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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cameras in Special Ed Classrooms

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities.

KXAS-TV  in Dallas:
Dallas ISD trustees are talking about some potential changes that could affect hundreds of special education classrooms in the district.
It's a new proposal presented this month by trustee Dustin Marshall of District 2 in the north Dallas area.
Right now, state law requires cameras to be installed only of a parent, teacher or staff member requests it.

This DISD proposal would just outright require it in all special education classrooms.
Marshall said installing cameras district-wide would help protect the most vulnerable kids in DISD and even protect teachers if they are falsely accused of wrongdoing.
"These are really our most vulnerable children. Many of them have autism, down syndrome -- most of them are nonverbal. So if there was an incident in their classroom, the kids can't speak up for themselves and can't report it," he explained. "And from time to time, we do have reports of incidents. Sometimes there's merit to them and sometimes not, and having a camera in classroom provides accountability for the teachers and adults that encounter that child."

DISD administrators voiced concerns at the last meeting that cameras in nearly 500 classrooms could be expensive or could even drive teachers away.
Others raise privacy concerns.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Ohio Study: Gaps in Transition Aid

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. ... People in the disability community refer to this point in life as “the cliff.” Once autistic people go over the cliff, they have a hard time getting services such as job placement, vocational training, and assistive technology. IDEA entitles students to transition planning services during high school, but afterwards, they have to apply as adults and establish eligibility for state and federal help. One study found that 39 percent of young autistic adults received no service at all, and most of the rest got severely limited services.
A release from Case Western Reserve University:
New research at Case Western Reserve University found big gaps in services and continued care for children with autism--and their families--as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. 
The families need more support, including improved job training, access to services and transportation, according to research from the university's Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

Researchers surveyed 174 families from Northeast Ohio to examine the needs and barriers to services for youth with autism--from 16 to 30 years old--and their family caregivers.

Participants were recruited from 28 public and private agencies and organizations. The survey asked about services--both received and needed--as well as top concerns. Chief among them: limited access to information, reported by 51% of the respondents. Other issues include waiting lists or services not being available (44%), location (39%) and cost (37%).

Researchers also examined the quality of the services provided. They found that often families don't know where to turn for service, or what services exist.

"The number one thing we heard from parents was that they weren't aware of the services available to them," said Karen Ishler, a senior research associate at the Mandel School and co-director of the project. "How do you know what you don't know? Who do they talk to?"

David Biegel, the Henry L. Zucker Professor of Social Work Practice at the Mandel School and one of the project's co-directors. said there were some positives learned from the research, too. More than 60% said they "see eye-to-eye" with their spouse/partner regarding care, and more than 65% of the caregivers reported other positive aspects of care.

"Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects the entire family," said Biegel, "Many young people with ASD are at risk for reduced quality of life in adulthood. Additionally, families of adolescents and young adults with ASD face all kinds of stressors--especially during those critical transition years."

Take, for example, finding a job. Children with autism are allowed to stay in public schools until age 22. When they finish, though, employment training and support dries up, according to the study.

"What happens when they age out? It's a growing concern," Ishler said. "We have to look at the service delivery, because we know there are many unmet needs."


"A lot of these kids diagnosed at 4, 5 and 6 years old are now becoming young adults," Biegel said. "It's putting new pressures on them, and particularly their families, as they age out of school-based services."

One caregiver's response about his or her daughter summed up the problem: "Don't assume that just because she is highly intellectually functioning that she doesn't need support and acceptance socially."

Biegel and Ishler found that 82% of those with autism live with their parents into adulthood. "This confirms what we already know: families shoulder the burden of autism," Biegel said. The study found that 28% family members had elevated anxiety and 35% had elevated symptoms of depression.

"We tend to emphasize the people who aren't doing well," he said. "We knew there were going to be issues. But some families are doing just fine--they've figured out how to navigate the system. However, here is also a significant number of families that have major concerns and needs. Our hope is that these results stimulates discussion and awareness."

The study was funded by the International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICARE) through a Mt. Sinai Foundation catalytic grant.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mesa, Arizona: "Autism Certified City"

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families

AZ Big Media reports:
Mesa is the first-ever Autism Certified City in the U.S. designated by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), raising the profile of the East Valley city to millions of individuals with autism and millions of annual travelers impacted by autism. The innovative initiative is expected to raise the national profile of the city and inject a new source of visitor dollars to the region.
The nearly year-long effort behind the autism designation was launched by Visit Mesa, the leading regional destination marketing organization, to encourage businesses to participate in specialized autism training geared toward executives and front-facing hospitality and service staff to better recognize Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and service the needs of ASD travelers from the planning stages of a vacation to when they arrive in the destination, and throughout their stay. Marc Garcia, Visit Mesa’s CEO, ignited the effort after his 6-year-old son’s autism diagnosis.
“With Visit Mesa leading the charge, Mesa, Ariz. is rolling out the welcome mat for individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Mayor John Giles. “We commend Marc Garcia and the staff at Visit Mesa for their vision.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

Vax Rates

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autismTwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.   Measles can kill.

Ed Pilkington at The Guardian:
A new study by Health Testing Centers has found between 2009 and 2018 27 of the 50 US states experienced a drop in the percentage of vaccinated kindergarten-age children. In Georgia and Arkansas, the decline was more than 6%.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), which is the focus of much activity by the so-called anti-vaxxer movement, is especially vulnerable. Alarmingly, the study finds that more than half of the states – 26 in total – have vaccination rates that have fallen below the target of 95% which experts state is needed to provide maximum protection against the diseases.

Three states – Colorado (88.7%), Kansas (89.1%) and Idaho (89.5%) – have rates that have fallen below the 90% that scientists say renders populations particularly vulnerable to a measles outbreak.
The study is based on data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The authors analyzed CDC data covering the vaccination rates for kindergartners for the most common vaccines including MMR, polio, hepatitis B and varicella.
The news comes at a time of renewed attention on the activities of anti-vaxxer campaigners who are vociferously opposed to the mandatory vaccination of children. Opponents of vaccines frequently peddle incorrect information, such as the debunked theory that MMR causes autism.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Antivax Facebook Ads

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  TwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.

In 2018, Facebook introduced Ad Archive as a platform to improve transparency in advertisements related to politics and “issues of national importance.” Vaccine-related Facebook advertising is publicly available for the first time. After measles outbreaks in the US brought renewed attention to the possible role of Facebook advertising in the spread of vaccine-related misinformation, Facebook announced steps to limit vaccine-related misinformation. This study serves as a baseline of advertising before new policies went into effect.

Using the keyword ‘vaccine’, we searched Ad Archive on December 13, 2018 and again on February 22, 2019. We exported data for 505 advertisements. A team of annotators sorted advertisements by content: pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, not relevant. We also conducted a thematic analysis of major advertising themes. We ran Mann-Whitney U tests to compare ad performance metrics.

309 advertisements were included in analysis with 163 (53%) pro-vaccine advertisements and 145 (47%) anti-vaccine advertisements. Despite a similar number of advertisements, the median number of ads per buyer was significantly higher for anti-vaccine ads. First time buyers are less likely to complete disclosure information and risk ad removal. Thematically, anti-vaccine advertising messages are relatively uniform and emphasize vaccine harms (55%). In contrast, pro-vaccine advertisements come from a diverse set of buyers (83 unique) with varied goals including promoting vaccination (49%), vaccine related philanthropy (15%), and vaccine related policy (14%).

A small set of anti-vaccine advertisement buyers have leveraged Facebook advertisements to reach targeted audiences. By deeming all vaccine-related content an issue of “national importance,” Facebook has further the politicized vaccines. The implementation of a blanket disclosure policy also limits which ads can successfully run on Facebook. Improving transparency and limiting misinformation should not be separate goals. Public health communication efforts should consider the potential impact on Facebook users’ vaccine attitudes and behaviors.

From the article:
One of the ways Ad Archive aims to increase transparency is by identifying and labeling advertisement buyers. Among antivaccine advertising buyers, two were responsible for a majority (54%) of content: World Mercury Project (n = 47) and an individual buying for the group Stop Mandatory Vaccination (n = 36). World Mercury Project (WMP) and the closely aligned Children’s Health Defense (CHD) are part of an advocacy group chaired by a political celebrity spokesperson, [Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.] largely centered on the belief that vaccines are harmful and are contributing to an ‘‘epidemic of childhood chronic illness” [33]. While Ad Archive lists WMP/CHD with 90 ads, only 47 appeared in our dataset, suggesting that not all advertisements were vaccine-related, or could be identified with our search parameters. Content was consistent under both WMP and CHD labels and included a mixture of newsletters, video advertisements, and endorsements for books, products, and seminars. Most advertisements (85.1%) linked back to the group’s webpages. Two ads linked directly to, a fundraising platform, with an appeal to support the group and related legal fees. 
The group, Stop Mandatory Vaccination (SMV), is run by a California-based activist [Larry Cook] who utilizes crowdfunding to post these advertisements and pay for personal expenses [34]. Ad Archive lists 52 ads for SMV; our search parameters produced 36 (72%) of these. Many advertisements featured stories of infants allegedly harmed by vaccines, using taglines like, ‘‘Healthy 14 week old infant gets 8 vaccines and dies within 24 h.” Other advertisements shared videos of parents describing their vaccine-injured children and/or how to live a life without vaccines. One advertisement promoted a candidate running on a vaccine choice platform in California. Several others included links to products and events.
Lena Sun reports on the study at The Washington Post:
 Researchers said the results surprised them. Much of the anti-vaccine content posted on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may appear to be organic, grass-roots discussions led by neighborhood groups and concerned parents, said David A. Broniatowski, an associate professor at George Washington University and one of the authors of the study.
“In fact,” said Broniatowski, who studies group decision-making, “what we are seeing is a small number of motivated interests that are trying to disseminate a lot of harmful content.” The small group of anti-vaccine ad buyers successfully used the ads to reach targeted audiences.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

YouTube Bans MMS Videos

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss autism quackery.  One particularly dangerous"cure" involves bleach.

Tom Porter at Business Insider:
YouTube has updated its policies to explicitly ban videos which endorse the substance known as Miracle Mineral Solution.

The change comes after a Business Insider investigation found hundreds of videos on the site presenting the substance as a cure for cancer, autism and malaria.
The claims are groundless, and medical authorities warn members of the public not to ingest the substance, which is actually a type of toxic bleach, chlorine dioxide.

Business Insider in an investigation in May exposed how YouTube videos promoting the substance were racking up millions of views, with many claiming the substance has curative properties.
When Business Insider flagged the videos to the site, YouTube shut down some channels mentioned in the investigation which it said breached its rules against promoting harmful substances.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Good Doctor and Driver License Bill

[M]any police departments have trained officers and other first responders how to spot signs of autism and respond accordingly.[i] Some organizations have also published identification cards that ASD adults can carry in order to defuse potential conflicts. Virginia provides for an autism designation on driver licenses and other state-issued identification cards. Once again, however, the dilemma of difference comes into play. One autistic Virginian worries: “Great, so if I get into an accident, who’s the cop going to believe, the guy with the autistic label or the guy without it?” Clinical psychologist Michael Oberschneider is concerned about the understanding level of first responders: “I think many people still think of Rain Man or, more recently, the Sandy Hook Shooter, when they think of autism even though very few people on the autistic spectrum are savants or are homicidal and dangerous.”[ii]

Erin Donnelly at Yahoo:
A New York dad is lobbying for driver’s licenses and state-issued ID cards to start carrying a symbol identifying drivers with autism — an idea he says was inspired by an episode of The Good Doctor.
The ABC medical show, which stars Freddie Highmore as a surgical resident with autism, featured a scene in its Season 3 premiere in which Highmore’s character Shaun struggles on a first date due to a series of unexpected incidents that agitate him. The importance of order and the havoc that unpredictability can wreak on a person with autism got Peter Gagliardo thinking about what someone like his son might do in a tense situation out of the blue — like being pulled over by a police officer while driving.
“It popped into my mind about kids that are on the spectrum,” Gagliardo, a retired firefighter whose 18-year-son Ryan has autism, told WABC. “What happens to my son now that he is driving if he gets pulled over in this instance? What is he going to do if something happens out of the norm?”
Gagliardo’s suggestion: Driver’s licenses and state-issued ID cards that bear symbols notifying officers and officials that someone is on the spectrum. (A mock-up features the puzzle piece logo for the Autism Speaks advocacy organization, but Gagliardo clarified to Yahoo Lifestyle that the design is just a placeholder example of what an autism symbol might involve, and his project currently has no affiliation with the group.)