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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Science, Autism, and Vaccines

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

Retraction Watch reports that a journal has removed an article connecting autism to vaccines.
The abstract — published online in Frontiers in Public Health after being accepted November 21 — reported findings from anonymous online questionnaires completed by 415 mothers of home-schooled children 6-12 years old. Nearly 40 percent of children had not been vaccinated, and those that had were three times more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, the study found.
After receiving criticism on Twitter, Frontiers released a public statement, noting that the study was only “provisionally accepted but not published,” and is being re-reviewed. When asked for a comment, a Frontiers spokesperson referred us to the statement.
A cached version of the abstract of “Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports,” is still available online.

Twitter users also noted that the study appears to have asked for crowdsourced funding via the Age of Autism online newspaper. A user also linked to a site that posted a letter first author Anthony Mawson, a visiting professor at Jackson State University, allegedly wrote in support of the now-discredited work of notorious anti-vaccine researcher Andrew Wakefield.
In 2011, Mawson filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi State Department of Health, alleging that the state health officer interfered with his then-position at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (resulting in his contract not getting renewed) after he advocated the need for more studies on vaccine safety. In 2012, the suit was dismissed.
At Medscape, Lara C. Pullen reports:
Neither influenza infection nor influenza vaccination during pregnancy increase the risk for autism, according to a new study published online November 28 in JAMA Pediatrics.
That said, the data showed a nonsignificant trend for increased risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among offspring of mothers who received an influenza vaccination during their first trimester. Although the findings could be a result of chance, the investigators call for additional studies on the relationship between maternal influenza vaccination and autism.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Special Education in California

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Public Policy Institute of California has a new report titled Special Education Finance in California.  This passage deals specifically with autism:
The mix of disabilities has changed substantially, increasing local special education costs. Over the past decade, the number of students with relatively low-cost disabilities has fallen while the number with more expensive disabilities has risen. Autism offers an example. California’s 1.3 percent autism rate among K–12 students in 2012–13 was higher than the 1 percent national rate. Autism is increasing faster in California than in the rest of the United States. From 2001–02 to 2013–14, California’s autism caseload increased 5.4 times, while cases in the rest of nation increased 4.2 times. (NCES 2016 and Kids Data 2015). At both the state and national level, rising autism has been accompanied by shifts away from intellectual disability and specific learning disability diagnoses (CASEMIS data and Zablotsky et al 2015).

  • California Department of Education. 2015. Data from California Special Education Management Information System (CASEMIS) 2014-2015.
  • KIDS DATA. 2015. Special Education Enrollment, by Disability, 2002-2015. Autism.
  • Snyder, Thomas D., Cristobal de Brey, and Sally A. Dillow. 2016. Digest of Education Statistics 2014. NCES 2016-006. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  • Zablotsky, Benjamin et al. 2015. Estimated Prevalence of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities Following Questionnaire Changes in the 2014 National Health Interview Survey. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Statistics Reports, No. 87

Monday, November 28, 2016

Corporal Punishment

U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. sent a letter this week to governors and chief state school officers urging them to end corporal punishment in schools. Corporal punishment was used on more than 110,000 students during the 2013-2014 academic year, according to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection. It’s currently either expressly permitted or not prohibited in 22 states, and is most common in Southern states like Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. A bill to ban corporal punishment on a federal level was introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in 2010, but it has yet to pass. This sets us apart from 42 other countries where such measures are illegal.
From King's letter:
Disparities in the use of in-school corporal punishment are not limited to race; boys and students with disabilities experience higher rates of corporal punishment. Based on the 2013-2014 CRDC, boys represented about 80 percent of all students experiencing corporal punishment.[ 11 ]Similarly, in nearly all of the states where the practice is permitted, students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment at higher rates than students without disabilities.[ 12 ] These data and disparities shock the conscience.
At the Society for Research in Child Development, Elizabeth T. Gershoff and  Sarah A. Font have a report titled "Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools: Prevalence, Disparities in Use, and Status in State and Federal Policy."

From the report:
States with low overall rates of corporal punishment have the fewest number of districts with disability disparities (Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina). Disparities are common in the other 15 states. Children with disabilities are over 50% more likely to experience school corporal punishment than their peers without  disabilities in 67% of school districts in Alabama, 44% in Arkansas, 34% in Georgia, 35% in Louisiana, 46% in Mississippi, and 36% in Tennessee. Some districts have particularly high rates of disparity by disability status: In 12% of districts in Alabama, 9% in Mississippi, and 8% in Tennessee, children with disabilities are over 5 times more likely to experience corporal punishment than children without disabilities.

The fi nding that students with disabilities are at greater risk for corporal punishment than students without disabilities is troubling for two reasons. First, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] (1990) provides a legal precedent for children with disabilities to receive more support and assistance than children without disabilities. Given that children with disabilities are often more, rather than less, likely to experience corporal punishment than their peers without disabilities, this suggests that school staff are often responding to their challenging behaviors with harsh, rather than positive, disciplinary methods.
Second, a report from Human Rights Watch and the ACLU (2009) found that administrators sometimes administer corporal punishment to children with disabilities for behaviors that stem from their disability, such as those endemic to autism, Tourette syndrome, or obsessive compulsive disorder. It is worth noting that schools do have the legal right to use corporal punishment on students with disabilities; judges have upheld this right, even when the punishment results in a child needing psychiatric hospitalization
(Lohrmann-O’Rourke & Zirkel, 1998). That said, punishing children for symptoms of their disabilities is unlawful under IDEA.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

School Choice in Wisconsin and the Nation

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

At The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Alan J. Borsuk notes that Betsy DeVos is in line to be Education Secretary and says that  Wisconsin offers parallels to what is happening nationally.
Just as the once-every-two-years state budget gets rolling, Republicans have gained a more dominant hand in the Legislature. Gov. Scott Walker is a strong choice backer. And the makeup of the state Supreme Court makes legal challenges to anything the Republicans do difficult.
We already have hefty private school voucher programs in Milwaukee and Racine and a growing voucher scene in the rest of the state, plus a new special-education voucher program, and a convoluted but fairly lively charter school scene, particularly in Milwaukee. What more could be done?
It’s a time when school choice insiders are pulling out their wish lists and brain storming. The special ed vouchers and the statewide voucher program could be given bigger pushes. Maybe something could happen to increase the number of charter schools statewide, but charters always seem to play back-up to private schools in state politics.
Ideas such as “education savings accounts,” discussed in this column recently, are increasingly likely to emerge. Such accounts could offer parents more flexible ways to select education programs for their children, potentially including several providers. No one so far has gotten specific about what this could mean, but there’s serious interest.
If Washington unleashes a lot of money for school choice, that might bring some new federal aid to Wisconsin to support ideas like these.
Public school leaders and advocates nationwide are generally appalled by the DeVos pick and what it portends.
They have several reasons to be concerned in Wisconsin. Here are two:
What will any increase in school choice options and funding mean for state aid to public schools?
And will the Trump administration put together that $20 billion school choice fund by cutting other federal education programs, as some suggest? Reducing major areas of federal spending (particularly the Title 1 program for low-income students and federal special education aid), could mean less money for public schools, especially those serving large numbers of poor or disabled children.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Autistic Rhodes Scholar

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum.  They face many challenges, but there are also inspiring stories of success. Here is one.

At The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), Lauren Sausser reports on Jory Fleming, a University of South Carolina student who has just won the Rhodes Scholarship. At Oxford, he will pursue a degree from  the School of Geography and the Environment.
Fleming is a unique candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship on his merits alone. He previously was named both a 2016 Goldwater Scholar and a 2016 Truman Scholar. But his achievements are even more impressive in light of the health obstacles he has faced. Fleming was diagnosed with autism when he was 5 years old and suffers from a genetic condition that limits his medical independence.
He wears leg braces to improve his mobility and is accompanied everywhere on campus by a therapy dog named Daisy. His mother and caregiver Kelly Fleming will move to England with him next year, "an adventure for all of us," he said.
The Flemings, who live in Columbia, are up for the challenge. As a newborn baby, Kelly Fleming said Jory faced severe medical complications, and later, development delays.
"It’s been a long road, but I hope his story gives hope to other people with children with autism," she said. "They all have their strengths and if you pull them out, it can be so beneficial. Jory has an entirely different way of looking at the world. I think we need to appreciate that and not just value what we consider normal brain functioning."
Apparently, the judges were impressed. Only 32 Rhodes Scholars from the United States were named Nov. 19. Fleming is the only one who has been diagnosed with autism.
He tried to explain how the disorder, which now afflicts an estimated one in 68 children, has helped him.

"I’m definitely different in terms of how I probably think. My memory happens to be really good as a result," he said. "It’s hard for me to say because it’s just me. I don’t really know what it’s like to not be me. Does that make sense?"

Friday, November 25, 2016

Flu Shots

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

At WKOW in Madison, WI, Matt Cash reports on a physician who is seeing more patient decline flu vaccines:
Dr. Michael Trias with SSM Health Dean Medical Group's east side clinic says health care providers feel strongly about people getting the flu vaccine every year to prevent and limit the impact in our community.
The virus kills thousands more every year, even healthy people.
Trias says that it's not true that someone will get the flu after getting the shot, as it cannot cause influenza. He says that some people are also worried about a potential link to autism. In recent years, several large scientific studies have determined that the preservative in the vaccine does not lead to serious neurological problems, including autism.
Trump has promoted the debunked autism-vaccine theory.  Are we seeing a Trump effect?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Basic Grasp of Statistics

A basic grasp and appreciation of research methods and statistics is vital in order to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. We need these tools in order to filter through the countless claims that we are confronted with in the media, from our politicians and our friends. Take President-elect Donald Trump's tweet about autism: 
To make up our mind about whether Trump's claim makes sense or not, we would need - at least on an intuitive level - an understanding of the difference between correlation and causation. In a nutshell: just because two things seem to move together - such as a rise in vaccinations and a rise in autism diagnoses - doesn't mean that one thing caused the other.
As we think that a wide audience could benefit from such a new approach to teaching, we have made our course freely accessible online. It's called 'Deception Detox - how solid science can help you save the world'. See this 10-minute video below to get an idea of how it works: Big Fat Problem

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:

Trump will nominate Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education.  Good for special education? Reactions vary. Lori Higgins, Kathleen Gray report at The Detroit Free Press:
"She has been given a cabinet position for which she is eminently unqualified," said Paula Herbart, president of a Michigan Education Association local that represents school employees in 14 Macomb and Wayne county school districts.
Herbart predicted that under DeVos, more money will be diverted from public schools to charter schools run by for-profit companies and private schools.
"Public schools will lose funding in dramatic ways," she said.
And she predicts the private schools and charter schools will educate fewer of the students who are the most difficult and costliest to educate — students with special education needs and at-risk students.
Charter schools now have fewer special education students than traditional public schools, with the difference between the two most dramatic in the state's urban areas.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, though, praised the appointment in a news release, saying the announcement marked "an exciting day for children." Calley has been an advocate for students with special education needs.
"Betsy's nomination shows that President-elect Trump is serious about building an education system that puts kids first and parents in the driver's seat. Creating an education system that works to help all children excel remains a priority of mine and I look forward to working with Betsy on these efforts in her new role."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trump and the Antivax Movement

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.   In this campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.

Previous posts have discussed Trump's meeting with antivaccine activists.

Zack Kopplin writes at Science:
Trump is no stranger to the anti-vaccine movement. He has suggested in interviews, tweets and during debates that he sees some link between childhood vaccinations and autism, despite the lack of any scientific evidence supporting such a link. (The U.S. Institute of Medicine concluded in a 2014 report that there is no link, adding that the current vaccine schedule for children should be left as it is.) “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM,” Trump tweetedin 2014. “Many such cases!”
As president, Trump will have the authority to appoint a number of influential public health officials, including the surgeon general, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the head of the Food and Drug Administration. It is not clear how any views he holds on vaccination might influence his appointments or administration policies.
Wakefield, who was barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom after authorities concluded he had committed “professional misconduct” and now lives in Austin, did not respond to a request for comment.
Elissa Strauss writes at Slate:
The fact that this conversation happened doesn’t necessarily mean that Trump is more focused on vaccine intervention than previously thought. It was at a donor event, an instance when a candidate is inclined to make all those who bought a ticket feel listened to and appreciated. But, as with so many things Trump, the absence of clearly articulated proposals and policy positions creates a lacuna in which anti-scientific ideas—along with racist, antisemitic, and misogynistic ones—can thrive. People who both think they share his ideas and have thoroughly considered policy positions to back them up are now well-positioned to amass support and feel ennobled to push harder for change.

While the federal government currently has little involvement in vaccination mandates, which are largely determined on a state-by-state basis, Trump and many of his supporters' anti-science fervor could still lead to troubling outcomes. Such possibilities include Trump’s appointing of a vaccine skeptic or anti-vaxxer to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, or Food and Drug Administration. Such a decision would not only be bad news for vaccine research, but also for our longstanding commitment to empirical evidence as the foundation for public health recommendations.
Eric Garcia writes at Roll Call:
“Trump’s mockery of the reporter Serge Kovaleski is just the tip of the ableist iceberg,” said Alice Wong, founder and project coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project.

Trump also espoused language hinting that vaccines cause autism, writing on Twitter that doctors should give smaller doses of vaccines even though the medical community has long debunked the link between vaccines and autism.
Trump even promoted anti-vaccine theories during the second Republican primary debate, saying that autism has become “an epidemic.”
“Any president who doesn’t believe in science is dangerous — I am concerned about funding for public health, medical and scientific research that will impact all people,” Wong said in an email.
Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, also expressed alarm at Trump’s comments.“These comments by the president-elect are profoundly unfortunate,” he said. “They betray a fundamental ignorance.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

Policy Networks

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
Autism is a “pervasive developmental disorder,” which means that it affects most areas of a person’s life. It is also a pervasive policy issue, straddling health, education, scientific research, insurance regulation, and civil rights, among other issues. No government agency has exclusive jurisdiction over all of these areas.
At Educational Policy, Bryan Parsons has an article titled "Local Autism Policy Networks: Expertise and Intermediary Organizations."  The abstract:
The increasing prevalence of diagnoses for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), now one in 68 children according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), presents a number of policy implications. In particular, many of these children become eligible for special education services under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Given the specialized expertise and resources required of local education agencies (LEAs), how do they respond to this implementation challenge? In May 2015, an online survey was distributed to various governmental and nongovernmental actors in three Virginia localities to measure the extent of collaboration in local autism policy networks. The findings suggest that these networks are driven by autism-related information, and that nonprofit organizations act as intermediary organizations that bridge disparate stakeholders. The results contribute to our understanding of fragmentation across policy subsystems, with the focus here on education policy, and the implementation challenges related to a rapidly changing policy issue.
From the article:
The diversity of organizations within local autism policy networks reinforces the notion that the public–private environment in local education is indeed “hyper-pluralistic” (Stone et al., 2001, pp. 47-49), which may have some implications for various services provided to individuals on the autism spectrum. First, state and local agencies have implementation responsibility under the IDEA guidelines, and the ubiquitous nature of nongovernmental organizations in these networks does raise questions about what accountability mechanisms, if any, are in place to ensure appropriate services for autistic children and young adults. To what extent is collaboration in these policy networks focused on establishing common standards of care for all involved organizations, and who or what enforces these standards? Although public–private partnerships may indeed be a necessity for LEAs to enhance their capacity to meet the special needs of this population, it is critical for policy networks to evolve to enhance trust, communication, and accountability in the management of any good (Berardo & Scholz, 2010; Feiock &
Scholz, 2010; Lubell et al., 2014; Ostrom, 1990). Second, although a pluralistic environment necessarily involves a diversity of organizations, not all organizations are central to the collaborative process. For example, not every LEA in the three localities is mentioned as a collaborative partner, and even some of the LEAs involved in the policy networks in Figure 1a appear to be peripheral actors in the network. Understanding the factors that contribute to collaborative partnerships in these networks and the processes that might produce more active roles for all LEAs, where the majority of children
on the spectrum receive services, will be key to future research and policy recommendations.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

College Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum:
We do know that autistic students suffer high levels of depression, anxiety, and social isolation. We also know that their difficulties can affect their academic performance. (Group projects can be hard.) They have to cope with these problems without the protection of an IEP, since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not apply to higher education. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provide for certain accommodations (for instance, extra time for tests), but the student has to seek them. According to Jane Brown Thierfeld, co-director of an organization of professionals who assist autistic students, for every student receiving special services, there are one or two on that same campus who have not come forward.
At The New York Times, Jan Joffman reports on college programs (e.g., one at Western Kentucky University) that support autistic students.
It is hard to know how many students with autism attend four-year schools. A 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics found that about 50,000 teenagers with the diagnosis turn 18 each year and 34.7 percent attend college. Without support, though, few graduate.
That is in part because many students with an autism diagnosis do not step forward, fearing stigma. Some experts speculate that for every college student on the spectrum who identifies himself or herself with a diagnosis, there may be two more who are undisclosed.
But as the growth of the so-called neurodiversity movement prompts people on the spectrum to define themselves as different but not deficient, more students are emerging from the shadows. The Bridges to Adelphi program at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., serves about 100 students with autism. At the University of Texas in Dallas, 450 students with the diagnosis have registered for services with the Student AccessAbility office.
Their presence on campuses is also a testament to the tenacity of familiesand disability advocates who, since the 1990s, when awareness of autism began to mushroom, have pressed for earlier diagnoses and interventions. Much of that battle unfolded in public secondary schools, leading to more services.
Over the last decade, officials at mainstream universities began realizing that growing numbers of spectrum students were being admitted — and, like Mr. Arnold, were foundering.
It was one thing for administrators to authorize accommodations like extra time on tests for students with dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. But how should they bolster students whose behavior was the primary expression of the disability — who could not stop shouting out answers in class and feared dorm showers?
And so the new autism support programs vary in emphasis. Some are based in disability resource centers, while others are in mental health offices, focusing on social skills and anxiety reduction.

Friday, November 18, 2016


In The Politics of Autism, I write about education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

A release from Achieve:
Achieve and the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) today released “Diplomas that Matter: Ensuring Equity of Opportunity for Students with Disabilities,” a new report analyzing the diplomas available to students with disabilities in each state for the graduating class of 2015. The report also compares the course and assessment requirements for earning a regular diploma in each state for students with disabilities and their peers without disabilities.
Although an estimated 85 to 90 percent of students with disabilities can, with the proper instruction, supports, and accommodations, meet the same graduation standards as all other students, the national graduation rate for students with disabilities has risen from 56.9 percent in 2006 only to 66.3 percent in 2014. In addition to these low graduation rates, questions persist as to whether students with disabilities are being given access to a rigorous course of study that will prepare them for college and career. States do a disservice to students with disabilities when they are not given the opportunity to earn a regular diploma with adequate supports or when they are held to lower expectations.
Achieve and NCEO’s analysis suggests that expecting less of students with disabilities, through a less rigorous diploma offering, does them a disservice because they leave school thinking that they are ready for college or career when they are likely not prepared.
In 26 states and the District of Columbia, the only diploma available to students with disabilities was the state’s regular diploma. In 24 states, additional diplomas were available exclusively for students with disabilities. Diplomas that are offered exclusively to students with disabilities differ widely across states and may have less demanding expectations than a state’s regular diploma. In addition to recommending that states create a system that enables students with disabilities to meet the same requirements as their peers without disabilities, Achieve and NCEO argue for greater transparency about which diplomas are available for students with disabilities and what the requirements are for each option. Both regular diplomas and multiple diplomas can mask what individual students know and can do and what it took to earn the credential, potentially leaving students underprepared for their next steps.
The full report is available here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Autistic Youth and Criminal Justice

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.

Julianna Rava, Paul Shattuck,Jessica Rast, and Anne Roux have an article at the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled: "The Prevalence and Correlates of Involvement in the Criminal Justice System Among Youth on the Autism Spectrum."

The abstract:
This study examined the prevalence and correlates of involvement in the criminal justice system among a nationally representative sample of youth with autism. We examined whether youth had been stopped and questioned by police or arrested at 14–15 years old and 21–22 years old. By age 21, approximately 20% of youth with autism had been stopped and questioned by police and nearly 5% had been arrested. Female youth were less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, whereas youth displaying externalizing behaviors were more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. Further research is needed to investigate factors associated with involvement in the criminal justice system among youth with autism and to implement prevention strategies.
From the article:
To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first in the U.S. to use nationally representative data to examine patterns of prevalence and correlates of involvement in the criminal justice system for transition-age youth on the autism spectrum. ... The arrest rates are consistent with previous research regarding youth on the autism spectrum. While others have speculated that individuals on the autism spectrum who are stopped and questioned by police are less likely to be arrested, as police may recognize characteristics of autism in these youth , it is concerning that one inf ive youth on the autism spectrum are coming into contact with law enforcement oicers. Prior research has solely focused on criminal convictions for this population, and that data has presented rates as high as one in seven adult males on the autism spectrum being involved in the CJS (Mouridsen 2008). Based on our research, we can assume individuals are being stopped and questioned by law enforcement at much higher rates than convictions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bannon Advocates Physical Abuse

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.   In this campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.

The appointment of Steve Bannon as senior White House counselor does not bode well for the disability community.

Last month, Jonathan Swan reported at The Hill:
In December 2015, weeks after Ryan became Speaker, Bannon wrote in an internal Breitbart email obtained by The Hill that the “long game” for his news site was for Ryan to be “gone” by the spring.
In the Dec. 1 email, Breitbart’s Washington editor, Matt Boyle, suggested to Bannon via email that a story promoting Ryan’s planned overhaul of the mental health system would be a good way to “open a bridge” to Ryan.
Bannon wasn’t keen on the idea.
“I’ve got a cure for mental health issue,” Bannon wrote to Boyle. “Spank your children more.”
Bannon's Breitbart News Service often quotes Michael Savage.  In 2008,  The New York Times reported:
Michael Savage, the incendiary radio host who last week characterized nearly every child with autism as “a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out,” said in a telephone interview on Monday that he stood by his remarks and had no intention of apologizing to those advocates and parents who have called for his firing over the matter.
From another Breitbart writer:
Time for some honesty. Women are — and you won’t hear this anywhere else — screwing up the internet for men by invading every space we have online and ruining it with attention-seeking and a needy, demanding, touchy-feely form of modern feminism that quickly comes into conflict with men’s natural tendency to be boisterous, confrontational and delightfully autistic. 
Ari Ne'eman writes:
I wish I could say I was surprised.
This is the same Steve Bannon known for spreading racist, misogynist and anti-semitic faux-news across the internet. The same Steve Bannon who faced domestic violence charges after law enforcement found red marks on the neck of his wife while responding to a “domestic disturbance.” The same Steve Bannon whose ex-wife reported that he didn’t want his daughters “going to school with Jews.”
Of course we should know by now that people with disabilities won’t be exempt from this hate. When racism, anti-semitism and misogyny rear their ugly heads, ableism is never far behind. And so we have to be ready.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Race and Special Education

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the experiences of different ethnic and racial groups.

At Exceptional Children, Paul L. Morgan and colleagues have an article titled  "Are Black Children Disproportionately Overrepresented in Special Education? A Best-Evidence Synthesis."

The abstract:
We synthesized empirical work to evaluate whether Black children are disproportionately overrepresented in special education. We identified 22 studies that met a priori inclusion criteria including use of at least 1 covariate in the reported analyses. Evidence of overrepresentation declined markedly as the studies included one or more of 3 “best-evidence” methodological features (i.e., analyses of individual-level data, a nationally representative sample, a control for individual-level academic achievement). Among 48 coefficient estimates from studies with the strongest internal and external validity, only 1 (2.1%) indicated significant overrepresentation. This coefficient suggested a school characteristic (a high percentage of minority students) that may help explain underrepresentation. None of the remaining 47 (97.9%) regression coefficients indicated that Black children’s overrepresentation in special education was explained by misidentification based on race or ethnicity. Instead, the best evidence indicates that Black children are significantly less likely than otherwise similar White children to receive special education services.
From the article:
Collectively, our synthesis provides little support for the view that Black children are overrepresented in special education based on race or ethnicity. The best available studies instead indicate that among children displaying similar needs, White children are more likely to be identified and provided with special education services
Policies emphasizing reducing minority overrepresentation risk exacerbating inequities by further limiting children’s access to special education as well as to IDEA’s extensive legal protections. The view that Black children’s overrepresentation in special education
is the result of widespread misidentification based on race or ethnicity currently lacks  mpirical support from well-designed studies. Yet calls are currently being made to strengthen compliance monitoring as well as implement additional federal policies designed to reduce minority overrepresentation. These well-intentioned policy efforts are not currently based on well-designed empirical studies and would instead be better directed by ensuring that all children with disabilities, regardless of race or ethnicity, are properly evaluated and provided access to the high-quality special education services to which they have a civil right.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Antivax 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

The Age of Autism quotes Jennifer Larson:
Now that Trump won, we can all feel safe in sharing that Mr Trump met with autism advocates in August. He gave us 45 minutes and was extremely educated on our issues. Mark [Blaxill] stated " You can't make America great with all these sick children and more coming". Trump shook his head and agreed. He heard my son's vaccine injury story. Andy told him about Thompson and gave him Vaxxed. Dr Gary [Kampothecras], ended the meeting by saying "Donald, you are the only one who can fix this". He said " I will". We left hopeful. Lots of work left to do.
At Respectful Insolence, Orac displays a photograph of Trump and Andrew Wakefield.

  Donald Trump and Andrew Wakefield. This picture should scare you. The two met in August. Now that Trump is President-Elect, how much influence will antivaxers have in the impending Trump administration?

Oh, and this is the best outfit Andrew Wakefield could come up with to meet with a major Presidential candidate?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump, Gingrich, Vaccines, Autism

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

Sara Reardon, Jeff Tollefson, Alexandra Witze & Lauren Morello report at Nature;
Some scientists have expressed fear about how Trump’s presidency will affect research in the United States. The president-elect has questioned the science underlying climate change and has linked autism to childhood vaccinations; his vice-president, Indiana governor Mike Pence, does not believe in evolution or that human activities have caused climate change. Still, some science advocates caution against a rush to judgement about how the Trump administration will approach science and research issues.
“The verdict remains out,” says Tobin Smith, vice-president for policy at the Association of American Universities in Washington DC. “There are many people who have been strong supporters of science you might not have been expecting.” Smith says that a prime example is Newt Gingrich, the former Republican congressman for Georgia, who is rumoured to be up for a top job in Trump's administration.
At this blog pointed out nearly five years ago, Gingrich has been highly critical of the vaccine notion that Trump champions:

From To Save America (rev. ed., 2011, pp. 142-143):
But perhaps no anti-scientific argument is more dangerous today than the claim put forward by radical environmentalists, most notably Robert F. Kennedy Jr., that childhood vaccinations can cause autism. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have disproved this connection. Moreover, the Lancet, a prominent British journal that published a 1998 study confirming a vaccination-autism connection, recently retracted the study, whose findings had already been repudiated by ten of its thirteen co-authors.
Yet some parents, worried by these rumors, have stopped vaccinating their children, endangering public health.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Foxx Might Chair Education Committee

At Education Week, Andrew Ujifusa reports that  Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will seek to chair the House Committee on Education and Workforce.
Regardless of whether she becomes the committee chairwoman, Foxx said she's "thrilled" to get a chance to work with President-elect Donald Trump.
"The opportunities that this presents to us are so fantastic," said Foxx, who was first elected in 2004.
In 2014, Foxx helped craft legislation that became a reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. And she said that one of the committee's top priorities will be a series of reauthorizations of education law, including the Higher Education Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. And when it comes to those issues, she plans to emphasize fiscal accountability.
"I would love to get the federal government out of education policy altogether. However, that's not going to happen. So my position is, if we're going to be involved, then we should have the money spent as well as it can be spent," Foxx said of HEA, IDEA, and other issues.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

President-Elect Trump

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.   In this campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.

Ari Ne'eman writes at Vox:
Trump has not been shy about his support for the thoroughly discredited idea that autism is caused by vaccinations. As early as the second GOP primary debate, Trump linked autism to vaccines, going on to spout the long discredited idea that “autism has become an epidemic. … Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.”
Of course, this is not true — not only has the autism-vaccine link been shown to be false, but a growing body of scientific evidence shows that autistic people have always existed in approximately the same proportion of the general population, rather than constituting a recent epidemic. But while Trump’s comments on autism have little scientific legitimacy, they have tremendous political relevance.
Over the past 10 years, federal autism policy has witnessed a sea change. As autistic self-advocates (those of us who are autistic ourselves) began to play a bigger role in autism policymaking, discussion began on the need to shift from an overwhelming emphasis on causation, biology, and cure to promoting new investments in services, educational methodologies, and assistive technology.
Many policymakers took note of the objection from large segments of the autistic community to attempting to “cure” autism, hearing our preference to instead focus on improving the opportunity for autistic people to develop skills and lead successful lives as autistic adults. At the behest of advocates like me, Congress changed the nation’s premier autism statute from the Combating Autism Act to the Autism CARES Act, denoting a shift toward a greater emphasis on services rather than trying to make autistic people look and act “normal.”
It’s long been clear to autistic activists that Trump is aligned with the most reactionary forces in the autism community, who would prefer that none of these changes take place. He enjoyed endorsements relatively early in the cycle from prominent anti-vaccine activists who adamantly oppose recent shifts toward a more progressive autism policy. 
Daniel Marans writes at The Huffington Post:
People with disabilities and their family members are deeply afraid of what a Donald Trump presidency has in store for them ― and they are already gearing up to resist harmful policy changes.
First and foremost, advocates worry that Trump’s professed desire to weaken the country’s safety net could jeopardize the lives of vulnerable Americans. They’re also concerned that federal agencies’ roles in policing discrimination and driving reforms of law enforcement practices will change.
Although it is impossible to know how Trump will govern, his campaign platform, the Republican Party’s priorities and his bullying personality ― embodied by his campaign-trail mockery of a reporter with the joint condition arthrogryposis ― are not reassuring, according to disability rights activists. 
At Buzzfeed, Michelle Broder Van Dyke shows Twitter reactions from people with disabilities.

Lindsay Dodgson writes at Business Insider:
Many analyses of Trump's budgets are that it looks like a disaster, and this could have a bad effect on scientific funding. Deficits are likely to explode, and Trump hasn't identified any areas of science that he thinks are worth supporting.
Many scientists contacted Nature to voice their fears about the future of their research.
"This is terrifying for science, research, education, and the future of our planet," Maria Escudero Escribano, a postdoctoral scholar studying electrochemistry and and sustainable energy conversation at Stanford University, wrote on Twitter. "I guess it's time for me to go back to Europe."
"I do breast cancer research for my PhD," Sarah Hengel, a graduate student at the University of Iowa, tweeted. "Scared not only for my future but for the future of research and next years [National Institutes of Health] budget."