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Friday, February 15, 2019

Darla Shine: Threat to Public Health

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.

Lindsey Bever at WP:
Darla Shine, the outspoken wife of White House communications director Bill Shine, has been tweeting about childhood diseases, claiming that illnesses such as measles, mumps and chickenpox “keep you healthy & fight cancer.” Health experts warn that the claim is not true and adds to misinformation that could cause harm.
Darla Shine, who has been known to tweet out stories with anti-vaccination claims, wrote Wednesday on Twitter that “The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids."
She added: “I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew — Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!”
Shine’s Twitter account has not been verified, but it notes that she is the wife of Bill Shine, “assistant to #POTUS.” The White House declined to comment about the tweets.

Schiff Gets Facebook to Review Antivax Content

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

A release from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA):
Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), sent a letter to Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive Officers of Google and Facebook, respectively, to express concern that the company’s platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, are surfacing and recommending information that discourages parents from vaccinating their children, contributing to declining vaccination rates which could reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.
“As a Member of Congress who is deeply concerned about declining vaccination rates, I am requesting additional information on the steps that you currently take to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users, and to encourage you to consider additional steps you can take to address this growing problem,” Schiff wrote in the letter. “I was pleased to see YouTube’s recent announcement that it will no longer recommend videos that violate its community guidelines, such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos, and encourage further action to be taken related to vaccine misinformation.”
The scientific and medical communities are in overwhelming consensus that vaccines are both effective and safe. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases, and the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccinations pose a great risk to public health.
In 2015, Rep. Schiff first introduced the bipartisan Vaccines Save Lives resolution, recognizing the importance of vaccines and immunizations in the United States. The resolution sends a message of unequivocal Congressional support for vaccines and urges parents, in consultation with their health care providers, to follow scientific evidence and the consensus of medical experts in favor of timely vaccination for the well-being of their children and surrounding communities.
Sarah Frier at Bloomberg:
In response, Facebook said it is “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem," according to a statement from the company. That might include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available."

Google, which did not immediately respond to a comment about Schiff’s letter, has already been taking similar measures. Last month, Google’s YouTube unfurled a change in the way it recommends videos -- an automated system that has been criticized for promoting misinformation. YouTube said it would starting cutting videos with "borderline content" that "misinform users in harmful ways" from its recommendation system. The company only offered three examples. One was videos that promote "a phony miracle cure for a serious illness."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Not Providing ABA

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

Courtney Perkes at Disability Scoop:
In 2014, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services issued a bulletin telling states to pay for “medically necessary diagnostic and treatment services” for kids with autism, but stopped short of directly requiring ABA therapy.
However, advocates say that because some children on the spectrum require ABA, every state should offer coverage to those who do. Most states have since done so, but some legislatures have not allocated funding, even though they’ve passed laws that require private insurers to cover ABA therapy.
,..
The states that do not offer ABA therapy to all children who meet medical necessity criteria are: Idaho, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. ABA therapy uses reward-based motivation to help children with autism learn new skills and reduce harmful behavior.
From Autism Speaks:
The Texas state legislative session has begun, along with our advocacy efforts to ensure autism coverage for Texas children on Medicaid!

An estimated 80,000 Medicaid-enrolled Texas children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. However, most are unable to access evidence-based treatments for their diagnosis.

Timely access to medically necessary treatment, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), is critical for children diagnosed with autism.

Under the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) Medicaid benefit, children under the age of 21 are entitled to any treatment, procedure, or service that is medically necessary to address health conditions of a child.

In July 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bulletin telling states to add coverage of medically necessary autism treatments for children in their Medicaid plans. Since then, more than 40 states have moved forward in the addition of this coverage.Texas is one of the few states to have NOT yet added coverage.
A solution is moving forward in the Texas legislature this session. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has included the addition of this autism health benefit as Exceptional Item 44 in their proposed budget.

The proposed budget must be approved by the Texas state legislature.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gender Differences in Employment, Services, and Family Support

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss  social services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

At Autism, Julie Lounds Taylor and colleagues have an article titled "Sex Differences in Employment and Supports for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder."  The abstract:
This study explored sex differences in employment, reasons for unemployment, benefits, and supports among a large, international sample of adults with autism spectrum disorder. The sample included 443 adults with autism spectrum disorder (60% female; 74% residing in the United States) who consented to be part of an autism research registry and completed an Internet survey. Outcome variables included current employment status, number of hours working, number of jobs in the past 5 years, reasons for unemployment, as well as the number of benefits received and the amount of financial support currently being received from families of origin. Using multiple regression models, we found that males and females were working at similar rates. Females were more likely than males to say that their unemployment was a result of choosing to withdraw from the labor market. Similar percentages of males and females reported receiving some form of benefits or family support, but of those receiving benefits/family support, males received more than females. These results are consistent with other studies finding subtle, but potentially important sex differences in life-course outcomes of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
From the article:
This study adds to the literature by suggesting subtle yet potentially important differences between men and women with ASD in employment, formal services, and family financial support. The pattern of findings in this sample is consistent with findings from other studies examining sex differences in employment. In the Taylor and Mailick studies (Taylor et al., 2015; Taylor & Mailick, 2014), sex differences were not observed when looking at rates of employment/PSE or independence in vocation at a single point in time, but only when digging beneath the surface to examine patterns of employment/PSE. Similarly, in the present analyses, there were no overall sex differences in rates of employment/PSE participation, but instead there were differences in attitudes toward employment (thoughts about hours working, reasons for unemployment). There were also no overall sex differences in the percentages of those receiving any benefits or family financial support, but instead in the amount of assistance received (for those receiving support/benefits). Thus, it appears that sex differences for adults with ASD might not be observed when examining broad indicators of adult outcomes, but instead when delving deeper to examine outcomes in a more fine-grained manner.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Measles, Vaccines, and Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  Antivax sentiment has been strong in the Pacific Northwest.

From CDC:
From January 1 to February 7, 2019, 101** individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states. The states that have reported cases to CDC are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
  • *Cases as of December 29, 2018. Case count is preliminary and subject to change.
  • **Cases as of February 7, 2019. Case count is preliminary and subject to change. Data are updated weekly.

Trends in Measles Cases, 2010-2019

Samantha Putterman at PolitiFact:
A years-old story claims courts have "quietly confirmed" the MMR vaccine causes autism.

The story relies heavily on a 2012 Italian court case, which was based on a retracted and discredited 1998 study. It also incorrectly suggests that U.S. "courts" are quietly paying off families for vaccine-linked autism cases. In fact, the well-known National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has evaluated vaccine injury claims since 1988.

A link between autism and vaccines has been disproved by court proceedings and several scientific studies. The story misrepresents the relevance of court rulings and provides obscure examples and sparse evidence.

It is Pants on Fire!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Juvenile Justice and Autism


The objective was to delineate the prevalence of criminal behavior and school discipline in juvenile justice-involved youth (JJY) with autism. A sample of 143 JJY with autism was matched to comparison groups of JJY without a special education classification, JJY with learning disabilities, and JJY with other special educational needs (N = 572). Results showed that JJY with autism committed significantly fewer property crimes. With regard to school discipline, JJY with autism were least likely to receive policy violations, out-of-school suspensions, and in-school suspensions. Finally, regardless of special education classification, JJY who had a history of fighting in school were more likely to recidivate. Our results suggest that JJY with autism are not more likely to commit crimes compared to JJY without SEN.
From the article:
We found that JJY without SEN had significantly more school violations compared to JJY with autism during the 2010–2011 school year with the exception of incidents involving violence at school. It is important to note that because of the protections of the IDEA (2004) for SWD, including for those with autism, schools would have acted differently (e.g., possibly more cautiously) in response to disciplinary infractions because  f federal procedural safeguards. Additionally, when teachers know a student has autism, they may be more likely to attribute youth misbehavior to symptoms of the diagnosis, over which the student has no control, and therefore be less inclined to punish them (Ling et al. 2010). Therefore, it is possible that disciplinary responses were overall  lower for JJY with autism due to IDEA safeguards or to differential teacher responses.  however, it appears that IDEA safeguards and differential teacher responses may not  ave the same effect for JJY with other IDEA-eligible disability classifications since JJY with SEN and JJY with LD received more OSS and ISS compared to JJY without SEN during the 2010–2011 school year

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Measles in 2019

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  Antivax sentiment has been strong in the Pacific Northwest.

CDC reports: From January 1 to 31, 2019, 79 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states. The states that have reported cases to CDC are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

Rachel Frazin at The Hill:
Hundreds of anti-vaccination supporters demonstrated outside a public hearing in Washington state on Friday to protest a bill that would make it harder for families to opt out of mandatory vaccinations for children, the Associated Press reported.
The protest took place amid the state's worse measles outbreak in more than two decades. Health officials have reported at least 56 cases in Washington and Oregon.
An estimated 700 people demonstrated in Olympia, Washington, most of whom opposed stricter requirements, The Washington Post reported.
Wendy Orent at LAT:
The mystery is why they choose to believe such anecdotal “evidence” instead of the vast amount of scientific research that has found vaccines to be safe. One paper still cited by vaccine skeptics was published in 1998 by British physician Andrew Wakefield and colleagues. The article, which suggested a link between the measles vaccination and autism, has since been retracted and repeatedly disproved, and Wakefield has lost his British medical license. Yet his discredited autism hypothesis still resonates in the superheated atmosphere of anti-vaccine websites.

Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and father of an autistic daughter, has watched the anti-vaccine movement closely. What surprises him, he said, is how activists “fine-tune the appeal to the local political environment. In Texas, anti-vaxxers use terms like “medical freedom” and “personal choice,” while in the Pacific Northwest, they talk about purity and toxic ingredients, said Hotez, author of “Vaccines did not Cause Rachel’s Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician and Autism Dad." 
Russian social media trolls have promoted the bogus vaccine-autism connection.   Haider Warraich at Vox:
“Taking on the misinformation campaign about vaccines has become more complex now that research is demonstrating that a large amount of the social media posts represent state-sponsored cyberwarfare, particularly from Russia,” said Robert Califf, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who now leads the Forge, Duke University’s center for health data science. The center is now mounting an effort to understand and address misinformation on the internet.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Autism CARES Act of 2019

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
No government agency has exclusive jurisdiction over all of these areas. The federal government takes the lead with some, while states and localities may be the main arenas for others. At each level, different bureaucracies deal with different aspects of autism. Courts and private organizations also play important roles in autism policymaking. Each place on the autism policy map has its own jargon and rules, hence the “alphabet soup” that bedevils parents.

A Thursday release from Rep. Chris Smith:
Today, Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) introduced the bipartisan Autism CARES Act of 2019 in the House to reauthorize federal programs and activities that assist children, adults and families with Autism.
The bill, HR 1058, is supported by a widespread coalition of autism and disability advocate organizations, including Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Autism NJ. A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY).

“Our new legislation will reauthorize vital federal research on earlier interventions for children with autism and expands funding for critical research, education, housing, and other programs that assist the countless children and adults on the spectrum, and their families,” Smith said. “The bill will also help ensure that the estimated 50,000 persons with autism each year who ‘age out’ of critical assistance programs and enter adulthood are supported, as many individuals and communities are unprepared for this transition.”

“We’ve made significant progress over the last 20 years, but we are still far behind where we would like to be – and where individuals and families need us to be,” Doyle said. “The legislation we’re introducing today reauthorizes the federal government’s existing efforts, but it also increases and expands those efforts to cover underserved areas and ensure that they address individuals’ needs throughout their lives. We must continue this critical work, and I look forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders to move this bill through the legislative process.”

The Autism CARES Act of 2019, HR 1058, is a reauthorization of Smith and Doyle’s Autism CARES Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-157).

HR 1058 will authorize over $1 billion in funding for programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) over five years. At CDC, the funding will go to developmental disability surveillance and research; at HRSA, the funding will cover education, early detection and intervention; at NIH, the funding will cover the expansion and coordination of autism-related activities.

Among other actions, the legislation:

· Requires HHS to report to Congress on the progress of activities related to autism and other developmental disabilities, and the health and well-being of individuals on the autism spectrum.

· Directs NIH to conduct research targeted at improving outcomes and detection for persons with autism of all ages.

· Directs HRSA to prioritize grants for developmental-behavioral pediatricians in medically-underserved areas.

· Amends sections of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to reflect the need for research, surveillance, education, detection, and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorder of all ages, not just children.
...

Friday, February 8, 2019

Measles Wildfire

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  Antivax sentiment has been strong in the Pacific Northwest.

Kirk Johnson at NYT:
Measles, declared eliminated as a major public health threat in the United States almost 20 years ago, has re-emerged this winter in the Pacific Northwest and other states where parents have relatively broad leeway over whether to vaccinate their children.
Seventy-nine cases of measles have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the start of this year. Fifty cases of the highly contagious disease were in Washington State.
An outbreak of measles has also occurred in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, where 64 confirmed cases of measles were reported, mostly late last year. That outbreak began, the C.D.C. said, when a child who had not had a measles vaccination caught the virus on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease was occurring.
Lena H. Sun and Maureen O'Hagan at Wash. Post:
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the nation’s most vocal and organized anti-vaccination activists. That movement has helped drive down child immunizations in Washington, as well as in neighboring Oregon and Idaho, to some of the lowest rates in the country, with as many as 10.5 percent of kindergartnersstatewide in Idaho unvaccinated for measles. That is almost double the median rate nationally.
Libertarian-leaning lawmakers, meanwhile, have bowed to public pressure to relax state laws to exempt virtually any child from state vaccination requirements whose parents object. Three states allow only medical exemptions; most others also permit religious exemptions. And 17, including Washington, Oregon and Idaho, allow what they call “philosophical” exemptions, meaning virtually anyone can opt out of the requirements.
All those elements combine into a dangerous mix, spurring concern about the resurgence of a deadly diseasethat once sent tens of thousands of Americans to hospitals each year and killed an estimated 400 to 500 people, many of them young children.

“You know what keeps me up at night?” said Clark County Public Health Director Alan Melnick. “Measles is exquisitely contagious. If you have an under-vaccinated population, and you introduce a measles case into that population, it will take off like a wildfire.
Dr. Haider Warraich at Vox:
If they are effective, preventive therapies treat events that a person will never witness. So a patient who takes a statin might never experience the heart attack it prevented but might experience side effects, or simply the inconvenience of taking a medication sometimes with no perceived benefit. This is unlike treatments that are therapeutic for symptoms or obvious physical manifestations of diseases after they have developed. For example, while many patients may overstate the risks of statins, the benefits of treatments such as coronary stents, which are used to increase blood flow in blocked or narrowed arteries supplying the heart to manage heart attacks and chest pain, are frequently inflated.

Outbreaks of measles in the US, largely driven by refusal of a critical mass of parents in a community to have their children vaccinated, could be a result of this phenomenon. Rumors and fears that have taken hold of largely well-educated, concerned, and well-meaning parents, connected through online networks, are fueling the anti-vaxxer movement.
Yet perhaps the answer to this modern disease that appears to have landed straight out of a Black Mirrorepisode might also lie in the online networks that have helped foment this in the first place. A team of scientists successfully predicted the measles outbreak at Disney World in 2014 using machine learning to analyze social media posts and search engine behaviors two years in advance.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Virginia Age Cap

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of insurance.

A release from Virginia House speaker Kirk Cox:
The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday passed HB2577, legislation to lift the age cap for autism coverage to help approximately 10,000 Virginians get access to needed healthcare.
“This piece of legislation has been a long time coming and I am proud of the House for taking this step to guarantee those on the Autism spectrum have access to much needed healthcare,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “Many of these children are not diagnosed until they are already six or seven years of age and need access to important care for longer than just three or four years.”
Currently, state law only says that health insurers must offer such coverage for individuals from age two through age 10. No other prevalent health condition including– asthma, diabetes and cancer– has coverage limits imposed based on the age of the patient. Coverage for all other health conditions is based on medical necessity.
“Children did not choose to be born with Autism and I thank my colleagues for taking this giant step towards providing treatment for those diagnosed regardless of age,” said Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford), the bills patron. “As a father of eight children, I know how important it is to families to ensure their children have every opportunity for success and this legislation will help those who need care the most.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Military Families Have a Hard Time Getting Support

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  As many posts have discussed, the challenges are especially great for military families.

Blue Star Families reports on its 2018 survey:
The National Council on Disability has found exceptional family members (EFM) and their families also face barriers in a variety of domains including health care. In particular, obtaining and maintaining disability-related services requires relentless hard work which can be time-consuming and overwhelming.20 EFM and their families are required to enroll into the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), a program meant to provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach for community support, housing, medical, educational, and personnel services to families with special needs.21 However, EFMP enrolled military family respondents with a child with special needs reported being significantly less likely than their peers to indicate Tricare provided appropriate medical support for their family. These families were also significantly less likely to be satisfied with the support their family received from the DoD/military.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Autism as Literary Device

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss depictions of ASD in movies and books.  

Marie Myung-Ok Lee at NYT writes about books that use autism as a literary device:
I ask myself why using autism the way these books do feels wrong. As a child who was disappointed to find the only Asian characters in any book in the library to be the Japanese-American family in “Farewell to Manzanar,” I am acutely aware of the importance of feeling represented in literature. And yet, when it comes to autism appearing in literary fiction, I instinctively feel a need to protect my son from these portrayals. He’s not an Ojibwe curse, a savant or an alien. Nor is he an emotionless cipher with no inner life.
As a writer, I understand the absurdity of trying to place restrictions on what can and can’t be written about. Keats defined negative capability as an artist’s ability to transmute an experience or idea into art even if she hasn’t experienced it herself; without it, we’d have no historical fiction, no “Madame Bovary,” no “Martian Chronicles.”
The crux of the issue is that with autism there is often, not metaphorically but literally, a lack of voice, which renders the person a tabula rasa on which a writer can inscribe and project almost anything: Autism is a gift, a curse, super intelligence, mental retardation, mystical, repellent, morally edifying, a parent’s worst nightmare. As a writer, I say go ahead and write what you want. As a parent, I find this terrifying, given the way neurotypical people project false motives and feelings onto the actions of others every day.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Autism as Slur

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including casual prejudice against disabled people.

Unfortunately, public figures around the world sometimes use autism as a slur. 
A Likud lawmaker’s suggestion that Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz might be “autistic” sparked an outcry by two politicians with autistic family members, as well as an autism advocacy group.
In an interview Sunday morning on Radio Darom, a station broadcasting in Israel’s south, Likud MK David Amsalem repeated a Likud campaign talking point that accuses Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, of spending NIS 600,000 ($165,000) of state funds on the traditional send-off party for his retirement as chief of staff in 2015.
...

The interviewer challenged Amsalem over the claim, noting that the chief of staff does not organize the farewell event and would not have known its cost.
“Look where you’re taking us,” Amsalem retorted, appearing to acknowledge the point, but arguing Gantz should have known. “It’s as if the chief of staff is some autistic person who isn’t interested, doesn’t understand.”
The comment drew rebuke from Alut, the Israeli Society for Autistic Children and Adults, which called it “sad and disappointing that a senior elected official permits himself to use the word ‘autistic’ as a pejorative, insulting a large population of autistic adults and children, as well as their families. Alut has worked for years to raise awareness about autism, and has significant achievements to its name. Apparently the work is not yet finished.
At Ynet News, Moran Azulay:
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid, whose daughter is autistic, slammed Amsalem. "Dudi Amsalem just said on the radio that Benny Gantz is autistic. Because being my daughter is a curse to him. Because in Amsalem's world, they always step on the weak," he wrote.

"Benny Gantz is not autistic, Mr. Amsalem," Lapid said. "There's no need to pull over on the side of the road when he flies into a rage and starts biting his mother. He doesn't steal food from others' tables at restaurants. He doesn't need to undergo dental treatments under full anesthesia. His parents are not up at night trying to figure out who would take care of him when they are old."

"I'm a politician; I'm supposed to always talk nice. Not this time. Beware of me Dudi, talk nicely about my daughter," Lapid said.
 In December, Raoul Wootliff reported at the same paper:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair mocked Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich, who oversaw the investigations that concluded in indictment recommendations for his father, comparing the outgoing commissioner to a mafioso and someone with autism.
“Alsheich is a cross between Tony Soprano and Rain Man,” Netanyahu Junior wrote (in Hebrew) on Facebook on Monday.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Autistic Adults Get a Lot of Psychotropic Meds

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss treatments, including medication.

At The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Amy Esler and colleagues have an article titled "Psychotropic Medication Use for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder who Receive Services and Supports Through Adult Developmental Disability Services in the United States."  The abstract:
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have higher rates of co-occurring diagnoses and use of psychotropic medication prescriptions than people with other developmental disabilities. Few studies have examined these trends in samples of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) with and without ASD. Using a random sample of 11,947 adult IDD service users from 25 states, co-occurring diagnoses and psychotropic medication use were compared for those with and without ASD. Regardless of diagnosis, individuals with ASD had higher percentages of psychotropic medication use. Controlling for co-occurring condition, age, gender, and ID level, a diagnosis of ASD predicted number of medications used. Further research is needed to understand why individuals with ASD are prescribed more medication, more often, than similarly functioning groups of individuals without ASD.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Russians and the Antivax Movement


In August 2018, the American Journal of Public Health published a study analyzing the influence Russian-made fake accounts had on the anti-vaccine movement in the United States. Between July 2014 and September 2017, the authors report, Russian “trolls, sophisticated bots, and content polluters” tweeted about vaccination at higher rates than real users. Some promoted misinformation, while other fake accounts seemed intent on “sowing discord.” Inflammatory messages ranged from antagonistic tweets that seemed pro-vaccine "You can’t fix stupidity. Let them die from measles, and I’m for #vaccination” to explicitly anti-vaccine messages like “Don’t get #vaccines. Illuminati are behind it.” Together, these fake users “create[d] false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination,” according to the study.

Friday, February 1, 2019

More Measles

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  Antivax sentiment has been strong in the Pacific Northwest.

Kashmira Gander at Newsweek:
Some 349 cases of measles were identified across 26 states and the District of Columbia last year: The second highest levels in the U.S. since an outbreak in 2014 sickened 667 people. Last year’s bouts included the worst in New York since the 1990s, mostly affecting members of Orthodox Jewish communities and unvaccinated travelers returning from Israel.
And the issue has bled into 2019. In Clark County, Washington, a total of 38 people—including 27 children under the age of 10—have so far been affected by a measles outbreak which led its governor to declare a state of emergency to channel public funds to tackling the problem. Three unvaccinated members of the same family have been diagnosed with the disease in Atlanta, Georgia. Meanwhile, outbreaks in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey, are ongoing.