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Saturday, January 14, 2012

More on Bell Appointment

Earlier posts described the appointment of Peter Bell to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, as well as some negative reaction.

Michelle Diament writes at Disability Scoop:
“We cannot ignore the rapid rise in the rate of autism that occurred during the 1990′s, in tandem with the increased use of thimerosal-containing vaccines in the U.S.,” Bell said in a statement at the time, which is still posted on Autism Speaks’ website. “We must continue to explore every possible avenue, including various environmental toxins, to get at the underlying issues that are affecting a generation of our children.”
Autism Speaks officials would not address the vaccine-related concerns directly but said they are very happy about Bell’s appointment.
“We are thrilled about Peter’s well-deserved nomination to this important advisory committee and share the White House’s commitment to improving the lives of all people with intellectual disabilities,” Autism Speaks president Mark Roithmayr said in a statement.
Bell also has support from some outside of Autism Speaks. Patricia Wright, national director of autism services at Easter Seals, said she’s worked with Bell recently to advocate for reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act and on initiatives focused on adults with autism. Given the significant number of individuals with both autism and intellectual disability, Wright said she thought Bell would bring a much-needed perspective to the committee.
White House officials said they will proceed with the appointment as planned and are waiting for some paperwork to be filed to make Bell’s new position official.
“The president stands behind this appointment and we look forward to Peter’s contributions to the committee,” Obama spokesman Shin Inouye told Disability Scoop.
Kim Wombles writes at Science 2.0:
Peter Bell is the father of a young man with autism, and as his son has reached adulthood, he has shifted his focus to adult services. I was privileged to hear Bell speak in person in July 2011 and meet him briefly. He is keenly concerned with making sure that housing and employment needs for adults with autism are met. His new organization, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism, is working with Autism Speaks and several other organizations to help create better support systems for autistic adults.

Before individuals in the autism community sign petitions asking for Obama to reconsider his appointment, I urge them to examine AFAA and new changes being implemented at Autism Speaks. I encourage them to listen to Bell speak, rather than rely on second-hand, unsubstantiated claims regarding his beliefs and his work.