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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Update on Reactions to Clinton's Autism Plan

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.  As I explain in the book, Hillary Clinton has a long history with the issue, and has issued an autism policy statement for the 2016 campaignPrevious posts noted some reactions to the plan, and here is an update.

At Spectrum, Jessica Wright has reactions:
  • Julia Bascom: As an autistic self-advocate, there’s a lot to like about Clinton’s autism plan. The focus on substantive policy issues is great to see. You can tell the campaign did a deep dive here. The plan focuses primarily on the concrete needs of autistic people and our families, which is a refreshing change of pace from much of the national conversation about autism, which is still focused on ideas about cure and tragedy. Clinton isn’t scared of autism: She recognizes autistic people and our families as constituents with very real needs and priorities, and she’s got a plan to start meeting those needs...
Amy S. F. Lutz at The Jewish Week:
Some parents of severely autistic kids have opposed the plan because it fails to include any mention of autism prevention. And its language certainly reflects the position of autistic self-advocates that autism isn’t a disease that needs to be cured but a different skillset that just needs more societal support. Still, there are components that will doubtlessly help those with more profound impairments, including increased insurance coverage of therapies, support for caregivers and accessibility of communication devices. And Clinton’s call for the “first-ever adult autism prevalence and needs study” reveals an interest in data that I can’t help but hope will drive policy in the future.
Alyson Klein at Education Week:
On Clinton's wish list: enacting the "Keeping All Students Safe Act," which was championed in previous Congresses by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, both now retired. The bill would limit seclusion and restraint as means of controlling students in special education, particularly if there is a risk of injury, and would prevent these practices from being included in students' Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs.
So far, the bill hasn't gotten much traction in the GOP-controlled Congress, but similar measures have gained in popularity in state legislatures.

That doesn't mean everyone is a fan of such policies. Back in 2012, AASA, the School Superintendents' Association, came out against the measure. AASA is still concerned about any legislation that would prohibit local districts from considering the use of seclusion and restraint, after other interventions (like Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) have failed.
And Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, expressed concerns back in 2012 that the bill could hinder state efforts to deal with the issue. (Kline will soon be out of office, but other lawmakers may take a similar view.) What's more, the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act includes language cracking down on discipline practices that remove kids from the classroom, including seclusion and restraint.
Jennifer Martinez Belt at The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
So I was delighted by Hillary's plan--but I can't say I was surprised. As a native Arkansan, I saw her advocating for the children of this state from the moment she arrived in Little Rock.
As first lady, Hillary fought for more awareness and funding for autism research. In the Senate, she introduced the bipartisan Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act. Throughout her career, she's proven to be a champion for families by digging into the finer points of issues like autism to identify and prevent the specific fears that really keep parents up at night.
For the families of the 3.5 million Americans with autism spectrum disorder, these issues are deeply personal to us. Hillary has always understood that.
And my hope is that if more people show her kind of leadership, kids like Thomas will finally be able to grow up to become anything they can imagine.