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Friday, June 5, 2020

Special Education Job Losses

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Elise Gould at The Economic Policy Institute:
More K–12 public education jobs were lost in April than in all of the Great Recession. And that’s before any austerity measures from lost state and local revenue have been put in place. A look at the Current Population Survey reveals that losses in public education were concentrated in certain occupations. While some teachers were spared, namely elementary and middle school teachers, others were not. Half of the job losses in K–12 public education between March and April were among special education teachers, tutors, and teaching assistants. Not only are these job losses devastating to those no longer getting a paycheck, but they negatively impact the education students receive. Other significant job losses occurred among counselors, nurses, janitors, and other building maintenance workers. Without sufficient staffing, we cannot safely reopen schools and get parents back to work—which will in turn hamper economic recovery.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

HEROES Act

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of insurance and  Medicaid services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

The House passed the HEROES Act.  The Autism Society supports passage in the Senate:
The HEROES Act provides dedicated funding for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) and supports that can be used to increase wages for direct support professionals, to help provider agencies obtain personal protection equipment, serve individuals on waiting lists, and to strengthen the entire service system.

The bill also includes additional funding for Developmental Disabilities Act programs, education (including special education), employment services, additional direct payments to individuals, expanded paid leave, and many other provisions that will help families during this crisis.

ACTION NEEDED
Contact your Senators NOW and urge them to support the HEROES Act (HR 6800). Call them toll-free 202-224-3121 or use this action alert to easily email.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Republicans and Vaccines

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.

Philip Bump at WP reports on a new WP/ABC poll:
[M]ore than 7 in 10, say they would get a free vaccine, with 43 percent saying they would definitely do so. Among Republicans, though, only 58 percent say they would probably or definitely get the vaccine — with a quarter saying they definitely wouldn’t.

To some extent, that reflects existing skepticism about the importance of vaccinations. Gallup polling published in January shows that Democrats are 13 points more likely than Republicans to say that they think it’s extremely or very important that parents vaccinate their children. In 2001, the gap was only 4 points, and more than 90 percent of both Democrats and Republicans indicated that vaccinating children was important.

In the years since, there has been a concerted campaign aimed at undermining the utility of vaccines, often stemming from the erroneous belief that there’s a link between vaccines and autism. The result has been a subtle decline in confidence in vaccines, one which has been larger among Republicans than Democrats.
Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement at WP:
The poll finds that 15 percent say they will definitely not get vaccinated against the virus, even if one is free and available to everyone. Among Republicans, 24 percent hold this view. Of all those who say they definitely or probably will not get vaccinated, half say that is because they do not trust vaccines in general and nearly one-fourth say one is not necessary in this instance.
Dr. Suneel Kamath at US News:
No vaccine has ever caused autism. Multiple studies conducted by the CDC and the Institute of Medicine since 2003 have definitively proven this. Many wrongly correlated the recent rise in autism rates with more vaccines. They wrongly assumed that kids developing autism within days or weeks of getting vaccines meant the vaccines caused their autism. Greater awareness of the signs and symptoms by parents and doctors led to better recognition of autism and, therefore, more diagnoses. Vaccines were falsely-convicted, innocent bystanders.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Special Education Lags During the Pandemic

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

M.B. Pell, Kristina Cooke and Benjamin Lesser at Reuters:
More than two months after schools across the United States began closing in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the shutdown is taking a profound toll on the nation's system of education, Reuters found by surveying nearly 60 school districts serving some 2.8 million students. 
Almost overnight, public education in the United States has shrunk to a shell of its former self, the review found, with teacher instruction, grading, attendance, special education and meal services for hungry children slashed back or gutted altogether.
The survey encompassed school districts from large urban communities, such as Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Houston Independent School District, to the smallest rural settings, including San Jon Municipal Schools in eastern New Mexico and Park County School District 6 in Cody, Wyoming. The survey reflects what is happening only in those districts that responded.
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 About a third of districts aren't providing federally required services to their special needs students, such as physical and occupational therapy, like they did before schools were closed. "One of the many things keeping me up at night is, how are we providing education to those who most need it?" asked Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent of the North Shore School District 112 outside Chicago.

A May 27 release from Parents Together Action:
ParentsTogether Action, a national parent-led organization with over 2 million members, has released the results of a survey of more than 1,500 families around the country regarding the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on kids’ education. The results reveal huge disparities in the success of remote learning depending on family income, and show that remote learning is jeopardizing the education of our most vulnerable students. This crisis has exposed and exacerbated existing inequities and millions of families have been left without the resources they need to help their kids succeed.
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Just 20% of parents whose children have an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or are entitled to other special education services say that they are receiving those services. 39% are not receiving any support at all. Children who qualify for individual learning plans are also: 

  • Twice as likely as their peers to be doing little or no remote learning (35% vs. 17%). 
  • Twice as likely to say that distance learning is going poorly (40% vs. 19% for those without IEPs). 
  • Almost twice as concerned about their kids’ mental health (40% vs. 23% for those without IEPs).



Monday, June 1, 2020

Virtual IEP

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Corey Mitchell at Education Week:
Federal law has always allowed for remote meetings to review and approve students' Individualized Education Programs, the carefully constructed plans designed to meet the educational needs of children with learning and physical disabilities, but coronavirus school shutdowns made such meetings a necessity.
Figuring out how to manage the meetings from afar and agreeing on what services students are entitled to in an online learning environment emerged as one of the many challenges for families of special education students and the teachers who serve them.
In response to requests for help from educators and parents, a group of U.S. Department of Education-backed organizations developed a six-step guide to hosting and participating in virtual IEP meetings, with the acknowledgement that conducting the meetings may happen more often now, even after students return to brick-and-mortar schools. Designed for a 60-minute meeting, the infographic provides a sample agenda and tips on how to keep meetings focused and on-schedule.


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Biden on Disabilities


Earlier in the race, Biden received criticism for lacking a disability plan.  Now,Biden has released his full disability plan:
Read Joe Biden’s plan to support people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic at https://joebiden.com/covid19-disabilities/.

Joe Biden believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and have a fair shot at getting ahead. This year, on July 26, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Thanks to the leadership of people with disabilities, disability advocates, and their allies, we have made progress towards the goals of this law—“equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency” for people with disabilities. But, there is much more work to do in order to ensure that all people with disabilities are able to participate fully in our communities and enjoy the same kinds of choices and opportunities that many Americans take for granted.
...
To accomplish these goals, as President, Biden will:
  • Ensure full inclusion of people with disabilities in policy development and aggressively enforce the civil rights of people with disabilities.
  • Guarantee access to high-quality, affordable health care, including mental health care, and expand access to home and community-based services and long-term services and supports in the most integrated setting appropriate to each person’s needs and based on self-determination.
  • Expand competitive, integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Protect and strengthen economic security for people with disabilities.
  • Ensure that students with disabilities have access to educational programs and support they need to succeed, from early interventions to post-secondary education.
  • Expand access to accessible, integrated, and affordable housing, transportation, and assistive technologies and protect people with disabilities in emergencies.
  • Advance global disability rights.
Some specifics:
Work with Congress to pass legislation ensuring adherence to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. The Olmstead decision requires government programs to provide people with disabilities the choice to “live, work, and receive services in integrated settings” appropriate to their needs. The Obama-Biden Administration made enforcement of Olmstead a top priority. As President, Biden will ensure every agency aggressively enforces Olmstead’s integration mandate, including in housing, education, health care, employment, and transportation. As President, Biden will work with Congress to ensure that people with disabilities no longer have to wait for decades to access community-based services.
Safeguard against efforts to weaken the ADA and push for strong ADA compliance. Although much progress has been made in achieving accommodations for people with disabilities through the ADA, Biden will continue to advocate for stronger ADA enforcement. He will support the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act, which will increase tax credits for small businesses to improve accessibility and comply with the ADA.
Nominate judges who support disability rights and reflect the diversity of our country. Biden will nominate individuals to the judiciary who are committed to the rule of law, understand the importance of individual civil rights and civil liberties in a democratic society, and respect foundational precedents including Olmstead v. LC. Biden will also make it a priority to appoint judges who reflect the diversity of our country, including people with disabilities.
Direct the U.S. Department of Justice to review guardianship laws, with an eye toward ensuring that citizens with disabilities are able to exercise self-determination consistent with the ADA. And, the Biden Administration will promote efforts to provide people with disabilities viable alternatives to guardianship if they need decision-making assistance, including supported decision-making.
Protect the parental rights of people with disabilities. Many states have laws that allow a parent’s disability to be considered in making a determination regarding their fitness to be a parent. Biden will ensure that child welfare agencies and family courts do not violate the rights of parents with disabilities and that they have appropriate training to fairly assess parental capacity in a non-discriminatory manner.
...

Expand access to high-quality early childhood supports and education. Biden will fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including Part C, which provides resources and support for infants and toddlers with disabilities, and Section 619, which provides resources for preschool children with disabilities. Biden will direct his HHS to ensure that all eligible children receive Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) services and address the challenges outlined in GAO’s 2019 report. IDEA Part C, Part B Section 619, and EPSDT services are critical in identifying potential vision, hearing, developmental, and other issues and providing needed supports and services for children. For example, language deprivation for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in the early years of life can have lasting impact on a child’s language and cognitive skills. Biden will provide parents, health care providers, and early childhood professionals the resources needed to support these children, including access to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and language-rich environments, and work with the community to develop development milestones. He will ensure that early intervention professionals provide equitable resources to support language learning to parents of children aged 0-5.

Support students with disabilities in elementary and secondary school. Biden will ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability.
He will:
  • Fulfill IDEA’s promise of free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. Biden will fully fund and enforce IDEA and triple Title I funding to increase resources available to educators to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Biden will ensure that schools provide students with disabilities appropriate support, including sign language interpreters, readers, door-to-door transportation, computer-assisted devices, augmentative and alternative communication, as well as braille materials. He will also increase funding for Parent Training Centers.
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Working to ratify the Disabilities Treaty. The United States in 2009 signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty which reflects the principles of the American with Disabilities Act. Biden will work with the Senate to ratify the Disabilities Treaty and regain our global standing as a leader on disability rights.
Celebrating the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, every December 3, to recognize the accomplishments and challenges of persons with disabilities in the U.S. and around the world and amplify the mantra of the disability rights movement: “Nothing About Us, Without Us.”

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Danger of the Antivaxxers

 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.

Adam Gabbatt at The Guardian:
In early May, a survey by two academics found that 23% of Americans would not be willing to get vaccinated against Covid-19. In a separate poll by Morning Consult, 14% said they wouldn’t get vaccinated, and another 22% were unsure. And according to a new Associated Press-NORC poll, only about half of Americans say they would get a Covid-19 vaccine if available. With more than 1.6m coronavirus cases in the US, and a more than 100,000 deaths, a mass refusal could have dangerous consequences.
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Experts say social media has been a huge driving force too. Ideas that vaccines cause autism – a debunked theory still popular among anti-vaxxers – abound on Facebook, along with notions of governments and pharmaceutical companies collaborating to make money from duping regular people.
...

With a potential coronavirus vaccine hopefully looming, two anti-vaccine activists held a “Freedom Health Summit” in April, inviting speakers to share information they were privy to.
The speakers list read like a who’s who of discredited scientists and conspiracy theorists, including disgraced Briton Andrew Wakefield, who was stripped of his medical license after he published a fraudulent study linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.

Despite Wakefield’s claims being disproven numerous times, he is seen as a reliable voice in the anti-vax movement, as is Judy Mikovits, a former scientific researcher popular among anti-vaccine supporters.