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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion

In The Politics of Autismdiscuss the use of restraint and seclusion.  Many posts have mentioned these techniques, both in schools and facilities for people with disabilities.

A Thursday release from the US Department of Education:
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that the U.S. Department of Education will launch an initiative to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in partnership with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), will oversee this proactive approach which will protect students with disabilities by providing technical assistance and support to schools, districts, and state education agencies, and strengthen enforcement activities.
“This initiative will not only allow us to support children with disabilities, but will also provide technical assistance to help meet the professional learning needs of those within the system serving students,” Secretary DeVos said. “The only way to ensure the success of all children with disabilities is to meet the needs of each child with a disability. This initiative furthers that important mission.”
The Department’s Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion will not only include components that help schools and districts understand how federal law applies to the use of restraint and seclusion, but the Department will also support schools seeking resources and information on the appropriate use of interventions and supports to address the behavioral needs of students with disabilities.
The Department’s initiative will include the following three components:
Compliance Reviews
  • OCR’s 12 regional offices will conduct compliance reviews on recipients’ use of restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities.
  • Compliance reviews will focus on the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion, and the effect of such practices on the school’s obligation to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children with disabilities.
  • OCR will conduct compliance reviews and work with public schools to correct noncompliance.
CRDC Data Collection
  • OCR will conduct data quality reviews and work directly with school districts to review and improve restraint and seclusion data submitted as a part of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).
  • OCR will provide technical assistance to schools on data quality, to ensure that they are collecting and reporting accurate data relating to the use of restraint and seclusion.
Support for Recipients
  • OCR will provide technical assistance to public schools on the legal requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act relating to the use of restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities.
  • OCR will partner with OSERS to provide joint technical assistance to support recipients in understanding how Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) informs the development and implementation of policies governing the use of restraint and seclusion.
  • OSERS will support recipients identified by OCR through compliance reviews or through the complaint resolution process to ensure they have access to appropriate technical assistance and support.
  • OSERS will support schools to ensure they have access to technical assistance and available resources as they establish or enhance environments where the implementation of interventions and supports reduces the need for reliance on less effective and potentially dangerous practices.
  • OSERS will consider how current investments may be utilized to provide support and training to schools, districts, and states.
  • OSERS and OCR will jointly plan and conduct webinars for interested parties related to the use of appropriate interventions and supports for all students.
“In collaboration with OSERS, we will work to ensure that recipients are aware of their legal obligation under Section 504 and Title II, and that we have accurate information and data on the use of restraint and seclusion,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “Working directly with schools and districts provides an excellent opportunity to help recipients and support their efforts toward compliance to ensure that all children have an opportunity to succeed in the classroom.”
“OSERS has long focused on improving results and outcomes for children with disabilities,” said Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Johnny W. Collett. “Rethinking special education and challenging the status quo includes examining systems that keep us from making the kind of improvement we know is necessary. This initiative furthers our ongoing efforts to examine any practice that limits opportunities for children with disabilities.”

Friday, January 18, 2019

Cannot Repeat It Enough: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.   This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread.

Dr. Peter Hotez at The Hill:
There is no link between vaccines and autism. I trace the modern anti-vaccine movement alleging vaccine-autism links back to 1998 when a paper was published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, claiming that the live measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine (especially the measles component) might lead to pervasive developmental disorder, a term then used to refer to autism.
That paper was subsequently retracted by the journal editors and shown to be fundamentally flawed and scientifically invalid. In addition, several large population-based studies showed that children who received the MMR vaccine were no more likely to get autism than children who were not vaccinated, while further studies found that autistic children were no more likely to have received the MMR vaccine than children not on the autism spectrum.

However, claims of autism and vaccines then shifted from the MMR vaccine, when it was alleged thimerosal preservative that used to be found in many childhood vaccines (but which now has been mostly removed) caused autism. Again, population-based studies showed no links between autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines and indeed after thimerosal vaccines were removed from markets in the United States, Denmark and elsewhere, autism rates did not decline.
From there, the assertions moved to the concerns that somehow spacing vaccines too close together was the issue, but that too does not hold up, and lately there are new rounds of allegations claiming that aluminum-based adjuvants found in some childhood vaccines cause autism, which is also not true.
The point being that this is the modus operandi of the anti-vaccine movement — a strange type of vaccine “whack-a-mole” — forever looking for new vaccine links only to have them disproven time and time again.

The World Health Organization has named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 health threats of 2019.  Kate Wheeling at Pacific Standard:
One of the biggest reasons that more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children could be a lack of trust in physicians, according to Dennis Rosen, a pediatric specialist:
The ongoing erosion of trust in the medical establishment as a whole is also to blame, as frequent reports of dubious financial relationships between physicians, professional medical societies, and the pharmaceutical industry leave many questioning whether or not physicians can be trusted.
Unsure of what to do and whom to listen to, many seek answers to their questions elsewhere, or simply rely on their gut feeling, without speaking to those one would presume to be the most qualified to provide science-based guidance specifically tailored to the patient's own values and cultural sensitivities.
That's why the WHO is dedicated to supporting health workers on the ground all over the world as it confronts this and other top health threats of 2019. "Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions," the organization writes, "and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines."

Thursday, January 17, 2019

National Council on Severe Autism

The Politics of Autism includes a discussion of major interest groups such as Autism Speaks and ASAN.  The groups have different and often conflicting priorities.

A release from the National Council on Severe Autism:
Against a backdrop of increasing challenges for individuals with autism and their families nationwide, leading advocates have announced the formation of the National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA). The new organization is created to address pragmatically the many serious challenges in services, housing, and policy facing families, caregivers and individuals affected by severe forms of autism and related disorders.

“Autism is often romanticized and sugar-coated in the media and social media,” said Jill Escher, NCSA President. “In contrast, our efforts will be guided by pragmatic realities. For countless families devoted to the well being of their disabled loved ones, the daily challenges can be overwhelming, and the prospects for the future extremely bleak. We will work to increase capacity and a range of new options for this population.”
The NCSA addresses forms of autism that, by virtue of any combination of cognitive and functional impairments, necessitate continuous or near-continuous supervision, services and supports over the lifespan. Individuals in this category are often nonverbal or have limited use of language, are intellectually disabled, and, in a subset, exhibit challenging behaviors that interfere with safety and well-being. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, along with other population studies, suggest that nearly 1% percent of children and adolescents in the United States likely have a form of autism meeting these criteria.
“The growth of the severely disabled autistic population—nearly 1% of all children in the U.S., together with a burgeoning population of young adults—requires clear-headed, matter-of-fact policy solutions that deliver results," said Amy Lutz, NCSA Secretary. "We look to work cooperatively with federal and state agencies to create cost-effective ways of finding quality places to live and well trained and dedicated people to help care for disabled relatives and neighbors. They deserve it, and wishful thinking about autism won't solve the problem."
"The establishment of the NCSA will be an invaluable contribution to the autism community, both in the U.S. and beyond," said Lee Wachtel, MD, Medical Director, Neurobehavioral Unit, of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, and who is not associated with the new organization. "It will provide a sensible and long-awaited voice for those living with highly challenging conditions with overwhelming impact upon individuals, carers, and the larger community."
Prominent practitioners, professionals, and policy experts noted for successful real-world autism advocacy comprise the initial board of the NCSA. The group includes President Jill Escher, President of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area and founder of Escher Fund for Autism (California), Vice President Feda Almaliti, who helped spearhead insurance reform in her state (California), Secretary Amy Lutz, founder of the EASI Foundation (Pennsylvania), Treasurer Alison Singer, founder and Executive Director of the Autism Science Foundation (New York), and board members Frank Campagna, a television producer and popular blogger (New York), Lisa McCauley Parles, Esq., a partner in Parles Rekem, LLP a law firm representing individuals with disabilities and their families (New Jersey), Dr. Gloria Satriale, executive director of Preparing Adolescents and Adults for Life (Pennsylvania), Dr. Matthew Siegel, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics of Tufts University School of Medicine, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Developmental Service, of Maine Behavioral Healthcare, and Faculty Scientist II at Maine Medical Center Research Institute (Maine), and Judith Ursitti, Director of State Government Affairs for Autism Speaks (Massachusetts).

The NCSA has published an initial set of Position Statements on important topics facing the autism community. These include: Guardianship, Vocational Options, Personal Safety and Abuse Prevention, Access to Appropriate Health Care and Crisis Care, Medicaid HCBS Residential Policies, Educational Placements, Need for Innovative Research.
The NCSA homepage features a sign-up block for its newsletters and updates. NCSA will also host accounts on social media, starting with Facebook and Twitter. The organization is planning to host a think tank on national adult autism policy as one of its initial efforts. "We have no intention to duplicate the vitally important work of other autism advocacy organizations," added Escher. "We aim only to add a strong voice for those who cannot speak for themselves."
NCSA has filed for Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and will announce on its website if and when approval is received.
For more information:
Website: ncsautism.orgEmail: info@ncsautism.orgFacebook: @ncsautismorg


National Council on Severe Autism
PO Box 26853
San Jose, CA 95159-6853

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lifting the Virginia Age Cap

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of insurance.

A release from Virginia Delegate Robert Thomas:
Delegate Bob Thomas on Tuesday announced House Bill 2577, legislation to lift the age cap for autism coverage to help approximately 10,000 Virginians get access to needed healthcare. At a press conference, Delegate Thomas was joined by Speaker Kirk Cox and House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones to discuss the legislation.
“This announcement has been a long time coming in Virginia,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “The CDC now estimates that Autism impacts 1 in 59 children in our country, a number that is growing at 15% per year. I am proud of the work done by Delegate Bob Thomas and Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones to get us to where we are today.”
Currently, state law only says that health insurers must offer such coverage for individuals from age 2 through age 10. According to a January, 2013 report from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Autism Center of Excellence, the average age of diagnosis in Virginia is between six and seven years of age. This means for many diagnosed, they could only have three years of covered treatment before coverage could be limited.
“As a father of eight I know just how important ensuring children have access to quality healthcare is,” said Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford). “Children did not choose to be born with Autism. We should do everything we can to continue to learn about the causes– but also provide treatment for those diagnosed regardless of age.”
No other prevalent health condition including– asthma, diabetes and cancer– has coverage limits imposed based on the age of the patient. Coverage for all other health conditions is based on medical necessity. The Department of Human Resource Management reports for State Health insurance plans this proposal will have an estimated fiscal impact of $237,00 – $118,500 is the state cost from our General Fund budget
“Watching every dollar the Commonwealth spends is one of my responsibilities that I take very seriously,” said House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones (R – Suffolk). “But, compared to the services that will now be available to the Autism community and to the families who care for an autistic loved one – the cost is worth it.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Autism, Vaccines, Measles, and the Ultra-Orthodox

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  

At The Forward, Ari Feldman explains why there is a measles outbreak in New York's Hasidic community.
[S]ome ultra-Orthodox believe that there is a connection between vaccines and autism, despite the fact that the CDC says there is none. Major Orthodox rabbis have called vaccines “hoaxes” and cast doubt on their efficacy, including three who sit on the rabinnical board that guides Agudath Israel of America, the leading Haredi umbrella group.
Vaccine skepticism has spread from those leaders to their followers.
“I’ve been practicing medicine and doing research on this topic for years now and I am saying scientifically the truth is known but being covered up,” Yosef, a physician assistant from Crown Heights who was raised in the Chabad movement, a branch of Hasidic Judaism, wrote in an email.
Yosef, 35, said that although he and two of his five children are vaccinated, he believes vaccines cause more harm than good.
“Side effects include death, autoimmune diseases, autism and many things in between,” he wrote. “I don’t think, I know. CDC knows. $4 billion paid to parents by our government since 1986 knows.”

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Case for Inclusion and the Future of Services

The huge baby boom generation is now entering old age, so the number of Alzheimer’s patients will soar.  Competition for suitable workers could drive up the costs of care.   And those costs will rise just as overall government budgets are getting tighter.  The aging of baby boom generation will mean fewer workers paying taxes and more seniors drawing benefits, simultaneously squeezing revenues and expenditures at all levels of government.   “People assume the state will be there to help with their child,” financial planner John Nadworny says, “but that’s a really risky bet.”   
Published regularly, the Case for Inclusion assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 30 measures that paint a picture on how well state programs serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). These 30 measures are broken down into five key issue areas: Promoting Independence, Promoting Productivity, Keeping Families Together, Serving Those in Need and Tracking Health, Safety & Quality of Life.
Nationally, the Case for Inclusion 2019 finds:
  • Nearly 424,000 individuals with I/DD—75,000 more than in the previous Case for Inclusion report—were on states’ waiting lists to receive Medicaid-funded Home and Community-Based Services.
  • Only fourteen states and the District of Columbia had closed all large, state-operated institutions that warehouse individuals with I/DD.
  • For the first time this year, the Case for Inclusion incorporates states’ participation in the National Core Indicators (NCI) staff survey into the scoring process that determines’ state rankings. Participation in this survey is critical as it helps shed light on what we know to be a significant workforce crisis among Direct Support Professionals, the frontline staff who make community integration possible. Twenty-four states had participated in the most recent NCI staff survey.
  • Thirty-three states, one more than in 2016, meet what’s known as the 80/80 Home and Community Standard, meaning that 80% of all individuals with I/DD are served in the community and 80% of all resources support their ability to be part of the community and live in homes with fewer than seven residents.
  • Just 16 states, up from 15 in 2016, support a large share of families (at least 200 families per 100,000 state residents) through support services that empower individuals with I/DD to remain living in their family home.
  • Only 15 states, unchanged from the 2016 report, successfully placed at least 60% of individuals in vocational rehabilitation jobs.
  • Just 15 states, also unchanged from 2016, report that at least 10% of residents with I/DD use self-directed services, which allow them to design the supports they receive based on their specific needs.
For the complete Case for Inclusion 2019 findings, download the report.
From the report:
Demographic trends increasing demand include the increase in Autism diagnoses,  increased longevity of people with I/DD, aging family caregivers needing more assistance to care for their loved ones with I/DD, and demand from baby boomers. Simultaneously,  fewer women are being born into the labor pool – and the DSP [Direct Support Professional] workforce is predominantly female. This promises unmet demand for support unless we take action soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How Tennessee Officials Responded to a Politician Spreading Vaccine Misinformation

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  

Kimberlee Kruesi at Associated Press reports on how Tennessee's Department of Health responded to Mark Green, who had just won a US House seat and was spreading the bogus idea.  AP made a public records request and got emails.
Chief Medical Officer David Reagan shared a link to a story about the space agency extending an invite to Stephen Curry after the Golden State Warriors star denied humans had visited the moon. Curry quickly accepted the gesture and took back his comments, saying that he was joking, and believes the moon landing was no hoax.
"With regards to the statements by representative elect analogy from NASA," Regan wrote the morning of Dec. 13, attaching a link to NASA's invite.
"I like it," responded Tennessee Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner.
Dreyzehner then asked if Reagan was suggesting the department invite anyone to have their questions about vaccines answered by the chief medical officer.
"Yes, although I was specifically inviting Rep-elect Green," Reagan responded. "The discussion would likely be informative and helpful, and we may gain a friend."
Hours later, officials issued a blunt statement: "Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines save lives," along with an invitation, urging anyone with questions to contact the department. The brief statement didn't mention Green by name.