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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Sam Bankman-Fried Cites Autism to Request a Lighter Sentence



Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez at Yahoo:
In a last-ditch effort to get a more lenient sentence, lawyers for disgraced CEO Sam Bankman-Fried are citing his autism as one reason why he should get five to six years in prison instead of the maximum of 110 years laid out by sentencing guidelines.

In a sentencing memo filed Tuesday, lawyers for SBF asked a judge to sentence him to 63 to 78 months in jail in part because he is “uniquely vulnerable in a prison population.” His lawyers claim that SBF’s autism spectrum disorder puts him at higher risk of violence and extortion by other inmates because of how he acts, according to the filing.
“Because individuals with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) may have difficulty responding to certain social cues and contexts, they are at risk from both other inmates and prison guards who may view their failure to respond ‘appropriately’ to social cues as disrespectful or disobedient,” SBF’s lawyers write in the memo.

Bankman-Fried would also have trouble understanding and acting in accordance with any “unwritten rules,” that rely on social cues and differ from the actual rules of the prison, according to the filing.

 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Measles Redux in Florida

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread   Examples include measlesCOVID, flu, and polio.


Ron DeSantis's surgeon general is notorious in this respect.

 Los Angeles Times editorial notes that measles is extremely contagious and potentially deadly.

So it’s especially disheartening to observe the new measles cases in Floridaeight and growing at last count. It’s not the biggest measles outbreak in recent years, but the ho-hum attitude of the state’s top public health official, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, is deeply troubling.
Most of the cases so far have been among students at an elementary school in Broward County. But one is a preschooler — an extremely dangerous age for complications — whose connection to the school is unclear. Something like this was bound to happen. Measles is infectious from four days before the telltale rash appears to four days after. That means parents often don’t know when their child might be infected and capable of transmitting the virus to others in and out of school.
Florida has a reasonable law requiring vaccination for children to attend private or public school. Unlike California, which allows exemptions only for children with legitimate health reasons, Florida lets parents opt out for religious beliefs, a common loophole throughout the country. And the vaccination rates at the elementary school in question was higher than the national average, at 97%.

The problem in quelling this outbreak, though, is the lackadaisical attitude of Ladapo, who has earned notoriety by promoting COVID-19 vaccine skepticism. Last month, he called for a halt to using mRNA vaccines to fight COVID-19. Still it was shocking that in the midst of the outbreak, he ignored the public health standard set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which calls for isolating unvaccinated people for 21 days after possible exposure, and is allowing parents to decide whether to send their unvaccinated kids to school. He didn’t even encourage parents of unvaccinated children to get a quick, preventive dose.

Michael Hiltzik at LAT:

Ladapo was installed as surgeon general by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, largely because he mouthed the same propaganda opposing anti-COVID measures, including the vaccines, as the governor. DeSantis hasn’t spoken in public about the measles outbreak, but make no mistake: He deserves equal blame for the consequences.

To say that Ladapo’s advisory left physicians and epidemiologists aghast would be a massive understatement. Allowing unimmunized children to go to school where they could be exposed to measles contradicts every responsible recommendation from medical science.

Ladapo tried to justify the decision to let unimmunized children exposed to measles go to school by asserting that the vaccination rate is high enough.

But as epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina observed on her blog, Your Local Epidemiologist, while the vaccination rate in Florida is just over 90%, that’s “not high enough — because measles is so contagious, the threshold for herd immunity against measles is 95%. This means there are pockets in the school, other schools, and a community that measles could burn through.”


Monday, February 26, 2024

Autism, COVID, and Inequality

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges were especially tough during the pandemic.

Anderson, K.A., Radey, M., Rast, J.E. et al. The Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Autistic Children and Their Families. J Autism Dev Disord (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-024-06280-y

Abstract

Purpose

We used data from the National Survey of Children’s Health to (1) examine differences in economic hardship and safety net program use after the implementation of federal relief efforts, and (2) assess whether the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated autism-based disparities in hardship and program use.
Methods

We examined five dimensions of economic hardship (poverty, food insecurity, medical hardship, medical costs, and foregone work) and four safety net programs (cash assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and free or reduced-cost meals). First, we calculated adjusted prevalence and odds ratios to compare pre-COVID (2018–2019) and during COVID (2021) outcomes by autism status. Next, we calculated the adjusted odds of each outcome among autistic children compared to those of children with and without other special healthcare needs at both time points.
Results

COVID-19 exacerbated autism-based disparities in food insecurity, SNAP, and public health insurance, but alleviated inequities in medical hardship, foregone work, and cash assistance. Autistic children did not experience declines in food insecurity or increases in SNAP like other children; medical hardship and foregone work decreased more for autistic children; and the magnitude of autism-based differences in public coverage significantly increased during the pandemic.
Conclusion

Federal relief efforts likely improved economic outcomes of children; however, these effects varied according to type of hardship and by disability group. Efforts to promote economic well-being among autistic populations should be tailored to the financial challenges most salient to low-income autistic children, like food insecurity.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Florida's Pro-Measles Surgeon General

  In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread   Examples include measlesCOVID, flu, and polio.

Ron DeSantis's surgeon general is notorious in this respect.

Jacob Knutson at Axios:
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo contradicted federal health guidelines on measles this week by not urging parents to vaccinate their children against one of the world's most contagious viruses.

Why it matters: Ladapo's apathy toward measles vaccinations comes as a Florida elementary school is attempting to contain an outbreak and as measles cases have remerged across the U.S.
  • It's also an extension of effort by Ladapo and other conservative officials to undermine federal public health norms and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations — particularly those about vaccinations.
Details: In response to at least six confirmed measles cases at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, Florida, Ladapo told parents in a letter that the state's health department was deferring to them for "decisions about school attendance.
  • "He said the state would not make a recommendation "due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school."
  • Ladapo acknowledged in the letter it's "normally" advised that unvaccinated children without a prior measles infection stay home for up to 21 days after a case is detected in a school — the CDC's guidance.
  • The state surgeon general also did not recommend vaccines to prevent measles despite recognizing their effectiveness at preventing illness

Friday, February 23, 2024

RFK Jr. Event in Los Angeles

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrongA leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

Dani Anguiano at The Guardian:

Inside the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday night, comedians cracked jokes about wokeness, the “scamdemic”, Joe Biden’s age and stumbles – and Robert F Kennedy Jr made his pitch, of sorts, to voters.

 ...

Kennedy has been campaigning across the country for months, and on Wednesday he was on his home turf of Los Angeles, where his wife, Cheryl Hines, the Curb Your Enthusiasm star, hosted a fundraiser in the form of a comedy show. The event was open to anyone with $150 to spare and promised a “Night of Laughter” with standup from names such as Adam Carolla, Jeremy Piven and Rob Schneider – the one-time SNL star and now conservative influencer.

...

Kennedy has polled higher than expected and drawn support from both Democrats and Republicans, though a review by FiveThirtyEight of eight polls on his popularity found that he was better liked among Republicans, which some experts believe is due to his promotion of conspiracy theories and role as an anti-vaccine activist.

...

Some comedians did not touch on politics at all, but jokes about Biden falling or the pandemic being “designed” drew rapturous applause, as did a line about Larry David’s support for Barack Obama. The creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm told the New York Times last year that he is not backing Kennedy’s candidacy. Mentions of California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, unsurprisingly also elicited boos.

The reference to the "scamdemic" calls to mind a disruptive 2021 protest at a Dodger Stadium mass vaccination  site:

A post on social media described the demonstration as the “Scamdemic Protest/March.” It advised participants to “please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Antivax Groups Make Out Like Bandits

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrongA leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

Lauren Weber at WP:
Four major nonprofits that rose to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic by capitalizing on the spread of medical misinformation collectively gained more than $118 million between 2020 and 2022, enabling the organizations to deepen their influence in statehouses, courtrooms and communities across the country, a Washington Post analysis of tax records shows.

Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine group founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., received $23.5 million in contributions, grants and other revenue in 2022 alone — eight times what it collected the year before the pandemic began — allowing it to expand its state-based lobbying operations to cover half the country. Another influential anti-vaccine group, Informed Consent Action Network, nearly quadrupled its revenue during that time to about $13.4 million in 2022, giving it the resources to finance lawsuits seeking to roll back vaccine requirements as Americans’ faith in vaccines drops.

Two other groups, Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance and America’s Frontline Doctors, went from receiving $1 million combined when they formed in 2020 to collecting more than $21 million combined in 2022, according to the latest tax filings available for the groups.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Autistic College Students, Social Connections, Depression, and Anxiety


 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the autism spectrum

 McKenney, E. E., Richards, J. K., Day, T. C., Brunwasser, S. M., Cucchiara, C. L., Kofner, B., McDonald, R. G., Gillespie-Lynch, K., Lamm, J., Kang, E., Lerner, M. D., & Gotham, K. O. (2024). Satisfaction with social connectedness is associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in neurodiverse first-semester college students. Autism, 0(0). 

https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613231216879

Lay abstract:

How satisfied people feel with their social connections and support is related to mental health outcomes for many different types of people. People may feel less socially connected at some times in their life—like when they start college. Feeling disconnected from others could lead to depression or anxiety. The transition to college may be especially difficult for autistic students as they are more likely to have difficulties adjusting socially. In our study, we asked 263 college students to answer questions about their emotions and social satisfaction twice per week during their first semester of college. We found that students who reported being less satisfied with their social connectedness (either at the beginning or throughout the semester) tended to express more symptoms of depression and anxiety. This relationship between social satisfaction and anxiety was even stronger for people who had a strong desire for social interaction (i.e. were more socially motivated). Students with more autistic traits tended to report more mood concerns, and they also reported being less satisfied with friendships at the beginning of the semester. This information may help to support ongoing efforts to better address mental health in autistic college students by encouraging efforts to improve social satisfaction.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Helping Disabled People Get Licenses


WBZ-TV's Penny Kmitt:
There's a non-profit north of Boston that's helping students of all abilities get their driver's licenses in Massachusetts.

The Northeast Independent Living Program (NILP) in Lawrence provides services to people with disabilities who want to live independently.

"We're just really out there to try to help consumers live independent lives. It can be as small as tying their shoes or as big as getting their license," said NILP's Youth Services Program Manager Steven Michelson.

NILP is hosting a Massachusetts Driver's Manual Training Program during February vacation. From Tuesday to Friday, students will learn the driver's manual in a way that is fun, engaging, and caters to all different learning styles.

The courses are accessible in person and via Zoom.

"We've gone through the entire manual, broke it down into PowerPoints. We're able to break it down, easy to read fonts, fun exercises throughout the week. We cover one to two chapters. We give multiple opportunities for breaks," Michelson told WBZ-TV.

Nineteen-year-old Adi Chunduru has autism and took the course last year. Despite working with NILP for years he believes this was the group's most beneficial program.

"I would say driving was the thing, the barrier, that they've helped me overcome. I think it did what it set up to do. Their goal is to help people with disabilities get to where they want to be," he explained.


Monday, February 19, 2024

Mercola and Psychics

  In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread   Examples include measlesCOVID, flu, and polio.

A leading anti-vaxxer is Joseph Mercola.

Rick Polito at Natural Products Insider:

Top executives at Mercola, the brand founded by controversial Covid anti-vax figure Dr. Joseph Mercola, were terminated last week without notice, and evidence has surfaced that the doctor is taking direction from a man who claims to channel the voice of an “ancient and wise high-vibration entity from the causal plane.”

An email that appears to be written by Mercola and shared with a reporter for this story also includes language suggesting the firings were related to the executives’ religious beliefs. Mercola did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
...

In hours of video discovered online, Mercola converses with a man going by the name Kai Clay who speaks as though he is the voice of the entity, referred to as “Bahlon.” Clay, with his eyes closed as if in trance, talks with Mercola about his business and spiritual matters in a rambling conversation that the doctor claims will be the basis of a series of books he plans to publish. In a video of Mercola that was shared with the brand’s employees Feb. 12, the doctor described a 12-book series as “a new beginning for the company” and declared that “my new goal is to reach billions, literally billions, around the world with a new paradigm of how to increase joy in their life.”

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Blue Envelopes in a Massachusetts Community

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Some jurisdictions allow autistic drivers to ask for a blue envelope to disclose the driver's diagnosis in case of an accident or traffic stop .

Temi-Tope Adeleye at WJAR-TV:

Dartmouth [Massachusetts] police are participating in a program to ease interactions with drivers on the Autism spectrum. Detective Kyle Costa said the Blue Envelope program allows drivers with Autism to share their status while following orders. "If somebody is out there that can't communicate as well as others that the program is obviously an awesome option for them," said Costa. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Early Intervention and Racial Disparities

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the experiences of different economicethnic and racial groups.   Inequality is a big part of the story

 Mendez, A. I., McQueen, E., Gillespie, S., Klin, A., Klaiman, C., & Pickard, K. (2024). Access to Part C, Early Intervention for children younger than 4 years evaluated for autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 0(0). https://doi-org.ccl.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/13623613241229150 

Lay abstract:

Health disparities are defined as preventable differences in the opportunities to achieve optimal health outcomes experienced by marginalized and underrepresented communities. For families with autistic children, health disparities limit accessing early intervention services—which have been found to improve quality of life and other outcomes. One specific early intervention service in the United States is Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part C Early Intervention programs, which are federally funded interventions for children birth-to-three with developmental delays. This study adds to this topic by examining which factors impact accessing Part C, Early Intervention services for children who were evaluated for autism. Results showed that only half of the sample received these services despite there being concerns about development for all children. In addition, results showed that those who identified as Black had decreased odds of having accessed Part C, Early Intervention compared to those who identified as White. These results suggest that there are disparities when it comes to accessing important early intervention services that may be negatively impacting the Black autistic community.

From the article:

This study provides important information on treatment disparities for children with an increased likelihood of having autism prior to receiving a diagnostic evaluation for autism. This is an important question to understand, given the growing recognition of the EI system being an entry point to therapeutic supports for many children who go on to receive a medical diagnosis of autism (Eisenhower et al., 2021). Although families of children with developmental delays are able to access Part C EI services irrespective of a medical diagnosis of autism, only half of the participating children were reportedly receiving EI services prior to their diagnostic evaluation, despite all children having developmental concerns that supported a referral for an autism evaluation. In fact, available data on clinical characteristics, including intellectual and developmental skills, revealed no significant differences between children who were and who were not reportedly receiving EI services. This finding persisted even when only considering children who were later diagnosed with autism—only 50% of autistic children had accessed EI services prior to their diagnostic evaluation. These children would have shown clinically significant levels of impairment in social communication and restrictive and repetitive behavior and therefore have all been eligible for EI services.

Although research has not yet examined the developmental trajectories of children who do and do not receive EI services, it is possible that delayed or no enrollment in EI services has negative consequences for child development and family well-being (Adams et al., 2013). Access to Part C, EI may also support enrollment into Part B special education services through the school system. Research suggests that 88% of children enrolled in Part C, EI go on to receive Part B services (i.e. special educations services), whereas only 46.5% of children with developmental delays receive Part B services if they were not previously enrolled in Part C EI services (Shenouda et al., 2022). Therefore, missing the opportunity to enroll in EI services can have long-term effects in the enrollment of and access to special education services after children turn 3 years old.

When investigating the unique role of sociodemographic factors on parent-reported access to EI services, race and age of first parental concern were each related to reported EI service access. More specifically, Black families reported a lower likelihood of having received EI services. This finding is largely consistent with literature demonstrating that Black children experience a number of disparities in accessing autism services, and EI services specifically (Constantino et al., 2020; Shenouda et al., 2022). However, we now know that these disparities are present within broader systems of care that support children prior to an autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the results of this study corroborate the importance of first parental concern (Angell et al., 2018). For this sample, children whose parents became concerned about their development at a younger age were slightly more likely to access EI services. Given that EI services are only available for children birth to 3 years old, it follows that those whose parents notice developmental differences earlier have more time to access those services.

 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Ultraprocessed Foods and Phthalates

  In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the condition

Brennan H. Baker and colleagues have an article in  Environment International titled  "Ultra-processed and fast food consumption, exposure to phthalates during pregnancy, and socioeconomic disparities in phthalate exposures."

Highlights

  • Consumption of ultra-processed foods and fast foods are associated with higher concentrations of phthalic acid, mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP), mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP), mono(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate (MECPP), mono(2-carboxymethylhexyl) phthalate (MCMHP), and molar sum of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (ΣDEHP) in a socioeconomically diverse population of pregnant women.•
  • Ultra-processed food consumption mediates associations of lower income and education levels with higher ΣDEHP.
  • Diets high in vegetables, fruits, yogurt, fish, and nuts are associated with lower urinary ΣDEHP, MEHHP, MECPP, MCMHP, and mono-isononyl phthalate (MINP).
If you’re pregnant, you may want to think twice before making a hamburger run or reaching for a prepackaged pastry, according to research published last month in the journal Environmental International.

Oddly enough it’s not the food that the report targets — not the fries, burgers or even the shakes and cakes — but what touches the food before you eat it.

Research shows that phthalates, a class of chemicals associated with plastics, can shed from the wrapping, packaging and even from plastic gloves worn by food handlers into food. Once consumed during pregnancy, the chemicals can get into the bloodstream, through the placenta and then into the fetal bloodstream.

The chemical can cause oxidative stress and an inflammatory cascade within the fetus, researchers noted. Previous literature has indicated that exposure to phthalates during pregnancy can increase the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth and child mental health disorders such as autism and ADHD.

There is a very long and growing list of other correlatesrisk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies: 

  1. Inflammatory bowel disease;
  2. Pesticides;
  3. Air pollution and proximity to freeways;
  4. Maternal thyroid issues;
  5. Autoimmune disorders;
  6. Induced labor;
  7. Preterm birth;
  8. Fever;  
  9. Birth by cesarean section;
  10. Anesthesia during cesarean sections;
  11. Maternal and paternal obesity;
  12. Maternal diabetes;
  13. Maternal and paternal age;
  14. Grandparental age;
  15. Maternal post-traumatic stress disorder;
  16. Maternal anorexia;
  17. Smoking during pregnancy;
  18. Cannabis use during pregnancy;
  19. Antidepressant use during pregnancy;
  20. Polycystic ovary syndrome;
  21. Infant opioid withdrawal;
  22. Zinc deficiency;
  23. Sulfate deficiency;
  24. Processed foods;
  25. Maternal occupational exposure to solvents;
  26. Congenital heart disease;
  27. Insufficient placental allopregnanolone.
  28. Estrogen in the womb;
  29. Morning sickness;
  30. Paternal family history;
  31. Parental preterm birth;
  32. Antiseizure meds
  33. Location of forebears
  34. Lithium
  35. Aspartame
  36. BPA
  37. Brain inflammation
  38. Maternal asthma
  39. Infertility

 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Cathy McMorris Rodgers to Retire from Congress

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the congressional role in the issue.

I have an article at The Forum: "Disability Policy in the Contemporary Congress." Abstract:

The politics of disability policy in the contemporary Congress confirms the observation by James Curry and Frances Lee that lawmaking largely remains a process of bipartisan accommodation. Most major disability legislation since the 1970s has passed with bipartisan sponsorship and support. One reason is that the issue affects so many Americans, including members of Congress. There have been some exceptions to this bipartisan pattern, particularly when disability policy intersects with more contentious issues. And bipartisanship does not guarantee outcomes that are satisfactory to people with disabilities.

Andru Zodrow NonStop Local:
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) has announced that she is not seeking reelection in 2024. She has served in congress since 2005 and is an influential figure in both Congress and the Republican Party. Her choice to not run again marks a sea-change in regional politics.

...

Eric Michael Garcia, an MSNBC columnist and advocate for autistic people, noted that McMorris Rodgers made disability issues a consistent theme of her legislative work.

“Cathy McMorris Rodgers is an outspoken voice on ending subminimum wage labor for people with [disabilities.] Her son has Down Syndrome. I was surprised she didn’t put herself up for speaker,” Garcia wrote.

Conservative media figure Brandi Kruse registered her surprise with the decision, and argued that McMorris Rodgers’ departure was part of a broader shift in the Congress.

“We’ve seen this really across the country, from some of the more sane members of congress, where it's just become too much–it's become a sideshow,” Kruse said.

She chairs the Education and Workforce Committee. Daniela Altimari and David Jordan at Roll Call:

Most recently, she led the House debate ahead of passage of a bill this week to ban federal programs from using “quality-adjusted life years” in assessing the value of treatments. Disability advocates argue the strategy discounts people with disabilities. Democrats, for their part, support the concept but argued that the bill, as written, goes further and could hinder other strategies to assess cost-effectiveness.

...

Her son, Cole Rodgers, was born with an extra chromosome and that, she said, inspired her to become an advocate for people with disabilities.

“Cole was with me on the House floor when we passed the ABLE Act, which marked a new chapter of opportunity and independence for people living with a disability,’’ she said, referring to legislation she helped shepherd through that helps people with disabilities open tax-free savings accounts.
Rodgers has cited her son as a reason she is passionately against abortion. She frequently references him as a motivator on issues related to protecting life.