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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Two Bills from Senator Casey

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities

From Senator Bob Casey:
The Americans with Disabilities Act affirmed rights outlined in the 14th Amendment. Despite those guarantees, this past year we've seen substantial, and I would argue in many instances, very cruel efforts that threaten equality for people with disabilities. We need actions that promote and protect the dream that is at the core of the ADA. To that end, I'm introducing two pieces of legislation, the Disability Employment Incentive Act and the Office of Disability Policy Act. The first encourages businesses to hire more people with disabilities and the second establishes the infrastructure necessary to provide accurate, nonpartisan information about proposals that could harm people with disabilities.

Licensing Behavior Analysts

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.

Occupational licensing is a tricky issue.  On the one hand, it can protect consumers from unqualified providers of service.  On the other hand, it can hurt consumers by limiting competition and driving up prices.  

In July 2018, Connecticut became the 30th state to require licensing of behavior analysts. Josh Kovner reports at The Hartford Courant:
While there is, and has been since 1998, a group of board certified, master’s- and doctorate-level practitioners in the state, they have been stretched thin, and the side doors to the profession were always left open.
That allowed people with far less professional training to slip in and find work in family homes and even in schools, particularly during the first decade of the 2000s, as parents with children who were newly diagnosed with autism became desperate for qualified analysts.
A person with a good rap and an affinity for working with children could earn a lot of money, at rates approaching $400 an hour — and they could keep working for months or even years, unless or until a parent or school district recognized that the impostor was skirting the requirements for studied observation: precise assessments of behaviors, careful data collection, an individualized treatment plan and follow-up.
“I called them cowboys — maybe they got a list of programs, maybe they attended a workshop, or they spent time working with someone who was qualified,” said Suzane Letso, the mother of a son with autism and a pioneer in the field in Connecticut.
Several years ago, Letso helped win title protection for the real practitioners. It became a felony for someone without board certification to call him or herself a behavior analyst. However, that didn’t stop people with no credentials from offering their services. They just avoided the title, Letso said.
“Of course it can do harm,” Julie Swanson, mother of a son with autism and a special education consultant, said of the work of unqualified behaviorists. “If the intervention doesn’t work, behavior problems can linger into adulthood, and they can become magnified in adulthood. If the assessment is wrong, then the treatment plan is going to be wrong.”

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Limits of Inclusion

Allison Gilmour at Education Next:
It is a mistake to equate the setting in which a student is educated (that is, the general-education classroom) with the actual progress a student is making. Such an assumption ignores the fact that students are found eligible for special-education services precisely because they are failing to progress in general education. Placement data may suggest that SWDs are being exposed to the general-education curriculum, but achievement data suggest that they are not actually learning the curriculum: SWDs placed in general-education classrooms continue to lag dramatically behind their peers. A recent meta-analysis that I conducted with my colleagues Doug Fuchs and Joe Wehby estimated that SWDs score about 1.2 standard deviations below their non-disabled peers in reading, a gap that translates to more than three years of academic growth. Achievement gaps between SWDs and their peers are similarly large in math. Though federal laws stress the importance of educating SWDs in the regular classroom, there is no good evidence that placement there improves the outcomes of these students.
More-recent work also finds that SWDs educated in general-education settings have better outcomes. Roddy Theobald and colleagues observed that high-school students with disabilities in Washington State who spent more time in general-education settings had higher reading scores than their peers who had less time in such settings, even after taking into account differences in prior achievement and a wide range of student characteristics. They were also more likely to graduate on time and enroll in college than students educated in more-restrictive settings. Laura Schifter has reported similar results regarding graduation for students in Massachusetts: SWDs educated in general-education classrooms have higher probabilities of graduating than their peers who were educated in more-isolated settings. These recent studies and others have led many to conclude that inclusion benefits SWDs.
Unfortunately, this determination ignores a major limitation of the current research base: the failure to account for selection bias. Students with higher academic abilities or fewer behavioral challenges are more likely to be placed in inclusive settings, while their peers who may have the same disability label but greater learning or behavioral needs are placed in special-education settings. The consistent finding that SWDs have better outcomes when educated in general-education settings likely reflects this bias. Even in studies that account for students’ prior levels of academic achievement, the researchers may not capture all the aspects of a student, such as his behavior, that can influence both the setting in which he is placed and his future outcomes. A student’s educational placement is an IEP team decision and may be based on a host of factors not included in the administrative data sets to which researchers typically have access. This makes estimating the true causal effect of inclusion on student outcomes nearly impossible.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Minnesota Congressman Attacked ADA and Blamed It for Workplace Shootings

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities.

Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minnesota) once hosted a radio show, where he attacked the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nathan McDermott, Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie at CNN report on a September 2012 broadcast in which he compared the statute to Jim Crow.
"Now the government determines who you shall hire, who you should work next to, and when you're going to be thrown in jail or fined civilly for refusing to employ or serve or do whatever the government says you ought to do," Lewis said. "The irony of this is the last time we tried this was during Jim Crow when the government used to mandate segregation."
Lewis went on to say that the law was one of the worst.
"The economy is stifled under an anarchy of laws of rules; Dodd Frank, Obamacare, the EPA, environmental laws, OSHA, you name it, not to mention antidiscrimination laws, and the ADA is one of the worst."
Later, in the same episode, Lewis continued to criticize the Americans with Disabilities Act, and blamed the law for an increase in workplace shootings.
"Because of the ADA, we have eviscerated the notion of fair play and in the process in these workplace shootings, I have the temerity today, the audacity, to suggest that that is partly responsible for these workplace shootings. In every single instance, the person had a history of mental, mental illness, something set them off and they go bonkers and kill people. So why did we not screen those people out?"
Lewis' comments blaming the law for mass shootings came in response to news of a workplace shooting earlier in the day in Minneapolis that left six people dead.

Florida Medicaid Mess

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

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration has sanctioned four behavior therapy firms for not paying fines, employing unqualified therapists and withholding required information. AHCA is slow-walking therapy authorizations and approvals of new therapists,

Daniel Chang reports at The Miami Herald:
The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, a statewide nonprofit that promotes the therapy — which is designed to correct behavioral issues in children with developmental disabilities — said the delays are hurting kids.
“These delays are inexcusable and are causing heartache for so many children and families who desperately need the services provided by qualified behavior analysts,” Nikki Dickens, president of FABA, said in a written statement. “Our state government simply cannot sit back while these vulnerable children suffer as a result of an ineffective and inefficient bureaucratic system.”
In May, AHCA imposed a moratorium on enrollment of new behavior analysis providers in Miami-Dade and Broward, alleging rampant fraud that included therapists falsifying credentials and billing for more hours than there are in a day. The sanctions announced last week are part of that investigation.
But some Miami-Dade providers say AHCA used wrong or outdated information as a reason to suspend their therapists from Medicaid and then forced the provider to repay thousands of dollars.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Support Ducks

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the  civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities.  Sometimes disputes involve service or support animals.

Parents of a 12-year-old Michigan boy with autism have started a GoFundMe page to raise money to fight for what they say is their son's right to keep his two ducks as emotional support animals
Mark and Jen Dyke of Georgetown Township in southwest Michigan allow their son, Dylan, to keep the ducks at their home and someone complained to local officials, according to the GoFundMe campaign. The family was told to remove the ducks, named Nibbles and Bill, because they violate local zoning ordinances. 
"This would devastate Dylan as he needs these ducks to function at his best, so we won't give up that easily," the parents wrote in their campaign.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Italian Court: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

From ANSA:
Italy's top court said Wednesday there was no link between vaccines and autism. The Cassation Court reiterated that there was no correlation between vaccines and autism. 
It turned down the plea of a man who wanted damage saying the Cinquerix vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and HIB had caused his son to "fall ill with autism" in 2001. 
Italy has a strong 'No-vax' vaccine skepticism movement, sometimes fanned in the past by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Antivax Facebook

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

Will Sommer at The Daily Beast:
Facebook groups and pages devoted to promoting vaccine skepticism rank at the top of Facebook searches for vaccination-related terms like “vaccines,” helping those groups spread false claims that vaccines cause autism and the like.
The top results for vaccine information on Facebook, for example, returned “anti-vaxx” groups with names like “United Against Vaccines,” Vaccines Injury Stories,” “Vaccines Exposed,” and pages related to opposing mandatory vaccination rules
The groups and pages push a hard line against vaccinations, often paired with pictures of babies and needles. The groups often include memes claiming that doctors don’t learn enough about vaccines in medical school to be trusted.
One Facebook page, “The Truth About Vaccines,” has more than 130,000 followers receiving posts with articles claiming, among other things, that children who don’t receive vaccines are healthier than those who do. The operator of another page, “Stop Mandatory Vaccination,” assured the page’s more than 110,000 followers in a post that they don’t need vaccinations.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast it removes information that violates its community guidelines and allows users to tailor the information they see on the site. Facebook has also attempted to offer third-party fact-checking alongside inaccurate articles that appear in a user’s News Feed. But Facebook refused to comment on why it allows anti-vaccine hoaxes to spread on the site, or why it makes it so easy to find anti-vaxx groups through searches.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Monday, July 23, 2018

Michigan Needs Intervention

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

Jennifer Chambers at The Detroit News:
Michigan is the only state in the nation that failed to meet federal special education requirements and requires intervention, according to a U.S. Department of Education evaluation.
Federal education officials rated Michigan's annual performance on meeting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, for the 2016-17 school year as "needs intervention."
Federal officials use both compliance and results data for a “letter of determination” on whether a state "meets requirements," "needs assistance" or "needs intervention."
Michigan’s rating came from its high drop-out rate and low graduation rate for students with disabilities, education experts say, as well as its poor performance in results data, which includes student assessments.
Michigan is the only state to receive the "needs intervention" ranking, alongside Washington, D.C., Palau and Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Lazare Incident

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Graham Incident

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people.   Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not, things get out of hand 

Nichole Manna at The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
If Graham police had proper training on how to approach people with autism and if all information given to dispatch had been relayed to officers, it’s likely that 19-year-old Michael Moore would have never been cuffed, wrestled to the ground and stunned twice by officers on June 26, according to experts.
That day, a neighbor in the 900 block of Texas Street called 911 to report that someone was throwing rocks into her yard and at her dogs. It wasn’t the first time he had done it, she said. She told dispatchers that Moore seemed to be “not all there.” She also asked dispatch to tell the officers to talk to her before they approached Moore. She said she had asked Moore not to throw rocks before, and just wanted officers to talk to him, reports say.
However, records show that dispatch didn’t tell police that the caller described Moore as “not all there” — which she meant as “mentally,” she wrote in an account to police.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

California Vax Law and Bogus Medical Exemptions

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

Soumya Karlamangla at the Los Angeles Times:
California lawmakers took action after a measles outbreak that began in Disneyland in 2014 was linked to children whose parents had refused vaccines.

Despite parents’ fears, vaccines are largely safe, experts say. The most common side effects are soreness at the injection site or developing a fever or rash, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Everything else people are worried about doesn’t happen, like autism or developmental delays,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious diseases expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

With the personal belief exemption banned in California, the only way to skip the required shots is by homeschooling kids or having a doctor state that a child can’t tolerate vaccines because of a health reason.

The law, known as SB 277, has largely been effective. The vaccination rate among kindergartners is up to 95%, from 93% before the law took effect in 2016.

But doctors say that preventing outbreaks requires high vaccination rates not just statewide, but also in each neighborhood or school. Otherwise, diseases can spread in pockets with low immunity.

But at 785 of the roughly 6,500 elementary schools in the state, 90% or fewer kindergartners had all of their required shots. Some of those students were planning to get their shots later in the school year and they hadn’t come due yet. But many had notes from their doctors saying they shouldn’t be vaccinated for the rest of their childhood.

Doctors say that at most, 3% of people could have a medical reason for not tolerating vaccines, such as a gelatin allergy or because they’re undergoing chemotherapy. But at 20 schools, more than a quarter of students had a medical exemption, according to state data.

“One can only conclude that children are getting bogus medical exemptions and the doctors are willing to give them,” Offit said. “It’s unconscionable — suddenly, 25% of children can’t get vaccines? Really? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Antivax Movement and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

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

At Social Science and Medicine, Matthew Motta,Timothy Callaghan, and Steven Sylvester have article title:: "Knowing less but Presuming More: Dunning-Kruger Effects and the Endorsement of Anti-vaccine Policy Attitudes.
  • Low knowledge about autism is associated with thinking one knows more than experts.
  • “Overconfidence” is associated with anti-vaccine policy attitudes.
  • Overconfidence is also associated with support for non-experts’ role in policymaking.
Although the benefits of vaccines are widely recognized by medical experts, public opinion about vaccination policies is mixed. We analyze public opinion about vaccination policies to assess whether Dunning-Kruger effects can help to explain anti-vaccination policy attitudes.
People low in autism awareness – that is, the knowledge of basic facts and dismissal of misinformation about autism – should be the most likely to think that they are better informed than medical experts about the causes of autism (a Dunning-Kruger effect). This “overconfidence” should be associated with decreased support for mandatory vaccination policies and skepticism about the role that medical professionals play in the policymaking process.
In an original survey of U.S. adults (N = 1310), we modeled self-reported overconfidence as a function of responses to a knowledge test about the causes of autism, and the endorsement of misinformation about a link between vaccines and autism. We then modeled anti-vaccination policy support and attitudes toward the role that experts play in the policymaking process as a function of overconfidence and the autism awareness indicators while controlling for potential confounding factors.
More than a third of respondents in our sample thought that they knew as much or more than doctors (36%) and scientists (34%) about the causes of autism. Our analysis indicates that this overconfidence is highest among those with low levels of knowledge about the causes of autism and those with high levels of misinformation endorsement. Further, our results suggest that this overconfidence is associated with opposition to mandatory vaccination policy. Overconfidence is also associated with increased support for the role that non-experts (e.g., celebrities) play in the policymaking process.
Dunning-Kruger effects can help to explain public opposition to vaccination policies and should be carefully considered in future research on anti-vaccine policy attitudes.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Suing The Education Department Over IDEA

A press release from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA):
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for abdicating its responsibility to protect the civil rights of students. The suit alleges that the Department has taken actions that interfere with USDOE’s obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure children with disabilities get the education services they need in the most appropriate setting without regard to their race.
COPAA filed the suit against the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos and Johnny W. Collett, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, to challenge the Department’s notice delaying the implementation of regulations on significant disproportionality, known as the Equity in IDEA regulations. The Department's actions are legally flawed and bad policy that stall much needed reform.

It is just the second time in its 20-year history that COPAA has sued a federal agency. The decision to delay the regulation is an assault on children and the Department’s action sends mixed messages to the states regarding implementation of a key tool for civil rights enforcement. “The delay harms children and we can't afford a delay. We have real stories of kindergartners suspended 60 times; older boys and girls pushed out and criminalized for behaviors that are related to their disability. The state is not doing what it should to properly identify and serve students. We need the federal government to implement the regulations now,” said Shenikwa Medlock, a parent and advocate COPAA member in Texas. COPAA’s Executive Director, Denise Marshall said “the regulations respond to the reality that, despite being a requirement under IDEA for almost 15 years, many school districts have not taken the steps to correctly identify whether students of color need special education, sometimes under-identifying, sometime over-identifying, but rarely just right.”

According to the complaint, the significant disproportionality provision was intended to serve as an early-warning system for possible problems, analogous to a “check engine” light. When a State identifies racially significant disproportionality in a school district’s identification, placement, or discipline of students with disabilities, the State must review the school district’s policies, practices, and procedures to ensure they comply with the IDEA; engage in an analysis that identifies the factors contributing to the significant disproportionality, i.e., a root–cause analysis; and spend a percentage of their IDEA funds on comprehensive coordinated intervention services. There is no requirement that a school district eliminate a significant disproportionality if the disproportionality is not a result of violations of the IDEA but instead reflects differences among different student populations in that community.

COPAA is represented in the lawsuit by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and Sidley Austin LLP. According to Seth Galanter, Senior Director of Legal Advocacy at NCYL “It's well documented that students of color who are wrongly identified as needing special education are improperly placed in restrictive classrooms, lose access to challenging academics, and are subjected to unfair disciplinary measures.” Galanter says a delay in implementing the Equity in IDEA regulations will prevent COPAA from bringing these and other harms to the attention of USDOE and the public.###

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Darla Shine Spread Antivax Nonsense on Talk Radio

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  TwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth. So has talk radio.

Andrew Kaczynski, Nathan McDermott and Chris Massie at CNN report that Darla Shine had a radio show where she said that vaccines cause autism:
"When we come back, I want to ask you about this, what I believe is an obvious link to autism and mercury, the preservatives and the shots," Shine said on a May 2008 show. "But guys, we have a constitutional right to take care of her own family. This is ridiculous. You know what, instead of mandating the flu shot, the government should be worrying about creating jobs in America."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Insurance in North Dakota

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of insurance.

Helmut Schmidt at The West Fargo Pioneer:
All insurance companies doing business in North Dakota will soon be required to provide coverage for autism spectrum disorders, the state insurance commissioner announced Wednesday, July 11.

A bulletin was issued Wednesday to insurers telling them that treatments for autism can’t be excluded from their policies, Commissioner Jon Godfread said in a news conference at the North Dakota Autism Center.

Coverage must be in place by Oct. 1 for policies “grandfathered in” under the Affordable Care Act, Godfread said. Coverage for policies purchased on the open market must be available by Jan. 1.
“Today’s a great day!” Godfread said, adding that insurance carriers “are being very cooperative.”North Dakota is the 48th state to require insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders, said Lorri Unumb, vice president for state government affairs for the national group, Autism Speaks. Only Wyoming and Tennessee don’t require such coverage, she said.
From Autism Speaks:
The insurance bulletin also carries national precedence in clarifying that state-regulated insurance companies should be covering autism treatments under existing federal mental health parity law. Autism Speaks Vice President of State Government Affairs, Lorri Unumb, praised Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, noting that "laws are in place to prohibit the kinds of exclusions autism families routinely face; Commissioner Godfread had the guts to issue a bulletin and insist on compliance with the existing law."
 KFGO-AM reports:
In addition, Godfread notified insurance carriers in the Bulletin that they will no longer be allowed to exclude Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to treat children with autism on the basis that ABA therapy is experimental or investigative treatment.
“Working with our partners at the federal level and with health insurers operating in North Dakota, we can now say that ABA therapies are no longer experimental or investigational and are widely recognized as a leading treatment for children with autism. Therefore, North Dakota families should have access to ABA therapies through their insurance plan” Godfread said.
All grandfathered and transitional health insurance policies regulated by the Department, including the individual, small group, and large group insured markets, must follow the guidance set forth by the Bulletin beginning no later than Oct. 1, 2018. All non-grandfathered health insurance policies and self-funded Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement health benefit plans regulated by the Department must follow the guidance of the Bulletin beginning no later than Jan. 1, 2019.
For more information or to read the Bulletin in its entirety, visit


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Congressional Voting Scorecards

Scott Badesch at The Autism Society:
When the Autism Society is asked to take a position on a particular bill in Congress or action by the United States Government, we engage in a review process and assess how it matches with our policy positions, our strategic plan, and our mission and vision developed by our Board of Directors.
Our review process starts with the simple questions as to how the proposed policy might impact autistic individuals and families we represent. We then assess the impact of the planned or proposed action. We also know that we represent a diverse community that often reflects the differences in the politics of our nation. In spite of these challenges, we strive to ensure our actions match up with our mission and vision and are supported by data and evidence-based research.
I mention this because this November, elections will be held in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In all 50 states, voters will have the opportunity to vote for who will represent them in the House of Representatives and in some states, who will represent them in the Senate. As we advocate for a comprehensive and effective Federal government response to helping individuals impacted by autism, we also know that election time is a good time for each person to assess how well their current elected officials running for re-election, as well as candidates running against such individuals, share our mission and values. We do not (and can not) endorse any candidate, but we can and should educate voters on the policy positions of these candidates related to autism services and supports. To provide this information, we will be developing “Scorecards” based on votes or positions taken by incumbents running for the Senate or House of Representatives. We expect this “Scorecard” will be available in early October 2018.
Advocacy has to be more than letting your elected officials know what you think or what you want regarding a particular piece of legislation. It has to also be about holding them accountable when they wish to represent us and our constituency.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Program for Autistic Students at Marquette

Jennifer Walter reports at the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a program at Marquette University.
Along with her colleagues, Wendy Krueger and Mary Carlson, [psychologist Amy] Van Hecke had been developing On Your Marq for several years before funding came along.

Most college students with autism are high-functioning and do just fine academically, but can't find personalized resources to help with the social stuff. Van Hecke found herself turning prospective students away who wanted to come to Marquette but had a disability.

“You might have to look into other options,” Van Hecke would tell them. Even though Marquette has an Office of Disability Services and a social skills program for high school students, there was nothing specific for undergraduates.

Van Hecke saw a need to establish long-term, specialized resources at Marquette — something aimed at specifically helping students on the autism spectrum adjust to college life outside the classroom.

In addition to regular undergraduate courses, students will be enrolled in social skills classes through the PEERS program, which is already in place at Marquette for K-12 students. They'll also be paired with a coach and a peer mentor for one-on-one support. The goal is to get these students comfortably integrated into the Marquette community, academically as well as socially.

Peer mentoring works "kind of like a buddy program," Van Hecke said. Undergraduate volunteers will be paired with one participant to show them the ropes on and off campus — from eating lunch in the cafeteria to using the bus to get around town. Ideally, they will attend social skills classes with their mentee so that they can be on the same page with what they are learning and how they are adjusting.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Darla Shine, Social Media Antivaxxer

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autismTwitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.

Caleb Ecarma at Mediaite reports on Darla Shine,, the wife of Bill Shine — former Fox News co-president who just became White House communications chief.
The belief that vaccinations cause autism, despite being thoroughly debunked, featured prominently on Shine’s social media accounts.

Of all her controversial opinions, conspiracy theories on vaccinations appears to be what Shine is most passionate about. Mediaite found that she has posted unfounded anti-vaccination theories over two dozen times.
“Our biggest national security threat isn’t ISIS it’s that 1 out of 2 boys will be autistic by 2050. @JohnKasich @BernieSanders #vaxxed,” she tweeted in 2016, which is pretty representative of the rest of her oeuvre.
Shine also frequently writes about vaccinations on her blog and her Facebook page.

Yashar Ali at The Huffington Post:
An November 2016, Shine tweeted an article from a blog that frequently promotes conspiracy theories and tagged Trump in it. The tweet read: “Putin says Western Civilization being destroyed by over vaccinating @realDonaldTrump #toomanyvaccines.”

The headline of the blog post Shine linked to read, “Russian president Vladimir Putin says that Western governments are enslaving humanity through vaccines.”
Shine also frequently tied the vaccination of children to autism, once tweeting: “Biggest national security threat is autism! @realDonaldTrump How can we run a country when half of all boys will be autistic by 2050?”

Saturday, July 7, 2018


In The Politics of Autism, I write:
For those who remain at larger residential institutions, the horrors of yesteryear have generally ended. In 2012, however, a ten-year-old video surfaced, showing disturbing image of an electric shock device at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton Massachusetts. Staffers tied one student to a restraint board and shocked him 31 times over seven hours, ignoring his screamed pleas to stop. The Rotenberg Center is the only one in the nation that admits to using electric shocks on people with developmental disabilities, including autism. Center officials said that they had stopped using restraint boards but insisted that shocks were necessary in extreme cases to prevent officials insist the shock program is a last resort that prevents people with severe disorders from hurting themselves or others. Though a majority of the FDA’s Neurological Devices Panel said that such devises pose “an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury,” the agency had not banned them as of 2014.
From the Autism Society:
On June 27, a Bristol County judge sided with the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) located in Canton Massachusetts, allowing JRC to continue using electric shock on over 60 students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). The judge sided with the school stating that the State “failed to demonstrate that there is no professional consensus that the Level III aversive treatment does not conform to the accepted standard of care for treating individuals with I/DD”. Health and Human Services Secretary, Marylou Sudders, says the State must now decide within the next 20 days to file an appeal. Advocates continue to call on the Food and Drug Administration to act on its 2016 proposal to ban the use of electrical shock devices.
Emily Shugerman at The Independent:
Backlash against the treatment began in 2012, when video surfaced of 18-year-old Andre McCollins receiving more than two dozen electrical shocks while tied to a bed at the centre in 2002.

Mr McCollins mother, Cheryl McCollins, settled a lawsuit against the school for an undisclosed amount in 2012. JRC claims it has significantly changed its procedures since then.
But the treatment was met with protests from disability rights group ADAPT as recently as this month, when advocates picketed outside the home of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

The protesters wanted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to push forward A proposed regulation banning the practice, which the agency said in 2016 posed an “unreasonable and substantial risk” to public health.
“They have been sitting on these regulations for more than two years,” said Philadelphia ADAPT organiser German Parodi in a press release, “and they can stop this atrocity now with the stroke of a pen.”

Friday, July 6, 2018

South Carolina Has Low Medicaid Reimbursement Rates for ABA

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

Lauren Saussner at The Post and Courier that the mother of a six-year in Lexington County, South Carolina is filing a federal suit against South Carolina's Medicaid agency.
Identified in the lawsuit as Z.M., the child's pediatrician recommended in 2015 that he receive dozens of hours of therapy each week, including six consultation hours of applied behavior analysis therapy.

But the lawsuit alleges that Medicaid's reimbursement rates for applied behavior analysis, or ABA, are so low that Z.M.'s parents cannot find a provider willing to offer the therapy their son needs. The lawsuit calls South Carolina's rate "among the worst in the nation."
The agency recently increased its rate to about $31 an hour for this therapy, but last year the department paid about $17 an hour.

The new rate falls far short of most other states.

Lorri Unumb, vice president for state government affairs at Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group, calculated the average rate among 30 states is about $44 an hour.

Both North Carolina and Georgia pay closer to $50, she said.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Vaccination: Good News, and Ongoing Challenges

 In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

At Metro (UK), Chris of the National Autistic Society recalls the infamous 1998 Wakefield article making the bogus suggestion that vaccines cause autism.
Fortunately, I was only four-years-old at the time; but so many older autistic people have shared their memories of the months and years that followed, as thousands upon thousands of parents opted out of the MMR vaccine. Vaccination – one of the most incredible and life-saving discoveries in the history of medicine – was being avoided by parents so terrified that their child would be autistic, that they would put their child’s health at risk to avoid being like us.
Of course, 20 years later, we know that there is no scientific credibility in being anti-vaccination. However, what is more worrying for the autistic community is the ignorance which led to such a response in the first place. Parents whose only knowledge of autism came from TV tropes and media hysteria feared that having an autistic child would be the end for their family.
The devastating effects of that article in The Lancet 20 years ago are still being felt, with increased rates of measles this year from those who were not vaccinated when they were children. In order to prevent such an unpleasant chain of events from happening again, we need to work together for a world where autistic people are understood, supported, and included – not feared
Bob Egelko reports at The San Francisco Chronicle:
California did not violate freedom of religion or the right to an education when it required virtually all public and private school students to be vaccinated against contagious illnesses in 2016, a state appeals court says.
“Compulsory immunization has long been recognized as the gold standard for preventing the spread of contagious diseases,” the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said Monday. Citing California rulings as early as 1890 that rejected challenges to mandatory-vaccination laws, the court said the new law was not discriminatory and was a valid measure to protect public health.
The law was prompted by an outbreak of measles in 2014 that was traced to youngsters at Disneyland who had not been vaccinated. It requires all schoolchildren to be inoculated against illnesses including measles, mumps, chickenpox, tetanus, whooping cough and rubella.
Last week, Soumya Karlamangla reported at The Los Angeles Times:
In a decision that could signal how California’s fierce vaccine debates will play out in the coming years, the Medical Board of California has ordered 35 months’ probation for Dr. Bob Sears, an Orange County pediatrician well-known for being sympathetic to parents opposed to vaccines.

In 2016, the board threatened to revoke Sears’ medical license for wrongly writing a doctor’s note for a 2-year-old boy that exempted him from all childhood vaccinations. This week, the medical board settled on a lesser punishment.
Sears can keep practicing medicine but will be required to take 40 hours of medical education courses a year, as well as an ethics class, and also be monitored by a fellow doctor. He also must notify all hospital and medical facilities where he practices of the order and is not allowed to supervise physician assistants or nurse practicioners.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Another Bad Encounter with Police

Two Graham police officers are under investigation after handcuffing and using a stun gun on a teenager with autism last week, according to a Facebook post by the Graham Police Department.
The 19-year-old's mother — who said she watched body camera footage of the incident twice — says police have omitted some information about what happened.
The incident started when officers were dispatched to an alley in the 900 block of Texas regarding a man — identified as Michael Moore by family members — who was reportedly throwing rocks at a house on June 26. The caller described the man as “not all there,” but that information was not passed onto the responding officer and his ride-along passenger — an off-duty jailer with the county, police said.
Moore's mom, Tracie Moore, said the video clearly shows her son was "put into a choke hold" and that's when the three of them fell. She said there's a broken vessel in his right eye and scratches on his body.
Moore calmed down, police said, and then directed them to where he lived.
However, Tracie Moore said the video shows that her son immediately told police he lived at the house near them, and asked to get his mother multiple times.
"The video shows Michael at the corner of our house and when he sees the officers, he walks to the officers," she told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday. "They proceed to ask him questions, his age, date of birth and where he lived. He stated within the first two minutes of that conversation, 'I live here,' pointing to our house. 'My mama is inside let me get my mom.' "
Tracie Moore says she didn't learn a stun gun was used on her son until the next day.