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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Autism in a Canadian Municipal Election

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the need for more research on autism in countries other than the United States.

Surrey First is a political organization in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. In the campaign for the October 20 election, it is putting emphasis on autism.  A release:
Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill wants to expand his city’s efforts to make sure Surrey’s 1,600 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) feel at home in Surrey’s parks, pools, rinks and community centres. This summer, Surrey introduced “Sensory Friendly Spaces” at public events and has provided training to 100 of its recreational centre staff.

“I want Surrey to lead the country in inclusivity, particularly for our children,” said Gill. “Here in Surrey we’ve made a terrific start, but I want to take it further faster. Our Surrey First team wants to see another 500 of our parks, rec and library staff trained by June of next year, offer training to the more than 3,500 soccer, baseball, hockey and football coaches in our city, and pilot a Snoezelen sensory room in our new Clayton Community Centre which is under construction and set to open in summer 2020.”

Developed in Holland nearly 40 years ago, the Snoezelen (“explore and relax”) sensory rooms use sound, light, colour and texture to provide a multi-sensory experience for children with autism. Gill said he wants the pilot room to be a template for other Snoezelen rooms.

Gill said he wants to work with organizations such as the Canucks Autism Network and Pacific Autism Family Network to become a “champion for inclusion” that ensures children with autism and their families feel welcome and included.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


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

Caroline Kee at Buzzfeed:
Although overall vaccination coverage among children in the US remained relatively stable in 2017, a growing percentage of toddlers have received no vaccines at all, according to a new report from the CDC.
According to immunization guidelines, children should get vaccinated against 14 potentially serious diseases before their second birthday — but a number of very young children in the US have not been vaccinated against any of these diseases, according to the report, which looked at children aged 19 to 35 months.
The proportion of children who hadn't been vaccinated at all by age 2 was small compared to the millions of children who were vaccinated, but that proportion is gradually increasing. It rose from 0.9% for children born in 2011 to 1.3% for children born in 2015, according to the report.

From PBS:
In The Vaccine War — a documentary that first aired in 2010, and was then updated in 2015 against the backdrop of a measles outbreak — FRONTLINE took a powerful look at why there is still fear about vaccines among some parents, despite established scientific consensus that there is no link between vaccines and disorders like autism.
As FRONTLINE reports in The Vaccine War, parents who choose not to vaccinate their children have reasons that are complex — involving their perceptions of medical risks and benefits, and also ideological beliefs about parenting, personal choice and the limits of government.

Friday, October 12, 2018

New Head of OSEP

From the US Department of Education:
Laurie VanderPloeg will lead the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ (OSERS) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) starting in November.
“My focus will be on developing and supporting an effective system that is going to meet the unique and individual needs of children with disabilities,” VanderPloeg said. “We need to look at the structures we have in place to ensure that each child is prepared for success.”
VanderPloeg started her career as a high school special education teacher at Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Michigan.
She spent 15 years teaching high school and middle school students prior to earning her master’s degree in special education administration from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Since earning her master’s, VanderPloeg has served as the supervisor of special education for the Grand Rapids Public School District, a special education consultant with the Michigan Department of Corrections, and most recently as the director of special education for Kent Intermediate School District.
Learn more about Laurie VanderPloeg

At Education Week, Christina Samuels adds some detail:
VanderPloeg is currently president of the board of directors of the Council for Exceptional Children, an organization representing special education professionals. She was also a former president of the Council of Administrators of Special Education. And, her ties to western Michigan are deep, just like those of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. A graduate of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, VanderPloeg was a middle and high school special education teacher for 15 years in western Michigan school districts before entering administration.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Labor/HHS Appropriations

The Politics of Autism discusses legislation before Congress.

From the Autism Society
On September 28, 2018 President Trump signed the annual appropriations bill for programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED). Most disability programs are level-funded or provided slight increases. In addition, two new laws were funded. Kevin and Avonte’s Law received the authorized amount of $2 million for competitive grants awarded to non-profit and State and local entities to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with cognitive disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, autism,or other developmental disabilities, as described in the law. Another law passed in this Congress, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, was provided $300,000 to establish the Caregiver Advisory Council. Other highlights include the following:
  • An $86 million increase for special education IDEA state grants and $10 million more for preschool-age children with disabilities.
  • An increase of $1.5 million for professional development and the development of evidence-based services for people with autism through the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • A $4 million increase for research into independent living for people with disabilities through the Administration for Community Living.
  • A $26 million increase for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, a flexible grant program providing home visiting, early childhood programs, and professional development, including those specific to assisting people with autism.
  • A $15 million increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) center providing surveillance, research, and services for those with developmental disabilities.
  • A $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide basic bench research.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Carlton Palms Coda

Carlton Palms —a Florida home for people with severe disabilities beset by rapes, rats and abuse — officially shut its doors Saturday, state officials announced.
The last of its 190 residents moved to a new community-based home over the weekend after years of abuse, violence and death perennially plagued the institution.
“Carlton Palms has officially closed,” said Barbara Palmer, who heads the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. “We have successfully transitioned nearly 200 people from an institutional placement into community homes. With this very important move for these individuals, we believe everyone will be much happier, healthier and have an opportunity to thrive in their communities.”
Carlton Palms, run by Bellwether Behavioral Health, was the only Central Florida institution licensed to care for intellectually disabled Floridians with severe behavioral challenges. Over the the last several months, residents have transitioned into smaller, community homes selected by their parents or guardians. Some moved back to their homes in Florida, others, out of state.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Latest "Breakthrough"

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the condition and how to treat it.  I also write:  "If the science were not confusing enough, its coverage in the mass media has added another layer of murk.  News reports hype tentative findings and weak correlations as “breakthroughs” in the quest for autism answers. "

From The Daily Mail:

Autism breakthrough: New drug may 'turn down' enzyme that hijacks social behavior in people on the spectrum

A treatment for adults on the autism spectrum may be in sight, thanks to a new discovery.
After decades of research, scientists at Florida Atlantic University (FA) have discovered a new pathway in the brain linked to behavioral symptoms of autism - and a drug that may quell them.

Some autism advocates have increasingly been pushing for people on the spectrum to not be treated as 'disordered,' but rather as simply different.

On the other hand, the FAU researchers note that autism also frequently comes with physiological problems - particularly for the gut.

There are currently no treatments for autism in adults, but the team discovered a drug treated the behavioral 'disruptions' in mice genetically engineered to have autism, suggesting it might do the same for people on the spectrum.