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Friday, August 26, 2016

Autism and Organochlorine Chemicals

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the condition.
Here is just a partial list of correlates, risk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies:
Air pollution and proximity to freeways;
Maternal thyroid issues;
Autoimmune disorders;
Induced labor;
Preterm birth;
Birth by cesarean section;
Maternal and paternal obesity;
Maternal and paternal age;
Maternal post-traumatic stress disorder;
Smoking during pregnancy;
Antidepressant use during pregnancy. 
A release from Drexel University:
Chemicals used in certain pesticides and as insulating material banned in the 1970s may still be haunting us, according to new research that suggests links between higher levels of exposure during pregnancy and significantly increased odds of autism spectrum disorder in children.
According to the research, children born after being exposed to the highest levels of certain compounds of the chemicals, called organochlorine chemicals, during their mother's pregnancy were roughly 80 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism when compared to individuals with the very lowest levels of these chemicals. That also includes those who were completely unexposed.
Although production of organochlorine chemicals was banned in the United States in 1977, these compounds can remain in the environment and become absorbed in the fat of animals that humans eat, leading to exposure.
With that in mind, Kristen Lyall, ScD, assistant professor in Drexel University's A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, and her collaborators, decided to look at organochlorine chemicals during pregnancy since they can cross through the placenta and affect the fetus' neurodevelopment.
"There's a fair amount of research examining exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy in association with other outcomes, like birth weight -- but little research on autism, specifically," Lyall said. "To examine the role of environmental exposures in risk of autism, it is important that samples are collected during time frames with evidence for susceptibility for autism -- termed 'critical windows' in neurodevelopment. Fetal development is one of those critical windows."
Their paper describing this study was titled, "Prenatal Organochlorine Chemicals and Autism," and published in Environmental Health Perspectives. 

Blood tests taken from the second trimester of the children's mothers were used to determine the level of exposure to two different classes of organochlorine chemicals: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, which were used as lubricants, coolants and insulators in consumer and electrical products) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs, which include chemicals like DDT).
"Exposure to PCBs and OCPs is ubiquitous," Lyall said. "Work from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which includes pregnant women, shows that people in the U.S. generally still have measurable levels of these chemicals in their bodies."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Training Law Enforcement Officers in Florida

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not, things get out of hand.

Delays in processing are a common symptom of autism, which affects 1 in 68 children. So is avoiding eye contact, poor conversation skills and sometimes the inability to communicate at all.
“What we don’t want teachers or law enforcement officers to do is misconstrue that symptom of autism as being evasive or disrespectful or lying,” said Michael Kelley, director of the Scott Center for Autism Treatment at the Florida Institute of Technology.
The Scott Center held its first training session for Brevard County officers Wednesday morning at the Eastern Florida State College Melbourne campus. Teachers, parents and officers from six agencies across the county turned out to learn how to recognize the symptoms of autism and respond appropriately.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Voting Rights in California

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists"

But disabled people sometimes face barriers to voting.

Elliott Spagat reports at AP:
A former producer at NPR who lost his ability to walk and speak asked a judge Tuesday to restore his right to vote under a new California law that makes it easier for people with disabilities to keep that right and regain it if lost.
David Rector, 66, handed a letter to a court clerk shortly after an advocacy group filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department asking that California be required to notify people who have been disqualified from voting about the law in time for the Nov. 8 election.
"How are these folks supposed to know about the right to get their voting rights back unless somebody tells them?" Thomas Coleman, legal director of the Spectrum Group, said outside the federal building in downtown San Diego. "The state judiciary has been dragging its feet."
 For years, California judges had stripped away the voting rights of people with some disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, "almost as a matter of routine," Coleman said.
The media advisory from The Spectrum Institute:
On New Year’s Day 2016 a new state law went into effect in California which affirms the right to vote for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities. If they can express their desire to vote, they have the right to vote. The problem? Unless immediate action is taken, thousands of eligible California voters are going to be watching November’s election results on television knowing they were prevented from voting because of California officials previously disqualified them from voting – in violation of federal voting rights laws.
Take the case of San Diego resident David Rector. David, who is a quadriplegic, acquired a condition known as “locked-in syndrome” after suffering a massive stroke in 2009. He can think, feel, comprehend, remember, see, hear, and express emotions but cannot move his limbs functionally. He was a producer for National Public Radio before his illness. He was able to vote in 2010 with assistance but was stripped of that voting right by a local official in 2011.
David is going to court on Tuesday, to request that his voting rights be restored IMMEDIATELY.
David Rector’s story is not unique. Spectrum Institute filed a complaint in July 2014 with the Department of Justice alleging that California officials had violated federal voting rights laws. The DOJ opened an inquiry in May 2015 which is ongoing. That investigation is statewide and implicates the voting rights of tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities. 
The California legislature worked to correct the problem and passed the new state law (SB 589). However, seniors and people with disabilities who have also lost their voting rights as David did are unaware of the new law and government officials are slow to restore their voting rights.
This is why on Tuesday, August 23, Spectrum Institute is filing a new class action complaint with the DOJ. They want that agency to press the State of California to speed up the voting rights restoration process. After the complaint is filed, David and his supporters will walk to court where David will say “I want to vote” with the aid of his electronic voice. It is those four magic words that trigger the duty of the State of California to restore his voting rights.
Spectrum Institute estimates there are 30,000 or more Californians like David who lost their right to vote in previous years and who are eligible to ask for that right to be restored under SB 589. But they must be registered to vote by October 24 or they will be watching the election returns rather than helping to shape those results with their own vote. People with disabilities should have the same right to vote as every other American. What happens in California will have ramifications in other states with laws that disqualify many people with disabilities from voting. #

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gap in California Vax Requirement

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

Jill Tucker reports at The San Francisco Chronicle:
While a new state law requires children to be vaccinated to attend public or private school, thousands of California students are filing into classrooms this month without the required immunizations.

In fact, it will be years before the law that Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year, in the aftermath of a measles outbreak that was traced to Disneyland, fully takes effect and forces all kids — save those with strict medical exemptions — to have all their shots.

What’s changed is that parents can no longer opt out of vaccinations by claiming a religious or personal-belief exemption. However, parents need to provide immunization records at only two points of their child’s school career — at the outset of kindergarten and seventh grade.
As a result, those who had already claimed an exemption are grandfathered in until they move from preschool to kindergarten or from sixth to seventh grade. First-graders won’t have to show proof of immunizations for six years, and eighth-graders can graduate from high school without ever having to get the 10 shots preventing diseases like measles and hepatitis.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tracking Bracelets

The Politics of Autism discusses the problem of wandering, which is the topic of legislation before Congress.

New tracking bracelets are being rolled out at the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department which will let deputies find residents – many with health problems – more quickly.
The bracelets are geared toward those with dementia or autism.
“Law enforcement officers have a soft spot in their heart when, over the radio, the call comes that a child is missing or has wandered off – or a vulnerable adult has,” said Tim Parcheta, a detective who manages the program at the sheriff’s department.
About a dozen residents are signed up already as Lexington County becomes the 21st agency in South Carolina – including Richland County – to use the bracelets.
 The tracking program, called Project Lifesaver, uses a bracelet the size of a wristwatch to emit a signal. Deputies can pinpoint the signal if they are within a mile of the bracelet, officials said.
This program has seen success in the Midlands,as Richland County deputies found an autistic teen who went missing in June.

From Autism Speaks:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Vaccines, Autism, Science, and Trump

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.   In this campaign, a number of posts have discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  

Lawrence M. Krauss writes at The New Yorker:
Often, Trump is simply wrong about science, even though he should know better. Just as he was a persistent “birther” even after the evidence convincingly showed that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump now continues to propagate the notion that vaccines cause autism in spite of convincing and widely cited evidence to the contrary. (As he put it during a Republican debate, last September, “We’ve had so many instances. . . . A child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic.”) 
Dr. Amy Tuteur writes:
Both Trump and anti-vaxxers aren’t merely evidence resistant; they are fact resistant. However, a good portion of what appears to be blatant lying by Trump or anti-vaxxers is more properly described as “bullshitting.” To lie, one must be aware of the truth; bullshitting, in contrast, is a form of arrogant ignorance. Trump and anti-vaxxers often have no knowledge of a particular issue. Rather than acknowledge that (or correct it), they issue streams of blather meant to dazzle equally ignorant listeners.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Regulation and Kevin and Avonte's Law

The Politics of Autism discusses the problem of wandering, which is the topic of legislation before Congress.

Daniel Etcovitch writes at The Huffington Post about Kevin and Avonte's Law:
There’s an extra piece though: a bit of regulation of the technology comes along with making it available to more people. The bill calls for the Attorney General’s office, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, to devise best practices in relation to privacy and data collection for technologies that will track wandering children with developmental disabilities.
That’s the part of the discussion around Kevin and Avonte’s Law that is so amazing: it hasn’t been treated as controversial. Usually when the Attorney General’s office is given a mandate to develop practices for data collection, or is involved in regulating any kind of technology, there is uproar. Every relevant company, non-profit, and academic group chimes in. Debates erupt on forums, in the tech press, and in journals. That is just not happening with Kevin and Avonte’s Law.