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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

COVID-19 and Group Homes

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.

Group homes in [Massachusetts] were locked down for close to three months and families were only allowed to video chat with their adult children in order to try to keep the novel coronavirus out of these “congregate living” facilities where individuals are living together in close quarters and sickness can spread more quickly.
Individuals with autism and other disabilities may be part of the population who gets sicker from the novel coronavirus than the general population. They often have what’s known as “co-morbid” medical conditions that can make them more susceptible to illness, including COVID-19. Ned gets seizures, and his parents say he doesn’t register a fever so temperature checks may not be a reliable way to screen him for COVID-19.
The story focuses on an autistic man named Ned Hubbard, who has two housemates who got COVID.
Amego, the facility which operates Ned's home, also operates dozens of other residential facilities in Massachusetts.
Amego’s President and CEO, John Randall, says despite equipping staff with PPE and taking numerous precautions to date 46 Amego residents and 71 staff have tested positive for the virus.
Statewide, the Department of Developmental Services tells Boston 25 that 1,575 adult residents have tested positive as of early June and 98 adults have died.

It’s not just adults.

Although the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) could not tell us how many children in the state’s group homes contracted the novel coronavirus, Boston 25 News has learned one facility, the New England Center for Children in Southborough, had 15 of their students and 19 of their staff tested positive.
Buried lede:
To date, more than 1,800 staff members at group homes in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 and three staff members have died.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Saving Programs for Autistic College Students

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum.

Danielle Leigh at WABC-TV:
Roughly six weeks after 7 On Your Side Investigates first exposed that Nassau Community College was planning to eliminate two programs serving students with autism, those programs were officially restored Monday with the approval of the college's proposed 2020-2021 budget by the Nassau County Legislature.
In May, when the Legislature learned of the college's plans to cut the ASPIRES and Achilles programs while adding to their financial reserves, the County Legislature responded by writing college leadership a letter refusing to approve the annual budget until both programs had been fully restored.

"This is a very important issue to us and we were willing to take a stand even if it meant taking a stand on the entire budget," said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello.
The programs provide comprehensive support to students with autism through one-on-one and group counseling sessions, and offer programming designed to address executive functioning and social skill deficits.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Facebook Takes Down Videos Targeting Public Health Officials

Kevin Baxter at LAT:
Facebook, facing a boycott from advertisers and growing pressure from employees over the posting of material that incites violence, has removed at least four videos targeting public health officials who have called for people to stay home and wear facial coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long resisted calls to regulate political content on the popular website, which has more than 221 million users in the U.S. But the stepped-up rhetoric of content on the website and an expanding advertising boycott that added Verizon, Unilever, Hershey and Coca-Cola in the last two days has forced Zuckerberg to back down.
Facebook stock fell seven percentage points Friday.
“If we determine the content may lead to violence …. we’re going to take that content down no matter who said it,” Zuckerberg told CBS News.
The inciteful videos Facebook removed Thursday were from a group called the Freedom Angels Foundation, which is known for its opposition to California’s efforts to mandate vaccinations. CNN, which reviewed the videos, said the posts make a number of false claims, including that children are being removed from their homes because of the coronavirus, face masks cause people to pass out, and COVID-19 is not a virus.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Anti-Vaxxers and Anti-Maskers

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.
Hannah Wiley at The Sacramento Bee:
At every stage of the pandemic, California’s anti-vaccine activists have foreshadowed what their fight against a future vaccine to prevent COVID-19 could look like.
“If we can’t win the mandatory mask argument, we won’t win the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination argument,” Larry Cook, founder of the Los Angeles-based group Stop Mandatory Vaccination, wrote in a June 21 tweet. “They are 100% connected.”
Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" is giving antivaxxers an opening.
“I’m already hearing some states talking about pushing a vaccine mandate for the coronavirus, even though it hasn’t been developed yet,” said V is for Vaccine leader Joshua Coleman.
Coleman’s group coordinated a rally at the Capitol Tuesday for “ex-vaxxers,” or people who no longer vaccinate their kids, to protest what they consider censorship of their perspectives. Registration for the event cost participants $42.
“I’m worried that (the coronavirus) issue is going to be used as an excuse,” Coleman continued, “that the ‘antivax community’ is being careless and it’s time to censor them completely and remove them from social media platforms.”
State Senators Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, also spoke at the event and were honored for voting last year against Senate Bill 276, a vaccine crackdown law that Democrats approved and Newsom signed.
The protests and social media posts haven’t necessarily surprised Leah Russin, founder of pro-vaccine and parental advocacy group Vaccinate California, but they have worried her.

Russin has worked for years against California’s anti-vaccine lobby to get immunization laws written by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, passed at the Capitol. Senate Bill 277 four years ago eliminated personal beliefs from the list of reasons school kids can skip their shots. SB 276 last year increased oversight of doctors who issue high numbers of medical exemptions for students.
At STAT, Senator Pan rites about the anti-vaxxers:
Since mid-April, 27 state and local health leaders across 13 states have resigned, retired, or been fired, some citing threats and pressure from outside groups.
The attack on public health goes all the way to the desk of President Trump, who recently retweeted a post with the hashtag #FireFauci.

Politicians who politicize the coronavirus pandemic are emboldening extremists who target public health officers like Dr. Nichole Quick, the chief health officer of Orange County, Calif., and Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Health Department, both of whom recently resigned their public health posts. At an Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, an anti-vaccine extremist threatened Quick and announced her home address, inciting protesters to visit her house. In Ohio, armed demonstrators marched outside Acton’s home. These missions were straightforward: Bully public health officials into supporting their demands.

California is not the only state where legislators and public health advocates have been threatened. Similar intimidation tactics were used in Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado. Physicians such as Paul Offit, Todd Wolynn, and Nicole Baldwin have endured personal attacks, including fake practice ratings and death threats, for supporting vaccination. Parents sharing stories of their children who died of vaccine-preventable diseases have faced heartbreaking hatred and bullying from the same extremists, as have individuals who speak out in support of vaccines.
The extremists are crowing about their success in forcing the resignations of Quick and Acton, and are planning to target more public health officers.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Biden and Education for People with Disabilities

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.

At EdSource, Carolyn Jones writes about Joe Biden's support for full funding of the Americans with Disabilities Education Act:
“It’s hugely significant,” said Carolynne Bottum, a lecturer at the UC Davis School of Education and a former director of the Special Education Local Area Plan for Yolo County. “This wouldn’t just benefit students with disabilities, it would benefit all children.”
... In 2018-19, federal funding only covered 8.4% of special education costs in California, leaving the state and local districts to cover the rest. That’s left many districts in a bind, as special education costs rise — due to an increase in students with autism and severe disabilities — and revenues fall due to declining enrollment.
About 800,000 students in California were enrolled in special education in 2018-19, a number that’s been increasing even as the state’s overall enrollment has held steady. The increase is due partly to the rise in diagnoses of autism, which affected 1 in 50 students in 2017-18 but only 1 in 600 in 1997-98, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Students with autism often need speech and behavioral therapy and one-on-one aides in the classroom, making them especially expensive to educate. Other high costs for districts include private school placement for students with unique needs, and litigation, as parents file complaints to improve services for their children, Bottum said.
Biden’s proposal is part of a broad platform addressing the rights of people with disabilities. In addition to funding special education, Biden is calling for other benefits for students with disabilities, including:
  • A tripling of Title I school funding for low-income students, as proposed in his education platform.
  • Special education teacher recruitment and training.
  • Expanded programs for young children with disabilities, which experts say can greatly improve outcomes for disabled students over the long term.
  • Discipline reform, including a ban on seclusion and more restrictions on the use of restraint.
  • Anti-bullying measures.
  • Job training.
  • Funding for colleges to accommodate students with disabilities.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Autism ID in Michigan and Iowa

[M]any police departments have trained officers and other first responders how to spot signs of autism and respond accordingly. Some organizations have also published identification cards that ASD adults can carry in order to defuse potential conflicts. Virginia provides for an autism designation on driver licenses and other state-issued identification cards. Once again, however, the dilemma of difference comes into play. One autistic Virginian worries: “Great, so if I get into an accident, who’s the cop going to believe, the guy with the autistic label or the guy without it?” Clinical psychologist Michael Oberschneider is concerned about the understanding level of first responders: “I think many people still think of Rain Man or, more recently, the Sandy Hook Shooter, when they think of autism even though very few people on the autistic spectrum are savants or are homicidal and dangerous.”
On June 11, Michigan State Senator Tom Barrett issued this release.  Yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation.
The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Tom Barrett’s legislation to help bridge the communications gap between law enforcement and drivers with autism.

“Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to work with autism advocates across the state — including, and perhaps most importantly, my constituent, Xavier DeGroat — on an initiative to help improve law enforcement’s approach when dealing with people on the autism spectrum,” said Barrett, R-Charlotte. “The result was a bipartisan, bicameral package of bills to provide officers with vital information regarding potential communication hurdles during traffic stops, and to equip them to have positive interactions with drivers with autism or other communication impediments.”
Senate Bill 278 would allow a vehicle owner or their family member who is on the autism spectrum, is deaf, or has hearing loss or other health condition that could impede communication with a law enforcement officer to choose to put a “Communication Impediment” designation on a vehicle registration, driver’s license or both. This voluntary designation would be visible to law enforcement when reviewing the vehicle’s registration or license through the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) — signaling to the officer that the owner or a family member has a health condition that may impede communication.
LEIN is a secured system not accessible to members of the public, which will protect the privacy of those who volunteer this information about themselves or their family members. Police officers routinely access the system during traffic stops.
SB 279, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., would also allow the same eligible applicants to add the designation to their enhanced driver license or enhanced state ID card application.
House Bill 5541, sponsored by Rep. Frank Liberati, would allow an individual to elect a communication impediment designation on their state ID.
Xavier DeGroat of Delta Township is the founder of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation and was diagnosed with autism at age 4. He has been a tireless advocate for those with autism to improve their quality of life and opportunities.
The bills were part of ideas highlighted at a “Policing Autism” event in April 2019 attended by Barrett and hosted by DeGroat’s foundation and Lansing area local law enforcement leaders.
 Kathie Obradovich at the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports on Tyler Leech, 27, an autistic person who had a stressful encounter with a police officer.
In January, he had an opportunity to visit the State Capitol with a friend, who introduced him to state Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines. He told the senator his story.
On Thursday, the rest of the Iowa Senate heard it. Bisignano encouraged senators to pass legislation to allow drivers who have an autism spectrum disorder to request a designation on their driver’s license.
Bisignano said the measure would alert police officers that the driver has a disability that could account for a demeanor or behaviors that might otherwise be misinterpreted. “This symbol will be up front, when they ask for a license, they’ll know they’re dealing with someone on the spectrum,” Bisignano said in an interview.
Bisignano, who is in the minority party, needed to bypass the normal legislative process to attach the measure to an unrelated bill dealing with farm vehicles. He gained the cooperation of Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, to move the legislation.
The bill provided a rare feel-good moment in the Iowa Senate.
“I’m so darn happy right now,” Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale said. “This is what is right about Iowa.”
The Senate approved the amendment on a voice vote and passed the final bill, House File 2372, unanimously. The House still needs to approve the bill with the Senate changes. Sheri Leech thinks the timing is perfect.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Public Health Under Siege

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Alan Greenblatt at Governing:
Across the country, health officials have been met with armed protesters at their homes and been subjected to anti-Semitic or transphobic slurs. On social media, they encounter posts that include phrases such as “let’s start shooting” and “bodies swinging from trees.” As the nation faces its gravest health challenge in more than a century, many leaders in public health are reluctantly leaving the field.
It’s true that there have been protests over health policy questions before, from abortion to the Affordable Care Act. Death threats have also become a fact of life for prominent physicians promoting vaccine use, given the virulence of the anti-vaccine movement.
But anger has never been so deep in so many places as during the coronavirus pandemic. Health officials, who have possessed shutdown authority in many jurisdictions for more than a century, haven’t had to use it for decades. People aren’t used to having their freedoms impinged upon so widely or for so long.
“People are enormously frustrated and angry and worn down, and so they lash out,” says Paul Offit, an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. “You shoot the messenger. What you really want to shoot is the virus, but instead you shoot the people who tell you about the virus.”

[Georges] Benjamin, the APHA director, notes that public health decisions are often controversial enough to meet with protests. Big, burly men might show up at a hearing to express their displeasure about having to wear motorcycle helmets. Abortion opponents have bombed clinics and murdered physicians. Anti-vaccine protesters have targeted lawmakers with death threats and other intimidation tactics.
But protests targeting individual health officials have reached a new level. “It’s true we’ve had protests,” Benjamin says. “We’ve had offices taken over by AIDS activists, but I don’t think anyone felt threatened. They told us they were coming.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Due Process During COVID

In The Politics of Autism, I write about IEPs and FAPE. The Supreme Court ruled in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide heightened educational benefits to students with disabilities.

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), within the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, issues this Question and Answer (Q & A) document in response to inquiries concerning implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B dispute resolution procedures in the current COVID-19 environment. This Q & A document does not impose any additional requirements beyond those included in applicable law and regulations. It does not create or confer any rights for or on any person. The responses presented in this document generally constitute informal guidance representing the interpretation of the Department of the applicable statutory or regulatory requirements in the context of the specific facts presented here and are not legally binding and does not establish a policy or rule that would apply in all circumstances. To review other Q & A documents that OSEP has provided related to COVID-19, please visit Additional information specific to the COVID-19 pandemic may be found online at

Q6. May due process hearings be conducted virtually when schools and other public facilities are closed or have restrictions that prevent face-to-face meetings? 
Yes. A State could permit hearings on due process complaints to be conducted through video conferences or conference calls, if a hearing officer concludes that such procedures are consistent with legal practice in the State. 34 C.F.R. § 300.511(c)(1)(iii). A hearing conducted virtually must ensure a parent’s right to an impartial due process hearing consistent with all requirements in 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.511 through 300.515. If applicable, a State-level review can be conducted virtually if consistent with State procedures. 
Q7. Do hearing officers, or where applicable, reviewing officers, have the authority to extend the applicable timelines for issuing decisions on due process complaints during the pandemic? 
Yes. IDEA permits a hearing officer or a reviewing officer to grant specific extensions of timelines at the request of either party to the hearing or review. 34 C.F.R. § 300.515(c); see 34 C.F.R. § 300.515(a)-(b) for applicable timelines. There is no IDEA requirement that both parties agree to the extension request, but the hearing officer or reviewing officer must document the length of the extension and the reason it was provided. While a hearing or State-level review of an expedited due process complaint may be conducted through video conferences or conference calls if consistent with legal practice in the State, IDEA makes no similar provision for extending relevant timelines for hearings or reviews in the context of expedited due process complaints

Monday, June 22, 2020

Facebook Has Failed to Act against Abusive Antivaxxers

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

Elizabeth Cohen at CNN:
Nine months after Facebook vowed to investigate abuse by anti-vaxxers, no users have been penalized.  
As detailed in a CNN report last year, anti-vaxxers have posted violent, horrific comments and death threats to vaccine advocates -- including mothers who've lost their children -- calling them the c-word and telling them they deserved to have their children die.
One mother who lost a child, Catherine Hughes, says she received thousands of abusive comments, including death threats. She was called a whore and told to kill herself. CNN shared some of these comments with Facebook, and Facebook agreed they were in violation of community standards. Still, Facebook took no action against those users, or others who tormented vaccine advocates, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
"It feels like Facebook doesn't care, like they think this is not their responsibility," said Hughes, who lost her infant son, Riley, to whooping cough in 2015, before he was old enough to be vaccinated against the disease.   

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Health of Autistic College Students

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the spectrum.

Jane D McLeod, Amelia Hawbaker, Emily Meanwell have an article at Autism titled "The Health of College Students on the Autism Spectrum as Compared to Their Neurotypical Peers." The lay abstract:
Studies have shown that children and older adults on the autism spectrum experience more physical and mental health problems than their neurotypical peers. Less is known about the physical and mental health of college students on the spectrum. Studying college students is important because young adults on the spectrum are enrolling in college at increasing rates and because health problems can be a barrier to succeeding in college. We collected data from 2820 students at 14 colleges and universities using an online survey, some of whom had registered for accommodations based on autism and others of whom had not. We used the data to compare the physical and mental health of students on the spectrum to their neurotypical peers. Because students with autism often report other disabilities that also affect health, we accounted for whether they experienced a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sensory impairment, mobility impairment, mental health disorder, or any other disabilities. We assessed health using self-reports of how healthy they were physically and mentally, and reports of depressive symptoms, symptoms of anxiety, sleep deprivation, and binge drinking. We found that students with autism reported poorer physical and mental health, more depressive symptoms, and more symptoms of anxiety even after taking into account other disabilities they may have experienced. They were also less likely to report sleep deprivation and binge drinking. Our results argue for developing specialized services to address the physical and mental health challenges of college students on the spectrum.
From the article:
Focusing on college students allowed us to engage the question of whether the health disadvantages associated with autism extend to a relatively advantaged subgroup of the larger autism population. Because intellectual disabilities heighten the risk of poor health among adults on the autism spectrum (Bishop-Fitzpatrick & Rubenstein, 2019), we might have expected to observe a relatively weak association of autism with health in this sample. In contrast, though, even in this select group and even after taking comorbid conditions into account, we find that autism continues to place young adults at risk of poor health outcomes. Why the health disadvantages of autism remain strong in this subgroup deserves additional attention.

Our results for college students also encourage consideration of how the services that colleges and universities provide could be improved. The high levels of anxiety and depression we observed among students with autism are especially concerning for both their general well-being and their success in college. Both types of mental health problems reduce the likelihood of academic success in college populations (e.g. Eisenberg et al., 2009). College students on the spectrum themselves identify comorbid anxiety and depression as one of the major challenges they face (Cai & Richdale, 2016; Nuske et al., 2019). Importantly, the elevated levels of anxiety and depression we observed among students on the spectrum were independent of reports of mental health diagnoses. This implies that they are not simply a function of comorbid, diagnosed mental health conditions. When assessing the needs of students on the spectrum and designing mental health support programs, colleges and universities should give special attention to undiagnosed and subclinical mental health problems.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Attacks on Public Health Officers

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Barbara Feder Ostrov at LAist:
Leigh Dundas angrily wagged her finger at Orange County supervisors at their board meeting last month as she ticked off what she thought were damning details about the professional background of county health officer Nichole Quick. The anti-vaccination attorney named Quick's boyfriend and disclosed her home address, saying she was going to bring protesters in masks to do calisthenics on her front doorstep until they passed out.
"She needs to be fired," Dundas declared.
It was a strikingly personal attack on Quick, who had vexed many local officials and residents alike with her recent order requiring that people wear masks when in public to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The county sheriff provided her with a security detail even as he said he would not enforce the mask order. Finally, under pressure from both county supervisors and the public, Quick resigned last week, the third high-level Orange County health official to do so during the pandemic. And Orange County reversed her mask order.
Local public health officers haven't been this important in a century. They're also being second-guessed, harassed and threatened by residents, and sometimes local leaders, angry about pandemic shutdowns. Some have simply quit.
Melody Gutierrez at LAT:

For months, anti-vaccine activists have joined protests against coronavirus restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of infection. Now this unusual alliance is taking direct aim at the county officials issuing these orders.
On Sunday and then Tuesday, they livestreamed protests against [Contra Costa County health officer Chris] Farnitano, which came days after Orange County’s chief health officer resigned amid intense pushback against her countywide mask order and threats against her that prompted a security detail.
Online, mask protesters say their calls for similar rallies outside the homes of public health officers are gaining traction. For many, it’s raising alarms. Calling the protests an act of intimidation, Kat DeBurgh of the Health Officers Assn. of California said she’s worried. Seven local health officials have announced they are leaving their posts, some of which were previously planned retirements, DeBurgh said.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Endrew F.: So Far, Disappointment in Court

In The Politics of Autism, I write about IEPs and FAPE. The Supreme Court ruled in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide heightened educational benefits to students with disabilities.

It has not had the effect that parents hoped for.

William Moran, The IDEA Demands More: A Review of FAPE Litigation after Endrew F., 22 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol’y 495 (2020)
School districts prevailed in the majority of IEP disputes decided since Endrew F. Between March 22, 2017 and March 22, 2020, 115 of 146 decisions (78.8%) found that IEPs satisfied the law. One hundred ten (75.3%) of those decisions affirmed lower court findings in favor of school districts. In the same time period, only 31 decisions (21.2% of the total) favored student litigants. These cases thus suggest - though not without limitation- that school districts dominated the courtroom before Endrew F., and continue to after Endrew F. For those expecting a sea change in FAPE litigation,126 there are 115 canaries in the IDEA coal mine.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Republicans and Antivaxxers

Anti-vaccine groups’ efforts to court Republicans have started to pay off. In the last few years, conservative lawmakers in several states have introduced legislation that seeks to weaken rules around vaccination. In 2017, a group of Republican Texas state reps who called themselves the Freedom Caucus sought to block the state’s effort to track the number of parents who sought exemptions for schools’ vaccine requirements. The Freedom Caucus passed an amendment that requires the state to obtain parental consent from biological parents before vaccinating children in foster care. A Pennsylvania state senator, Daryl Metcalfe, sponsored a bill in 2019 that would prohibit doctors from refusing to care for unvaccinated patients. In January, Colorado state Sen. Dave Williams introduced legislation that would require health care workers to give parents a list of ingredients and rare side effects before administering vaccines; it would also forbid them from even recommending a vaccine to a teenager without parental consent. It didn’t pass, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. In the days leading up to the vote, the admins of the Facebook group People for Informed Consent exhorted members to “spend the next few days working the halls and working the phones like it is your only job. You must secure every Republican Senator and flip three Democrats.”
In 2018, researchers from Drexel University in Pennsylvania reviewed 175 proposed pieces of legislation about states’ vaccine exemption laws. They found that bills that sought to make it easier to opt out of vaccines were more likely to come from Republican lawmakers. Of the 13 bills that ultimately passed, 12 weakened existing laws around vaccine requirements.
Damien Fisher at Manchester Ink Link:
A group of New Hampshire doctors want United States Senate candidates Bryant “Corky” Messner and Donald Bolduc to stop voicing what they say are dangerous theories about vaccines.
“You are both highly visible as candidates for the U.S. Senate, making your anti-vaccination positions especially dangerous. In recent weeks you both have pushed harmful conspiracy theories that could undermine the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter sent Wednesday states.
Messner’s campaign senior advisor Mike Biundo, said Messner wants the vaccine development process to be transparent and leave the choice to get vaccinated up to families and individuals.
“He believes that parents and individuals need to be able to make informed decisions, but that those decisions need to be mindful of public health,” Biundo wrote in an email response.
Bolduc said his views on vaccines are guided by his concerns about consent and civil rights.
“We need to be responsible about vaccines, where there’s risk there needs to be choice,” Bolduc said in a phone interview.
The letter, signed by five doctors including State Representative Dr. Gary Wood, D-Bow, calls out both Republican candidates for their statements about vaccines. Messner and Bolduc are currently in a primary race with the winner taking on incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in the fall.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Disability Employment in the Federal Government

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.  

About 39 percent of individuals with disabilities hired during 2011 through 2017 stayed less than 1 year and approximately 60 percent stayed less than 2 years. Of the total individuals without disabilities hired during that same time period, approximately 43 percent stayed less than 1 year and approximately 60 percent stayed less than 2 years.
Although targeted data tracking and analyses could help pinpoint root causes contributing to departure rates, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not track or report retention data on disabled employees. Doing so, and making such data available to agencies would facilitate more comprehensive analyses of the retention of employees with disabilities and identify needed improvements.
Officials at three agencies GAO examined—Department of Justice (DOJ), Small Business Administration (SBA), and Social Security Administration (SSA)—used various practices to increase hiring, such as training staff on Schedule A—a commonly used hiring authority to employ individuals with disabilities. However, the agencies neither assess the impact of training nor how it relates to contributing to performance goals of increasing the number of disabled hires.
Agencies are expected to track performance related to providing reasonable accommodations. The selected agencies reported having processes in place for receiving reasonable accommodations requests, but only SSA has procedures for obtaining feedback from employees after an accommodation is provided. Without such feedback, DOJ and SBA are limited in their ability to assess the continued effectiveness of reasonable accommodations provided to employees.
Why GAO Did This Study
Federal agencies are required to provide equal opportunity to qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of federal employment.
GAO was asked to examine agencies' efforts to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities. Among other objectives, this report examines: (1) the extent to which agencies met the 2010 federal goal to hire an additional 100,000 individuals with disabilities by 2015, and the retention rates of those employees between 2011 and 2017; and (2) practices selected agencies used to increase hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities.
GAO analyzed data and documents from OPM and interviewed agency officials. GAO interviewed officials from DOJ, SBA, and SSA about their efforts to enhance employment opportunities for disabled persons. GAO selected these three agencies because they represent a range of agency size and relatively high or low percentages of total employees with disabilities.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making 6 recommendations: OPM should track and report retention data; DOJ, SBA, and SSA should assess training impacts; and DOJ and SBA should obtain employee feedback on reasonable accommodations. OPM and SSA concurred with GAO's recommendations; SBA concurred with one and partially concurred with one recommendation; DOJ did not agree or disagree with the recommendations. GAO continues to believe all recommendations are warranted.
For more information, contact Yvonne D. Jones at (202) 512-6806 or

Bar chart showing number of persons with disabilities employed in full-time permanent positions and part-time or temporary positions