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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Abuse of Children with Autism and other Disabilities

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
People with disabilities are victims of violent crime three times as often as people without disabilities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics does not report separately on autistic victims, but it does note that the victimization rate is especially high among those whose disabilities are cognitive. A small-sample study of Americans and Canadians found that adults with autism face a greater risk of sexual victimization than their peers. Autistic respondents were more than twice as likely to say that had been the victim of rape and over three times as likely to report unwanted sexual contact.

The UN Population fund has a study titled Young Persons with Disabilities: Global Study on Ending Gender-Based Violence, and RealisingSexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 
Children who are deaf, blind, or autistic, have psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, or have multiple impairments are most vulnerable to all forms of violence. Studies have found that children with intellectual disabilities are five times more likely to be subjected to abuse than other children are and are far more vulnerable to bullying.
Jones, L., Bellis, M., Wood, S., Hughes, K. McCoy, E., Eckley, L., & Bates, G. (2013). The State of the World’s Children 2013, Children with Disabilities. Essays. Focus: Violence against Children with Disabilities. Retrieved from; Lisa Jones, et al. (2012). Prevalence and Risk of Violence against Children with Disabilities: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, The Lancet 380, 899–907; United Nations (2017). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and young women with disabilities, A/72/133; Meer, T. & Combrinck, H. (2015). Invisible Intersections: Understanding the complex stigmatisation of women with intellectual disabilities in their vulnerability to gender-based violence, Agenda 29(2), 14- 23; Braathen, A., Rohleder, P. & Azalde, G. (2017). Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Girls with Disabilities: A review of the literature. 18-19. 66 Jones, L., Bellis, M., Wood, S., Hughes, K. McCoy, E., Eckley, L., & Bates, G. (2013). The State of the World’s Children 2013, Children with Disabilities. Essays. Focus: Violence against Children with Disabilities. Retrieved from; Spencer, N., Devereux, E., Wallace, A., Sundrum, R., Shenoy, M., Bacchus, C. & Logan, S. (2005). Disabling conditions and registration for child abuse and neglect: a population based study, Paediatrics 116: 609–613; and Sweden, The Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsoinstitutet) (2012). Health and Welfare of children and young people with disabilities (Hälsa och välfärd hos barn och unga med funktionsnedsättning). 39 and 50; as cited in European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2015). Violence against children with disabilities: legislation, policies and programmes in the EU. Retrieved from publication/2015/children-disabilities-violence.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Real Threat

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

Dr. Peter Hotez at The Verge:
Though most parents in the United States do vaccinate their children, there are pockets where it has become increasingly common to refuse. For example, between 2003 and 2016, there was a 19-fold increase in vaccine refusal in Texas and a political action committee in the state is raising money to help parents apply for exemption. Vaccine skeptics have hosted an anti-vaccine march on Washington and Trump himself has falsely suggested that vaccines cause autism.
When enough people aren’t vaccinated, we lose “herd immunity” and the entire community is at risk. Using the examples of measles again, a single infected person can infect more than a dozen people who haven’t been vaccinated — many of whom are children or who have compromised immune systems. Last year, a JAMA Pediatrics study suggested that a 5 percent reduction in vaccination coverage is enough to risk a big outbreak. “This is a terrible self-inflicted wound and a lot of that is coming from the activities of political action committees using Tea Party language like ‘medical freedom’ and ‘vaccine choice,’’ says Hotez. “And so it’s incredibly disingenuous of those same individuals to worry about diseases that immigrants are bringing in.” Ultimately, the greater harm doesn’t come from refugees or asylum-seekers outside our borders, but from the anti-vaxxers, already right here in the US, who could make us all vulnerable.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Workplace Inclusion

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other disabilities.

Meera Jagannathan writes about workplace inclusion at Moneyish:
“It’s important to remember that people with disabilities are not a homogenous community,” said Sheehy, who experienced a spinal-cord injury more than two decades ago and uses a wheelchair. In addition to spanning every race, nationality and ethnicity, she said, people with disabilities may have blindness or be hard of hearing; have chronic conditions like lupus or multiple sclerosis; have intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder; or have psychiatric disabilities like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. (Consider that many disabilities are invisible to observers.)
Employees with disabilities “often get stuck in the assistant trap,” said Rebecca Cokley, the director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress and a little person. So provide pipelines for them to move up the corporate ladder: “As you start to see employees with disabilities move up the ladder in a corporate setting or even in a nonprofit setting, you start to see the culture shift around what it means to be a person with a disability,” she said.
Earlier this month, Paige Smith reported at BNA:
Federal contractors now have an incentive to make disability inclusion a workplace priority: two years of freedom from audits by the Labor Department’s enforcement agency.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs on Oct. 5 proposed an award to recognize federal contractors who facilitate opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
The agency’s regulations establish a 7 percent goal to “recruit, hire, promote, and retain” individuals with disabilities, under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Award or not, most contractors won’t be scrambling to apply, Ogletree Deakins attorney T. Scott Kelly told Bloomberg Law.
Many contractors are too busy “trying to grapple with all of the other regulatory requirements OFCCP has out there,” Kelly said.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Special Education Teacher Shortages

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

In Honolulu, Manolo Morales reports at KHON:
Experts say a 12-year-old special education student allegedly choked by his teacher on Hawaii island brings to light a bigger problem: a severe shortage of properly trained teachers.

So what's causing that, and what can be done to fix the problem?

Officials at the University of Hawaii College of Education say there are enough graduates every year to fill the need. The problem is they don't stay in special education very long.

Diana Lambert at EdSource:
California has earmarked nearly $200 million over the last four years to address the state’s persistent teacher shortage, but it is not enough, according to new studies that are part of “Getting Down to Facts II,” a research project focused on a wide array of statewide education issues.
The teacher shortage has worsened in recent years as state funding for education improved and districts began lowering class sizes and bringing back programs like summer school and the arts, which were frequently eliminated during the recession, increasing the need for more teachers.
Declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs after the economic downturn and teacher attrition also have contributed to the shortage of educators. Teacher turnover currently accounts for 88 percent of the demand for new teachers, according to the research.
“The story is still bleak,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and the author of “Teacher Shortages in California: Evidence about Current Status, Sources, and Potential Solutions,” one of the research project’s 36 reports released this week. The reports were written by more than 100 authors, including many prominent researchers from California
From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Quick Facts: Special Education Teachers
2017 Median Pay$58,980 per year
Typical Entry-Level EducationBachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 2016439,300
Job Outlook, 2016-268% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-2633,300

What Special Education Teachers Do
Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.
Work Environment
Most special education teachers work in public schools, teaching students from preschool to high school. Others work in private schools, childcare services, and other institutions. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, but some work year round.
How to Become a Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers in public schools are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Teachers in private schools typically need a bachelor’s degree, but may not be required to have a state license or certification.
The median annual wage for special education teachers was $58,980 in May 2017.
Job Outlook
Overall employment of special education teachers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. School enrollment and the demand for special education services should drive employment growth.
State & Area Data
Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for special education teachers.
Similar Occupations
Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of special education teachers with similar occupations.
More Information, Including Links to O*NET
Learn mo

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Another Dragging Incident in Kentucky

In The Politics of Autismdiscuss the use of restraint and seclusion, along with cases of abuse.

In Lexington, Kentucky, Valerie Honeycutt Spears reports at The Herald-Leader:
A few days after school started in August, Ashley Horton said a state child protective service worker knocked on her door with some unsettling news about how Horton’s 6-year-old autistic son had been injured at Lexington’s Picadome Elementary School.
The details are similar to another recent dragging incident of a Fayette autistic student that drew national attention. A description was included in a Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services investigative report that state officials finished Oct. 19. Horton and her attorney shared the report with the Herald-Leader.
Picadome school staff identified as witnesses told state investigators that a teacher’s aide — found not to have completed re-certification in safe crisis management — dragged the boy by the ankles into a classroom “when he would not cooperate with her,” the report said.
She put him in a room by himself while standing outside and holding the door closed, the report stated. She also picked him up from behind and sat down with him in a rocking chair, causing him to bump his head. The techniques were not appropriate or approved, the report said, and the boy could have hurt himself when placed in isolation.
State officials found enough evidence to support the allegations, which the teacher’s aide denied, the report said.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Autism in a Wisconsin Senate Race

An October 17 release from the Wisconsin Democratic Party:
Today, Wisconsin health care professionals gathered outside of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa to highlight Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir's record of repeatedly siding with insurance companies over Wisconsinites in need of health care coverage.
At the event, the health care professionals drew attention to Vukmir in 2007 blocking two separate bills that would have required insurance companies to cover Wisconsinites' autism treatments. First, Vukmir used her position as chair of the Assembly Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform to block and ultimately kill 2007 Assembly 417, a bill to require "health insurance coverage of treatment for autism spectrum disorders," without so much as holding a hearing a vote or hearing on the measure. Then, Vukmir worked to sabotage 2007 Senate Bill 178, a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate to expand autism treatment coverage, ultimately voting to table and kill it.
Former Wisconsin state Rep. Sandy Pasch:
"Vukmir talks about her record as a nurse but she's always voted against taking care of people [...] In 2007, Vukmir blocked two separate bills that would have required insurance companies to cover Wisconsinites' autism treatments. [...] How could anyone, let alone a nurse, oppose expanding coverage for Wisconsinites with autism? It's shocking. But, then again, this is the same Leah Vukmir who tried to block oral chemo coverage and voted against hearing aid coverage for kids."

Thursday, October 25, 2018

ABLE Awareness

The Politics of Autism includes a discussion of the ABLE Act.
At The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Illinois state treasurer Michael Frerichs and Missouri state treasurer Eric Schmitt write:
Last December, Congress strengthened ABLE further by passing the ABLE to Work Act, which allows individuals with disabilities who are working to contribute even more to their ABLE accounts. In many cases, working individuals with disabilities can contribute up to $27,060 per year into their ABLE accounts, and earn tax-free on those contributions. Contributions are also eligible for the Saver’s Credit, a federal tax credit for retirement contributions that low and middle-income individuals can claim. Simply put, ABLE to Work provides valuable improvements to help individuals with disabilities achieve greater financial wellness.

Eligible Americans living with disabilities can open an account in almost any of the 39 states plus the District of Columbia that have created ABLE programs, including Missouri and Illinois. It’s advisable to look at your own state’s program first.

While ABLE accounts have already helped thousands better manage the costs of living with a disability, there are important ways to improve the program. As co-chairs of the National Association of State Treasurers’ (NAST) ABLE Committee, we work with other state treasurers to analyze ABLE’s success and advocate for improvements in Congress.

While we continue to lobby Congress for additional ABLE improvements, the most important way to ensure ABLE accounts continue to be a valuable resource for Americans with disabilities is to make sure that people know about it. Almost 500,000 individuals living with disabilities and their families in Illinois and Missouri are eligible to open ABLE accounts and take advantage of the opportunity to earn, save money and achieve greater financial wellness.

If you or a loved one is living with a disability, consider opening an ABLE account. Contact your state’s ABLE plan to learn more. By participating, individuals no longer live in fear that success in employment could jeopardize the benefits that they rely on to make ends meet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Gubernatorial Candidates Abet the Antivax Movement

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

Republican gubernatorial candidates are abetting the anti-vax movement.

Max Reiss at NBC Connecticut:
In a grainy video recorded over the summer at a campaign event, Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor, shared some of his thoughts on childhood immunization laws.
NBC Connecticut obtained the video of Stefanowski from a source working for Democratic campaigns in Connecticut. The video is two minutes long, and it is unknown what is said before or after the two-minute portion on immunization policy.
Stefanowski was asked by an audience member at the event, which appears to have been hosted by the Quiet Corner Tea Party, about the state mandating certain immunizations in order for students to attend public school.
The member of the audience, who is off camera and cannot be identified, asked, “Do you think the state should dictate [immunizations] or should local [Boards of Education] handle that?”
Stefanowski responded by saying, “I think it depends on the vaccination. We shouldn’t be dumping a lot of drugs into kids for no reason.”
Reiss also reports:
More than three dozen doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are criticizing Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski after NBC Connecticut aired exclusive video of the candidate expressing skepticism of childhood vaccines and the state law requiring kids get immunized in order to attend school.

The group of health professionals includes pediatricians, registered nurses, and other specialists.
"As pediatricians, it is deeply concerning to us that a candidate for governor would spread flagrant disinformation about childhood vaccinations," The group wrote of Stefanowski’s comments.
They went on to describe Stefanowski’s position as, "downright dangerous," and "irresponsible."
Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast:
In Oregon, Dr. Knute Buehler—yes, a physician—said that “parents should have the right to opt out” of vaccinations “for personal beliefs, for religious beliefs or even if they have strong alternative medical beliefs.”
Buehler described the opt-out system as beneficial. “I think that gives people option and choice and that’s the policy I would continue to pursue as Oregon’s governor,” he said.
And in Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, the favorite in the governor’s race, said in February that “I believe in choice. And we’ve got six children and we don’t vaccinate, we don’t do vaccinations on all of our children. So we definitely pick and choose which ones we’re gonna do. It’s gotta be up to the parents, we can never mandate that. I think there’s legislation right now that are trying to mandate that to go to public schools, it’s absolutely wrong. My wife was home schooled, I went to public schools, our kids go to Christian school, and that’s back to a parent’s choice.”.”

Monday, October 22, 2018

Europe's Measles Outbreak: A Warning for the United States

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

 Lauren Dunn and Linda Carroll report at NBC:
A raging measles outbreak in Europe may be a warning sign of what could occur in the U.S. if something doesn’t change soon, experts say.
So far this year, there have been 41,000 cases in Europe and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The European experience may offer a window on how quickly things can go awry when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, doctors caution.

What has been happening in Europe is now happening in the U.S. — on a smaller scale at this point,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine and author of “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad.”

The problem is the plethora of misinformation online, Hotez said. “The anti-vaccine groups have made very strategic use of the internet and social media,” he added. “It’s estimated that there are more than 400 anti-vaccine websites now, and when you put ‘vaccine’ into a search engine, it’s almost inevitable you’re going to get an anti-vaccine website popping up.”
And it’s not just the internet, Hotez said. “Now there are political action committees popping up in several states, including Texas,” he added.
It’s not clear what exactly is driving the anti-vaccine movement, Hotez said. But “there’s an element of the anti-vaccine movement that is peddling alternative therapies and making money off of phony treatments,” he said. “And there’s an element that have tied themselves to different political groups. In Texas the major anti-vaccine lobby likes to use libertarian garbage terms like ‘medical freedom’ or ‘medical choice.’ ”

The anti-vaxxers have had such a large impact that “now there is a terrific vulnerability in states like Texas and up in the Pacific Northwest,” Hotez said. “People forget that before kids were getting vaccinated we had between 400 and 700 deaths from measles annually in the U.S.” 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Education Department to Texas: Shape Up

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education ActSome states do a reasonably good job, but Texas has not been one of them. A 2016 Houston Chronicle investigation revealed that tens of thousands of disabled students  were refused access to services because of a de-facto enrollment cap.

Aliyya Swaby at The Texas Tribune:
Federal officials said Texas should be doing even more to improve special education — and they're planning a visit early next year to check.
In a letter Friday, officials from the U.S. Department of Education dissected Texas' proposed plan for overhauling special education for kids with disabilities — in many cases urging state officials to do even more than they had originally planned. Earlier this year, a thorough investigation found Texas had failed to provide students with disabilities with a proper education, violating federal special education law, and demanded it undertake a long list of corrective actions to shape up.
After finalizing a plan in April, the Texas Education Agency has to date dramatically changed the structure of its departments overseeing special education, hired about 40 people to staff them (including a new special education director), and posted a long list of grants totaling more than $20 million to help school districts overhaul their policies. It anticipates spending an additional $3 billion over the next few years as more students enroll in special education.
U.S. Department of Education response to Texas

Saturday, October 20, 2018

AZ Scraps Vax Education Program

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

Stephanie Innes at The Arizona Republic reports that Arizona has scrapped a vaccine education program.
The pilot online course, modeled after programs in Oregon and Michigan, was created in response to the rising number of Arizona schoolchildren skipping school-required immunizations against diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough because of their parents' beliefs.
But some parents, who were worried the optional course was going to become mandatory, complained to the Governor's Regulatory Review Council, which reviews regulations to ensure they are necessary and do not adversely affect the public. The six-member council is appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey, with an ex-officio general counsel.
Members of the council questioned the state health department about the course after receiving the public feedback about it, emails show. The state responded by canceling it.
The complaints that ended the pilot program came from about 120 individuals and families, including 20 parents who said that they don't vaccinate their children, records show.
Also at The Arizona Republic, E.J. Montini:
As Republican state Rep. Heather Carter said, "I'm not sure why providing 'information' is seen as a negative thing. Providing information doesn't take away a parent's choice to seek an exemption. ... This is a major concern. Vaccines have saved lives for generations. We all want to live in safe and healthy communities."

Anti-vaccine conspiracy theories have existed for as long as there have been vaccines. In the early 1800s there were wild stories about smallpox vaccine recipients turning into cows.
These days anti-vaxxers tilt more toward the debunked notion that vaccines cause autism.
When an state panel acquiesces to a small minority of such voices it runs the risk of putting everyone’s children and all those with weakened immune systems in harm's way.
Dr. Karen Lewis, Medical Director of the Arizona Immunization Program Office of the Arizona Department of Health Services, writes at AZ Pulse:
In a recent study on the eighteen states that allow for personal belief exemptions (also known as nonmedical exemptions [NMEs]), Arizona ties at 4th place for having the highest percentage of NMEs in kindergarteners. The study found Maricopa County has the highest rate of NMEs among all of the studied metropolitan areas.
Vaccine hesitancy is increasing in the United States. In a national telephone survey, approximately 3% of parents reported refusing all vaccines for their children and almost 20% had refused or delayed at least one of the recommended childhood vaccines. In a survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 87% of pediatricians had encountered parents who refused a vaccine. The most common reasons that parents refused vaccines were that they believed that vaccines were unnecessary and that they had concerns about autism.
Vaccines do not cause autism. Twenty large epidemiologic studies done in several countries by multiple investigators have shown no links between autism and vaccines. Yet people who are fearful about autism and other misconceptions continue not to vaccinate their children.

Racial Disparities -- Will the Education Department Act?

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

Christina Samuels at Education Week:
Four months after deciding to put on hold Obama-era rules relating to racial disparities in special education, the U.S. Department of Education has signaled it plans to take a crack at creating its own set of policies on the topic.
The department said it plans to release a "notice of proposed rulemaking" this fall. No other information is available; publishing its intent in a government document called the Unified Agenda is just the first step in what could be a lengthy process. (The Obama administration worked on its version of these rules for two years before they were finalized.)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, last reauthorized 14 years ago, requires states to monitor school districts in how they identify minority students for disabilties, discipline them, or place them in restrictive classroom settings. Districts found to have "significant disproportionality" in one or more of those areas must set aside 15 percent of their federal special education dollars to address those disparities. Well under 5 percent of the nation's districts have ever been identified by their states as having significant problems.

The Obama-era rules that were put on hold would have required states to use a standardized methodology for evaluating district practices, starting this school year. That methodology would likely have led to many more districts being identified as having such disparities. But the Trump administration had real problems with that approach, saying it could lead to special education quotas.

Friday, October 19, 2018

FTC Cracks Down on Quack Stem Cell Treatment

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
The conventional wisdom is that any kind of treatment is likely to be less effective as the child gets older, so parents of autistic children usually believe that they are working against the clock. They will not be satisfied with the ambiguities surrounding ABA, nor will they want to wait for some future research finding that might slightly increase its effectiveness. They want results now. Because there are no scientifically-validated drugs for the core symptoms of autism, they look outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine and FDA approval. Studies have found that anywhere from 28 to 54 percent of autistic children receive “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and these numbers probably understate CAM usage.
A release from FTC:
A California-based physician and the two companies he controls have settled charges of deceptively advertising that “amniotic stem cell therapy” can treat serious diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, autism, macular degeneration, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and heart attacks.
The settlement prohibits the defendants from making these and other health claims in the future unless the claims are true and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The settlement also imposes a partially suspended $3.31 million judgment and requires the defendants to notify current and former patients about the order within 30 days.
According to the Commission’s complaint, Dr. Bryn Jarald Henderson, D.O. and the two companies he owns and operates, Regenerative Medical Group and Telehealth Medical Group, earned at least $3.31 million offering stem cell therapy between 2014 and 2017. Initial stem cell therapy injections ranged from $9,500 to $15,000, with patients encouraged to undergo multiple treatments. Follow-up “booster” treatments cost between $5,000 and $8,000 each.
Advertising on the website, the defendants even claimed that the therapy could restore the vision of blind patients, citing the case of a “101 year old Lady once blind for 7 years” who, thanks to stem cell therapy, could see again. The website’s homepage boasted that the therapy could “reverse autism symptoms.”

The proposed order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting that any product or service: 1) cures, mitigates, or treats any disease or health condition, including Parkinson’s disease, autism, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, heart disease, macular degeneration, chronic kidney disease, osteoarthritis, and stroke; or 2) is comparable, or better than, conventional medical treatments in treating any health condition, unless such claims are true and can be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Flu Shot

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

When a child gets the flu, they're not only sick in bed for a week or more, but the illness can also have serious and even life-threatening consequences. In fact, 180 children died after contracting the flu during the 2017-2018 season, one of the most severe on record. Despite the consensus of the medical community, a new national survey by Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children finds that a shocking number of parents are still skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of the flu shot.
In addition to the effectiveness of the flu shot, the survey also found that many parents question the vaccine's safety, as well. 30 percent think that the flu shot is a conspiracy, while 28 percent believe it can cause autism.

"After extensive studies, we know that the flu vaccine is safe," said [Dr. Jean] Moorjani. "You cannot get autism from the flu vaccine. It is not a conspiracy for doctors to recommend the flu vaccine. Doctors recommend it because we know -- based on science, research and facts -- that it is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Chronic Absenteeism

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

A new report from CDC titled" Chronic School Absenteeism Among Children With Selected Developmental Disabilities: National Health Interview Survey, 2014–2016."  The abstract:
Objectives—This report describes associations between chronic school absenteeism and selected developmental disabilities (DDs) among school-aged children.
Methods—Using the 2014–2016 National Health Interview Survey, multivariate logistic regression models were fit to estimate the association between DDs  attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or other developmental delay) and chronic school absenteeism controlling for demographics and co-occurring physical health conditions among children aged 5–17 years.
Results—During 2014–2016, the overall prevalence of ADHD was 10.6%, autism spectrum disorder was 2.5%, intellectual disability was 1.3%, and other developmental
delay was 3.8% among children aged 5–17 years. Children with some types of DDs examined had significantly higher odds of chronic absenteeism compared with children who did not have a DD. Specifically, children with ADHD (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 1.84; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.16–2.91), autism spectrum disorder (AOR: 2.89; 95% CI: 1.59–5.27), and intellectual disability (AOR: 1.57; 95% CI: 1.03–2.39) were more likely to have had chronic school absenteeism than children without these conditions.
Conclusions—Children with DDs had higher chronic school absenteeism. Associations remained after controlling for demographics and co-occurring physical health conditions. Similarly as the number of DDs increased, the odds of chronic school absenteeism increased. These findings show that both the type and number of DDs are associated with school attendance

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Housing in the San Diego Area

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their familiesHousing is a big one for autistic adults.

Gary Warth at the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Three apartment buildings expected to open in Otay Mesa next July will provide some relief for area families in need of affordable housing and also answer a pressing need to help people with mental health issues live independently.
Pacifica at Playa del Sol in Otay Mesa will include 42 affordable apartments for qualifying tenants, with 12 units specifically for low-income residents with developmental disabilities.

This will be the third project built in a public/private partnership in the county that has included the units for people with developmental disabilities.

“Lately we’ve begun to make some tremendous inroads into the field of affordable housing,” San Diego Regional Center Executive Director Carlos Flores said at a Monday groundbreaking ceremony for the project.
San Diego Regional Center will help provide assistance to them in a variety of ways, Flores said. That assistance may include transportation, employment opportunities and lessons in cooking, budgeting and cleaning.
The development is one of six projects supported by the Innovative Housing Trust Fund, which Cox said is part of a $25 million investment to create 523 affordable units from Vista to South County.

People interested in living at Pacifica at Playa del Sol can learn how to apply by calling 858-514-7009.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Autism in a Canadian Municipal Election

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the need for more research on autism in countries other than the United States.

Surrey First is a political organization in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. In the campaign for the October 20 election, it is putting emphasis on autism.  A release:
Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill wants to expand his city’s efforts to make sure Surrey’s 1,600 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) feel at home in Surrey’s parks, pools, rinks and community centres. This summer, Surrey introduced “Sensory Friendly Spaces” at public events and has provided training to 100 of its recreational centre staff.

“I want Surrey to lead the country in inclusivity, particularly for our children,” said Gill. “Here in Surrey we’ve made a terrific start, but I want to take it further faster. Our Surrey First team wants to see another 500 of our parks, rec and library staff trained by June of next year, offer training to the more than 3,500 soccer, baseball, hockey and football coaches in our city, and pilot a Snoezelen sensory room in our new Clayton Community Centre which is under construction and set to open in summer 2020.”

Developed in Holland nearly 40 years ago, the Snoezelen (“explore and relax”) sensory rooms use sound, light, colour and texture to provide a multi-sensory experience for children with autism. Gill said he wants the pilot room to be a template for other Snoezelen rooms.

Gill said he wants to work with organizations such as the Canucks Autism Network and Pacific Autism Family Network to become a “champion for inclusion” that ensures children with autism and their families feel welcome and included.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


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

Caroline Kee at Buzzfeed:
Although overall vaccination coverage among children in the US remained relatively stable in 2017, a growing percentage of toddlers have received no vaccines at all, according to a new report from the CDC.
According to immunization guidelines, children should get vaccinated against 14 potentially serious diseases before their second birthday — but a number of very young children in the US have not been vaccinated against any of these diseases, according to the report, which looked at children aged 19 to 35 months.
The proportion of children who hadn't been vaccinated at all by age 2 was small compared to the millions of children who were vaccinated, but that proportion is gradually increasing. It rose from 0.9% for children born in 2011 to 1.3% for children born in 2015, according to the report.

From PBS:
In The Vaccine War — a documentary that first aired in 2010, and was then updated in 2015 against the backdrop of a measles outbreak — FRONTLINE took a powerful look at why there is still fear about vaccines among some parents, despite established scientific consensus that there is no link between vaccines and disorders like autism.
As FRONTLINE reports in The Vaccine War, parents who choose not to vaccinate their children have reasons that are complex — involving their perceptions of medical risks and benefits, and also ideological beliefs about parenting, personal choice and the limits of government.

Friday, October 12, 2018

New Head of OSEP

From the US Department of Education:
Laurie VanderPloeg will lead the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ (OSERS) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) starting in November.
“My focus will be on developing and supporting an effective system that is going to meet the unique and individual needs of children with disabilities,” VanderPloeg said. “We need to look at the structures we have in place to ensure that each child is prepared for success.”
VanderPloeg started her career as a high school special education teacher at Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Michigan.
She spent 15 years teaching high school and middle school students prior to earning her master’s degree in special education administration from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Since earning her master’s, VanderPloeg has served as the supervisor of special education for the Grand Rapids Public School District, a special education consultant with the Michigan Department of Corrections, and most recently as the director of special education for Kent Intermediate School District.
Learn more about Laurie VanderPloeg

At Education Week, Christina Samuels adds some detail:
VanderPloeg is currently president of the board of directors of the Council for Exceptional Children, an organization representing special education professionals. She was also a former president of the Council of Administrators of Special Education. And, her ties to western Michigan are deep, just like those of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. A graduate of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, VanderPloeg was a middle and high school special education teacher for 15 years in western Michigan school districts before entering administration.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Labor/HHS Appropriations

The Politics of Autism discusses legislation before Congress.

From the Autism Society
On September 28, 2018 President Trump signed the annual appropriations bill for programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED). Most disability programs are level-funded or provided slight increases. In addition, two new laws were funded. Kevin and Avonte’s Law received the authorized amount of $2 million for competitive grants awarded to non-profit and State and local entities to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with cognitive disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, autism,or other developmental disabilities, as described in the law. Another law passed in this Congress, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, was provided $300,000 to establish the Caregiver Advisory Council. Other highlights include the following:
  • An $86 million increase for special education IDEA state grants and $10 million more for preschool-age children with disabilities.
  • An increase of $1.5 million for professional development and the development of evidence-based services for people with autism through the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • A $4 million increase for research into independent living for people with disabilities through the Administration for Community Living.
  • A $26 million increase for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, a flexible grant program providing home visiting, early childhood programs, and professional development, including those specific to assisting people with autism.
  • A $15 million increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) center providing surveillance, research, and services for those with developmental disabilities.
  • A $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide basic bench research.