members have been able to return safely to their much-loved Slimming World groups.

Juliet says, Im delighted to finally be back together with my members! Our virtual groups have been a vital lifeline of support and Im so, so proud of how my members have been there for each other through these difficult months and continued to lose weight and get more active. Theres nothing quite like the magic of our real-life groups, though, and research of our members during lockdown has shown that while our members have loved attending their virtual groups, theyve missed the motivational power and accountability of meeting in person each week.

She says the health and safety of members has been her teams top priority in planning the return of Slimming World groups, Members will find a few things have changed in our groups to ensure that everyone feels as safe, confident and comfortable as they possibly can. This includes appropriate social distancing, hygiene measures and shorter sessions, which well be asking members to book in to before attending. What hasnt changed is the gorgeous warm welcome, feeling of togetherness and the joy of being in it together week on week.

As well as looking forward to that feeling of being back together with our existing Slimming World members, we cant wait to welcome new members in Westbury to our groups too. Obesity is a huge issue in the news at the moment with evidence showing that carrying extra weight makes it harder for the body to fight Covid-19, and the government announcing brand-new plans to tackle obesity across the UK which Slimming World are very proud to be part of. Plus, we know many peoples routines were turned upside down by lockdown and lots of us have been feeling more worried or anxious than usual, all of which can have an impact on making healthy choices.

Lizzie Lee who has lost 3st herself says, I want anyone whos worrying about their weight or health especially if theyve put on a few extra pounds during lockdown to know that there will be absolutely no judgement at a Slimming World group just lots of understanding and a very warm welcome. At Slimming World losing weight isnt about going hungry our eating plan is extra easy, very delicious and super generous. And moving more doesnt mean running marathons unless you want to, of course.

Katherine, who has reopened her groups in a new venue says, Our groups are hubs of recipe-swapping, idea-sharing and problem-solving activity. Through our weekly sessions, youll discover how to identify the stoppers and potential pitfalls that could send you off track or that have maybe prevented you from reaching your weight-loss goals in the past and learn to develop strategies to overcome them.

The new healthy habits youll discover will soon become habits of a lifetime, and there really is no better time to start afresh when it comes to developing new lifelong healthy habits around food and activity because, as many of the members of our groups have seen, when you lose weight youre already doing one of the very best things you can to future-proof your health.

Juliet and Katherines Slimming World groups in Westbury will be from open now. For more information visit http://www.slimmingworld. or contact Juliet on 07747 190279 or Katherine on 07887 690800

Due to new safety measures, all members are asked to book into a group before attending and you can discover what a real-life Slimming World group will look like with all safety measures in place here:

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Westbury slimmers back together after months of virtual slimming - White Horse News

The breaking point – –

Posted: September 16, 2020 at 3:57 am

This is the second part of a multipart series. Read Part One, The kids left behind, here.

Josephine Senek cant be left alone.

The 12-year-old with short brown hair and an easy smile cant dress herself. She cant go to the bathroom on her own. She cant pour cereal into a bowl.

But Josephine, who has autism and a rare brain disorder, has always been able to learn.

Before her school closed in March, she was working hard to master skills like washing her hands, counting to 30 and kicking a ball, all in the hopes she will someday become more independent, her mother Krysta Senek said.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and stripped Josephine of her school. Her one-on-one aide. Her physical therapy. Her friends. In the blink of an eye, Josephines entire social and academic structure was gone.

I will tell you, she didnt learn anything, Senek said of her daughters experience when Celebrate the Children school in Denville shifted to remote learning as COVID-19 swept through New Jersey. There was not a thing that was really learned.

Instead, Josephines meltdowns became more frequent. She refused to wear her scoliosis brace, adding to her back problems. Most nights, she regressed to sleeping in her parents' bed.

A few weeks into the coronavirus shutdown, Senek heard about a New Jersey mother who killed her special needs daughter and then herself. Her mind raced. What about the other special education parents she knows? Could they be pushed to their breaking point?

I was so emotionally taken by that, and I was shaking, said Senek, of West Orange. Because it got to the point, for us, where it was extremely taxing.

Special education in New Jersey was already an imperfect system, replete with opportunities for students to slip through the cracks, many parents and advocates say. Then COVID-19 arrived and demolished it, jeopardizing the health, development and education of children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.

More than 200,000 students who receive special education services were sent home for the final three months of the 2019-2020 school year. Their opportunities to learn were often tied to their families' ability to pay for private services or transform themselves into full-time support staff, parents and advocates said.

Some students with special needs were unable to focus and gave up on virtual learning. Social and behavioral skills that took years to develop rapidly deteriorated. And in the absence of physical therapy, many childrens bodies suffered, a devastating backslide in their lifelong battle with disabilities.

It was like a lost cause, said Jaqueline Tobacco, the mother of a special education student in Middletown Township. We were all just trying to stay above water.

Saafir Jenkins Jr., 6, has autism. His parents, Anfal Muhammad Jenkins and Saafir Jenkins Sr., witnessed their son losing speech and handwriting skills when his school closed. Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media

Special education students remain marginalized, advocates and parents say, as more than 230 districts begin the school year with remote-only instruction. And inequity both statewide and within individual districts leaves children of color with fewer special education resources, said Anfal Muhammad Jenkins, executive director of Newarks Special Education Parent Advisory Council.

Based on the school your child is in and the ward that your child is in, it kind of dictated how much and how many resources you were afforded, she said. That is totally inappropriate, and it is discriminatory.

The pandemic impacted nearly every aspect of special education.

Some schools took weeks, if not months, to launch virtual therapy sessions. Mandated evaluations of students seeking services screeched to a halt. And in-person summer school programs were scarce, in part because superintendents thought state guidelines were inadequate to keep students and staff safe.

Gov. Phil Murphy has said there is a big impetus to try to find responsible, safe ways to be in-person for special education. Yet many students are still waiting at a time when every day is precious, advocates said.

Children with disabilities can take years to master a skill, only to regress in a matter of weeks, said Jennifer Rosen Valverde, an attorney who represents low-income families with children in special education.

I think that we should envision that these children will have lost a year of their schooling when all is said and done, Rosen Valverde said. That one year can turn into three, four years of lost progress depending upon the severity of their needs.

Josephine, who was born without the large bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, could be one of those children.

Her school faced a steep learning curve in the spring, but is now offering in-person and hybrid instruction this fall, said Monica Osgood, executive director of Celebrate the Children.

We did the very best we could with the challenge we were given, Osgood said.

But Josephine, like many students across the state, begins this school year in the classroom only two days a week. Without an aide at home, she will learn nothing the other three days, her mother said.

I feel forgotten, Senek said. I feel like my daughter doesnt matter.

Josephine Senek lost her social and academic structure when her school closed.Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media

When Bayshore Middle School closed, Sean Liberatore was told to get on a computer and complete his schoolwork from home, just like everyone else.

The problem? Sean is not like everyone else.

The 14-year-old has autism and learns at a third-grade level, said his mother, Christina Liberatore. He worked on assignments from his Middletown Township home, within earshot of his three older siblings. The situation quickly devolved into a nightmare.

Sean typically the sweetest boy on the planet became increasingly irritable, Liberatore said. He was so annoyed by the slightest noise that he started covering his ears and hitting himself on the head every time someone talked, she said.

The tipping point? The day Sean hurled a mason jar across the kitchen, sending shattered glass everywhere.

I was basically just trying to keep Sean calm most of the day, Liberatore said. That was my main job. Keep him calm so he wouldnt throw things or hit somebody or cry.

Closing schools protected special education students from the coronavirus. But it raised complex questions that officials couldnt answer.

How do you replicate face-to-face, one-on-one instruction for students with disabilities?

How do parents simulate a specialists expertise?

Some parents thought the solution was obvious: Find a way to maintain at least some in-person classes for special needs students.

I wish the governors office and the state could have at least separated the special education kids from the general education, Liberatore said. They kind of lumped them together. They do need way more support, and that is why they get the support in school. Because we cant do that on our own.

When the pandemic hit, federal officials offered vague guidance to schools, recommending they provide services to the most appropriate extent possible.

For some families, that meant no services at all, said Peg Kinsell, policy director for SPAN Parent Advocacy Network.

Obviously, the pandemic caught everybody by surprise, Kinsell said. There was never a real structure or a lot of planning for if something happened and you had to go remote. And that was crystal clear.

The daunting task of teaching special education children at home was a shock that forced schools to do a total 180, said Gerard Thiers, executive director of ASAH, a group that represents private schools exclusively for students with disabilities.

Several private schools academies where public districts pay tuition to send their most severely disabled students pivoted to virtual learning more successfully, parents said. And some public schools were more nimble than others. The result was extreme inequality across the state, Rosen Valverde said.

Sean Liberatore, 13, showing a photo of himself at his fifth-grade graduation. Sean has autism and struggled learning from home when his school closed. Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media

The states nearly 600 school districts seemed to have 600 different plans, Kinsell noted.

I have one family where every single person in that family is dyslexic, Rosen Valverde said. How are they then supposed to teach their second-grader, their third-grader how to read?

Lauren Bergner, the mother of a 6-year-old with autism, was shocked when her son came home with worksheets, considering he cant write.

He doesnt even know how to write his name, said Bergner, of Wood-Ridge. So how could you give him these worksheets?

The loss of in-person learning and therapy did immeasurable harm to children, parents say. Many have asked for in-home instruction this fall if their schools are not open, saying it is the only way for their children to receive their mandatory services.

But navigating contractual issues and legal liability makes the process difficult.

Districts are overwhelmed trying to determine the best way to deliver services, said Betsy Ginsburg, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.

I think both parents and schools are really caught in a bind in this situation, said Ginsburg, who represents about 100 suburban districts. It has just become a very challenging situation.

Liberatore tried everything she could with Sean, making schedule after schedule on whiteboards. They took daily walks to keep him calm. She asked him to complete worksheets from two years ago, just to keep him engaged in academics.

But none of it helped him focus on his current assignments.

He is just so confused, because he cant express himself, Liberatore said. God knows what is going on in his head.

Liberatore knows what Sean needed: A classroom. A teacher. Specialists who are trained to work with children with disabilities.

She witnessed her son break down and cry for weeks on end.

It is really just heartbreaking watching that from your child, Liberatore said. I am not even concerned about my childs reading level. I just want him to not hurt himself, and I think that is not a lot to ask for.

Middletown special education students were going to be in their self-contained classrooms five full days each week this fall, Liberatore said.

But in late August, the district cut back to half-days for special education, Liberatore said. Shes desperately hoping Sean can reclaim his old life this week, when he begins classes.

I am afraid of what will happen to my son if there is no school for him, she said.

Sean Liberatore at home in Middletown.Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media

Lucy Adlers daughter needed help.

A first-grader last school year, Isabella was intelligent and articulate, yet met sight-word flash cards with a blank stare.

In January, a psychologist diagnosed the curly, brown-haired girl with dyslexia. She just needed a school district evaluation, scheduled for March 30, to begin receiving special education services.

Then schools shut down, and the evaluation was canceled. Adler was left in limbo.

Under federal law, Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools had 90 days to evaluate Isabella from the date they learned of the independent diagnosis. But the evaluations are required to be done in person, and the entire state was locked down to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Adler felt her daughter was falling further behind with each passing day during a critical year for developing reading skills.

This 90 days was like the bane of my existence, Adler said. When 90 days came and went and there was no test, they were like, Well, it has to be face to face. There is nothing we can do. And that was it.

Like other districts, Caldwell-West Caldwell faced an incredible challenge and responded as well as it could with intelligence and care, superintendent James Heinegg said.

The district eventually performed the evaluation July 7, six months after the initial diagnosis. The results showed Isabella has dyslexia, and the district is drafting her individualized education plan, Adler said.

Already behind, Isabella will begin this school year in virtual classes until at least Oct. 7, when the district has targeted reopening.

She has completely fallen through a crack, Adler said.

The pandemic has turned special education into a waiting game. Waiting for evaluations. Waiting for compensatory services for missed therapy sessions. Waiting just to get back into school.

Some children of color have to wait even longer, parents said.

Newark Public Schools saw dramatic inequity within the district, said Saafir Jenkins Sr., the father of a 6-year-old with autism.

Some schools in the citys East and North wards, which have more white and Hispanic students, were able to provide virtual therapy more quickly, Jenkins Sr. said. Other schools in the South, Central and West wards, which serve predominantly Black students, didnt offer related services before June in some cases, Jenkins Sr. said.

All Newark students who needed therapy were addressed in the spring, district spokeswoman Nancy Deering said. But thats not what families experienced, Jenkins Sr. said.

It really is telling that that type of equity hasnt been achieved in Newark alone, let alone in the larger landscape of New Jersey as a state, said Jenkins Sr., husband to Muhammad Jenkins. It is certainly something that needs to be evaluated and addressed.

Saafir Jenkins Jr. works on his math while his parents, Anfal Muhammad Jenkins and Saafir Jenkins Sr., watch.Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media

Many parents and advocates point to the summer as a missed opportunity.

Schools could have used July to tackle the backlog of evaluations which they are still legally required to complete and restart in-person physical therapy, Kinsell said.

Instead, families are still waiting for evaluations, while a large number of schools have yet to offer in-person services, she said.

Once you could do that safely, that should have been the next step, Kinsell said.

The biggest misstep may have been the failure to restart the Extended School Year summer program in person. By early June, many districts had decided the program would have to be virtual. Then on June 12, Murphy announced guidance for summer schools: Follow the same rules as summer camps.

The directive came as soon as it was possible to provide guidance that would keep students and staff safe, said Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

But superintendents quickly panned the guidance, saying it was inadequate and came far too late for a safe reopening.

ASAH had pressed the governor to allow in-person summer instruction before Murphys guidance, Thiers said. After school leaders saw the safety procedures, only about 20 of the 130 schools the organization represents were able to reopen, he said.

The vast majority of public schools provided a virtual program, but some families opted out to give their children a break from the stress of remote school.

Kristi Hutchings, the parent of a kindergartner on the autism spectrum, assumed children would be a top priority. But she had a bad feeling when a reopening plan for casinos was released before a summer school guidance for special needs students.

Somebody in education should have really thought about what extended school year looks like, Hutchings said. It wasnt camp.

With schools in scramble mode yet again, theres reason to worry about special education this fall, said David Hespe, a former state education commissioner.

When everyone becomes a priority, what normally happens is marginalized students become even more marginalized, he said.

Richelle Lee works with her son Eli, 8, at home in Willingboro. Eli has autism and has been home without special education services. Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media

Finally alone, Richelle Lee collapsed onto her living room floor and broke down.

She had just finished cleaning up after another long day at home with her son, Eli. And Lee couldnt take it anymore.

I am sitting there, and I am just crying, she said, because I dont know what the hell is going to happen next.

The 8-year-old with autism was thriving before The Archway School at Coopers Poynt in Camden was forced to close. Now he was shutting down without his full-time aide and support services.

Eli, tall and skinny with dark, curly hair, stopped eating even his beloved bacon. He soon stopped talking as much as he had. He started crawling underneath his bed to feel squeezed between the floor and bed frame to meet his sensory needs.

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