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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Curbing Restraint in Illinois

Zeta Cross at The Center Square:
The Illinois legislature has put an end to the practice of isolating children in “quiet rooms” and the usage of prone physical restraint.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D- Northbrook, said the practice traumatizes children.

“When you take a child who is on the autism spectrum, and that child is having some sort of an episode, you don’t lock that child in a room by themself. That is what we do to our worst criminals,” Carroll said.

In 2019, after reading a joint investigative report by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune, Carroll became determined to put an end to the practice in Illinois schools. Solitary time-outs are used too readily as a discipline measure, Carroll said.

The authors of the Tribune-ProPublica articles reported on instances where children as young as five were left alone in small rooms for hours at a time.

“We are failing these children,” Carroll said. “There are different pathways that we can go with these kids.”

After 18 months of work, House Bill 219, received bipartisan support and passed unanimously out of the House on May 30. Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Carroll that he intends to sign the legislation when it gets to his desk. The goal of the law is to eliminate solitary time out and prone restraint within three years.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Anti-Vaxxers Gain Influence

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 wrong

Lauren Gardner at Politico:

At least six states — Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah — have enacted legislation to limit Covid shot mandates, giving vaccine opponents some of their most prominent victories in recent memory. At least 11 states have banned the use of vaccine passports, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, and another 31 states at minimum are considering similar legislation.

The wave of opposition to Covid-19 shots, and efforts to curb public-health authorities more generally, have alarmed health experts. They say the new legislation will make it harder to quell the pandemic and prevent future outbreaks of Covid-19 and other illnesses. Many families now emerging from isolation have delayed routine immunizations during the pandemic, and two dozen states have dispensed Covid-19 shots to fewer than 50 percent of eligible residents.

At NPR, Domenico Montanaro writes:

  • There's a huge political divide. Speaking over the weekend, former President Donald Trump took credit for the vaccine rollout and told a North Carolina crowd of supporters that "most of you" have likely been vaccinated.
  • But surveys have shown Trump supporters are the least likely to say they have been vaccinated or plan to be. Remember, Trump got vaccinated before leaving the White House, but that was reported months later. Unlike other public officials who were trying to encourage people to get the shot, Trump did it in private.
  • The top 22 states (including D.C.) with the highest adult vaccination rates all went to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Some of the least vaccinated states are the most pro-Trump. Trump won 17 of the 18 states with the lowest adult vaccination rates. Many of these states have high proportions of whites without college degrees.

 But it's not just about politics:

  • Black Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, aren't getting the vaccine at the rate of whites. Less than a quarter of Black Americans had gotten at lease one vaccine dose as of Tuesday, according to the CDC. It's the lowest of any racial or ethnic group listed.
  • Black Americans also make up a significant percentage of the population in places like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia. Those are seven of the 10 states with the lowest adult vaccination rates, though the gathering of data by race and ethnicity has been spotty depending on the state.
  • Young people, who also lean heavily toward Democrats, are also less likely to get vaccinated. More than 80% of people over 65 have gotten at least one shot, compared with just 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 51% of those 25 to 39.
  • And it's not necessarily about hesitancy. The May NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found 75% of Black adults said they had gotten a shot or would get it when one came available. That was about the same as white adults, but Black adults trailed whites when it came to those who said they'd actually received one.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

"Special Needs"

 From the preface to The Politics of Autism.

A major theme of this book is that just about everything concerning autism is subject to argument. There is not even any consensus on what one should call people who have autism and other disabilities. “In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terms such as `Autistic,’ `Autistic person,’ or `Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity,” writes blogger Lydia Brown.[i] Other writers prefer “people-first” language (e.g., “persons with autism”) since it puts the persons ahead of the disability and describes what they have, not who they are.[ii] For the sake of stylistic variety, this book uses both kinds of language, even though this approach will satisfy neither side. I can only say that I mean no offense.
In our daily lives, we may encounter phrases like "I am disabled" or "My child has special needs." And to someone who is not part of the community, this wording may seem synonymous. But it's not.

Most experts and advocates vehemently oppose the term "special needs," and believe we need to eliminate it from our vernacular. Furthermore, they say avoiding the term "disabled" only leads to stigmatization.

For some, the term "special needs" feels offensive.

"I am disabled by society due to my impairment," says Lisette Torres-Gerald, board secretary for the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities. "My needs are not 'special;' they are the same, human needs that everyone else has, and I should be able to fully participate in society just as much as the next person."

It can also be counterproductive.

Researchers from a 2016 study found people who are referred to as having "special needs" are seen more negatively than those referred to as having a disability.


The National Center on Disability and Journalism recommends never using it: "Our advice: avoid the term 'special needs.' Disabled is acceptable in most contexts, but we advise asking the person to whom you’re referring what they prefer."

Sonja Sharp, a metro reporter with the Los Angeles Times, prefers identity-first language: "disabled" over "person with disabilities." "It's cleaner, it's simpler, and it's more reflective of my reality," Sharp says. "The law defines me as disabled

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Action Item from Regional Center

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss services for people with disabilities.

Regional centers are private nonprofits that contract with Califorinia's Department of Developmental Services to coordinate or provide services for people with developmental disabilities. The 21 regional centers help disabled people and their families help find and accessvariety of services.

Email rom the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center:

TAKE ACTION - Call Governor Newsom's Office and Ask Him to Support the Regional Center Service Coordination Funding Request

Help us support our California Legislature!

We need Governor Newsom to support and strengthen services and supports for people with developmental disabilities.

The California Legislature heard our voices and they reached a legislative agreement that our system needs:
  • 921 service coordinators
  • Rate increases for our service providers
  • Lifting the suspension on non-medical therapies, social recreational services and camp
Please call Governor Newsom's office and say:
"I would like the Governor to please support the regional center service coordination funding request and implementation of the Burns and Associates Rate Study, and lifting the suspension on low-cost high-value services."
How do you do this?

It's easy! Call TODAY!
  1.   Call 916.445.2841
  2.   Dial 1 for English
  3.   Dial 6 to transfer to a representative
  4.   Dial 3 for option to leave a message, opinion or request.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Bogus Tests

In The Politics of Autism, I write:

The conventional wisdom is that any kind of treatment is likely to be less effective as the child gets older, so parents of autistic children usually believe that they are working against the clock. They will not be satisfied with the ambiguities surrounding ABA, nor will they want to wait for some future research finding that might slightly increase its effectiveness. They want results now. Because there are no scientifically-validated drugs for the core symptoms of autism, they look outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine and FDA approval. Studies have found that anywhere from 28 to 54 percent of autistic children receive “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and these numbers probably understate CAM usage

Quacks usually recommend various kinds of tests and analyses.

From the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health:

Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question

1 Do not routinely test urine for metals and minerals in children with autistic behaviors. Toxicologic exposures have not been conclusively associated with the development of autistic behaviors in children. Testing for metals and minerals may be harmful if treatment is guided on the basis of these results.

Thimerosol or ethylmercury has been used as a preservative in multidose vaccine vials and have been blamed for the increase in autism rates over the past 2 decades. However, studies have failed to show a causative link between environmental exposures and the development of these symptoms. As symptoms of autism occur early in childhood and, possibly, months to years after any potential exposure may have resulted in neurotoxicity, the likelihood of continued presence of such toxicant is low. Parents, however, may be desperate for answers and seek out alternative sources for information and receive advice to obtain laboratory analysis for minerals and metals as causative agents without insurance reimbursement. Finding an abnormal result has led to ill-advised treatments and death in some patients.

2 Do not order hair analyses for “environmental toxins” in children with behavioral or developmental disorders, including autism.

The analysis of hair for a broad array of elements and chemicals as a way to diagnose the cause of childhood diseases such as autistic spectrum disorder has no scientific basis. Such assays may not be reliable: hair collection is not precise and it is a heterogeneous matrix; chemicals in hair may not be distributed evenly from the root up the shaft, the assays used may not be accurate technically, and hair can easily be contaminated by external residues of dust, shampoos, conditioners, or other hair treatments. Reports of finding of various metals, etc, can create a severe anxiety in the families requiring further testing by other means. Historically, testing by standard means fail to verify the apparent exposure reported by hair analysis.

3 Do not order mold sensitivity testing on patients without clear allergy or asthma symptoms (particularly those with chronic fatigue, arthralgia, cognitive impairments, and affective disorders). For those with allergy or asthma symptoms who have not responded to environmental interventions to reduce allergen exposures, mold sensitivity testing may be performed by an allergist or pulmonologist, but should not routinely be performed in the primary care setting.

Mold can cause sensitization and clinical disease. Skin prick and in vitro tests can effectively identify patients who are sensitized to molds, although this does not always translate to clinical disease. Results of these tests must be interpreted in the context of the patient’s clinical presentation.

Exposure to dampness and mold can increase the risk of developing asthma in children regardless of their atopic status and increased symptoms of asthma and rhinitis in individuals who already have these conditions. Interventional studies have found that a multifaceted series of interventions aimed at reducing indoor moisture, removing contaminated building materials, and reducing reservoirs (including carpeting and dust) can reduce exposure sufficiently to reduce symptoms in affected individuals. This implies a causal relationship between exposure to fungi and morbidity and provides a rationale for environmental interventions to reduce it.

4 Do not order “chelation challenge” urinary analyses for children with suspected lead poisoning.

The “chelation challenge” was formerly used to assess whether a child had a significant body burden of lead, or “lead poisoning,” and whether formal chelation would result in significant clearance of lead. Evidence exists that suggests that the chelation challenge has no better prognostic value than the standard blood lead level. Further, there is some evidence that the chelation challenge may in fact be potentially dangerous. In summary, chelation challenge has no clinical utility in the treatment of childhood lead poisoning today

5 With the exception of certain heavy metals (eg, lead), do not routinely use measurements of environmental chemicals in a person’s blood or urine to make clinical decisions.

It is virtually impossible for people not to come into contact with hundreds of chemicals each day—whether those chemicals are in our food, air, water, soil, dust, or the products we use. And it is even more difficult for people to know whether those chemicals are harmful to their health or not. Presence does not mean toxicity.

The measurement of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine does not by itself mean that the chemical causes disease. Advances in analytical methods allow us to measure low levels of environmental chemicals in people, but separate studies of varying exposure levels and health effects are needed to determine whether such blood or urine levels result in disease. These studies must also consider other factors such as duration of exposure. For some environmental chemicals, such as lead, research studies have given us a good understanding of the health risks associated with different blood lead levels. For many environmental chemicals (eg, phthalates, polychlorobiphenyls) more research is needed to assess health risks from different blood or urine levels. Thus, just because a chemical is found to be in the body does not mean that harm will occur. Moreover, these measurements are not helpful to guide clinical intervention or treatment. Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units ( can provide additional information about indications, measurement, and interpretation of environmental chemicals in blood or urine, including lead and other heavy metals.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Antivax Wackiness in Ohio

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 wrong

From PolitiFact:

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is a licensed osteopathic physician and anti-vaccine advocate based in suburban Cleveland. Tenpenny is the author of “Saying No To Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages” and has previously said vaccines cause autism, a claim public health officials have debunked.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

"Medical Racism"

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 wrong

 At Kaiser Health News, Will Strone reports on "Medical Racism."

The free online film is the latest effort by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the founder of Children’s Health Defense. (He’s a son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert “Bobby” Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy.) With this film, Kennedy and his allies in the anti-vaccine movement resurface and promote disproven claims about the dangers of vaccines, while aiming squarely at a specific demographic: Black Americans.

The film draws a line from the real and disturbing history of racism and atrocities in the medical field — such as the Tuskegee syphilis study — to interviews with anti-vaccine activists who warn communities of color to be suspicious of modern-day vaccines.

At one point in “Medical Racism,” viewers are warned that “in Black communities something is very sinister” and “the same thing that happened in the 1930s during the eugenics movement” is happening again.

There is a lengthy discussion of the thoroughly disproven link between autism and vaccines. For example, the film references a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism rates as evidence that African American children are being particularly harmed, but in reality the study did not conclude that African Americans are at increased risk of autism because of vaccination.

The movie then displays a chart claiming to use that same CDC data — obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request — to make a connection between vaccinating Black children and autism risk. The findings in the chart closely resemble another study sometimes mentioned by anti-vaccine activists, but the medical journal later retracted the study, because of “undeclared competing interests on the part of the author” and “concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis.” (That study’s author was a paid independent contractor for Kennedy’s group as of 2020 and sits on its board of directors.)

The film also brings up a 2014 study from the Mayo Clinic that showed Somali Americans and African Americans have a more robust immune response to the rubella vaccine than Caucasians and Hispanic Americans. One of those interviewed in Kennedy’s film then asks, “So if you have that process that could be caused by vaccines, why wouldn’t there be a link between vaccines and developmental delays?”

But the study’s author, leading vaccine researcher Dr. Gregory Poland, said this conjecture is not accurate.

According to a statement provided to NPR by the Mayo Clinic, the study demonstrated “higher protective immune responses in African-American subjects with no evidence of increased vaccine side effects,” and any claim of “‘increased vulnerability’ among African-Americans who receive the rubella vaccine is simply not supported by either this study or the science.”