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Friday, July 31, 2020


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.

The Lancet -- which published and later retracted the infamous Wakefield article suggesting a link between vaccines and autism -- has an editorial on vaccine disinformation.
The tidal wave of information on the internet concerning the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in difficulties in discerning truth from fiction. This so-called infodemic, defined by WHO as an “overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it harder for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when needed”, has become a major threat to public health. Infection rates will rise if people are confused about restrictions and patients may be harmed if they use unproven treatments or bogus remedies.
An urgent call for action to gauge, map, and develop a means of combating this problem was explored at a WHO-organised conference held across April, June, and July. The meeting, which focused on so-called infodemiology—the science behind managing infodemics—brought together experts from a range of disciplines, including epidemiology, public health, applied mathematics, and data science.

View related content for this article
The term infodemiology was first used in 2002, although concern about misinformation in health and the need for fact-checking have long been present. But now, a growing mistrust in science and experts, poor and confusing responses by political and government leaders, and some people's reliance on social media as their sole source of information have made dealing with infodemics as acute as dealing with COVID-19 itself. While the discipline of infodemiology is in its infancy, some insights are emerging.
The groups generating and spreading egregious information are highly organised political or pseudoscientific bodies that are experienced at using nefarious techniques to propagate their narratives. These bodies can rapidly change their names and their key messages, moving from one campaign to another, and consciously seek and target vulnerable populations. Conspiracy theories and misinformation proliferate in times of uncertainty and fear. Such circumstances, exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, have occurred throughout history and been manipulated by populist politicians, anti-vaccination movements, climate change deniers, and the tobacco industry. Protagonists and propagators of such fake news have been shown to be motivated often by political and financial gain.
An analysis mapping Facebook interactions between nearly 100 million people with various viewpoints about vaccinations showed that individuals cluster into specific, dynamic, interconnected groups. Although small, the anti-vaccination group (4·2 million people) was highly connected with those who were undecided about the importance of vaccinations (74·1 million people). The pro-vaccination group (6·9 million individuals) was isolated and had little interaction with those who were both undecided and anti-vaccination. These observations show that health campaigners who to wish change people's minds ought to focus attention on those who remain open to both good and bad information.
Dealing with the infodemic relating to COVID-19 will need a combined global effort involving health organisations, governments, media outlets, and individuals. WHO has built myth-busting teams of internet-savvy communicators to stamp out disinformation related to COVID-19. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has employed a global team of behavioural scientists and communicators to tackle infodemics as they relate to vaccine acceptance in low-income and middle-income countries. Social media platforms say they have increased efforts to remove disinformation and lead users to more trustworthy sources. However, Facebook, for example, is “rife with bogus cures and conspiracy theories that remain on the platform long enough to put millions of people at risk”, according to activists.
At The Lancet, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us salutary lessons about dealing with an infodemic. We are mindful that our readership now extends beyond the health and scientific communities. With this comes a responsibility to explain that different content types carry different weights of evidence, and how peer review and editorial input contribute to building scientific knowledge.
The problem of infodemics and the importance of infodemiology are escalating, and not just related to COVID-19. There is collective responsibility to produce clear, simple, honest messages, but individual digital and health literacy must also be strengthened. Behaviour change is needed, appreciating the importance of emotion, trust, credibility, and self-efficacy. The key to infodemics is not to produce even more information, but to address the environmental and social factors that make spreading misinformation easy.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Conflict Over Liability

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.

Corey Mitchell at Education Week:
In a joint report issued this month by AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the National School Boards Association, and the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the groups document growing concern among school leaders about IDEA-related litigation as schools struggle to fulfill students' individualized education programs during the pandemic.
More than four months have passed since schools began to shut down to curb the spread of coronavirus. Thus far, just a handful of federal lawsuits have been filed on behalf of students who receive special education services.
Anticipating the numbers will soon rise, the organizations behind the report wanted Congress to include the liability protections in the latest round of COVID-19 response legislation, but their request did not make the cut.
Lindsay Jones, the executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said the report and the related push for legislation was just another attempt to push for waivers that would let schools off the hook for their responsibility to educate all students.
"That report is a wolf in sheep's clothing," Jones said during the Education Writers Association's National Seminar earlier this month. "There's not much evidence that these types of lawsuits are coming forward."

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Trump and the Anti-Vaxxers

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.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate has a report titled "The Anti-Vaxx Industry; How Big Tech powers and profits from vaccine Misinformation."
While most anti-vaxxers are ambivalent about Donald Trump, an influential minority feel he shares their views on vaccines, Covid and online misinformation. As a result, they are voicing support for Trump and in one case are preparing to offer anti-vaxxers financial support in the upcoming US elections, risking increased polarisation of the debate over a future Coronavirus vaccine.
President Trump has previously expressed his sympathy for the antivaxx conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism, and reporte ly met with anti-vaxxers including Andrew Wakefield ahead of his election in 2016. But this changed one Trump reached office. Last year Trump publicly backed vaccines when it became clear that measles outbreaks in the US were the result of poor vaccination coverage. Now he has backed the rapid development of a Coronavirus vaccine as a way out of the dilemma posed by the pandemic and its effect on the economy.
Despite this ambiguity over Trump’s position on vaccines and Covid, the antivaxx entrepreneur David Wolfe has used his Telegram channel to express support for Donald Trump’s attacks on social media platforms that have labelled his posts as false or dangerous. Wolfe, who has the largest total following of any actor in our sample, has also shared posts featuring the QAnon conspiracy theory that pits Donald Trump against an imagined “deep state”.Wolfe has also shared QAnon conspiracy material with his 12 million Facebook followers, including a meme about“The Great Awakening”, a QAnon term referring to a final confrontation with the Satanist cabal that adherents claim runs the world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Disinformation at Warp Speed

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.

Jennifer Reich at Vox:
In order to move the vaccine to market quickly, companies are running multiple stages of clinical trials “in parallel” rather than sequentially. Researchers usually take months between phases to examine data and make sure they understand the information before proceeding, and trials take years, not months. Instead, Azar claims OWS will “compress and wring out every inefficiency in the process and take away every unused day” to expedite the research process. Federal agencies insist they are committed to safety and “will not cut corners” in licensing decisions. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described his goals: “I really want to make sure that we don’t have a vaccine that’s distributed among the American people unless we know it’s safe and we know it is effective. … Not that we think it might be effective, but that we know it’s effective.”
Despite reassurances, there is signs that this rushed pace and inconsistent messaging from the White House about the severity of the outbreak is harming trust in the potential vaccine. As one Twitter post said, “‘Warp speed’ says it all. Project has been rushed and corners are being [cut]. No point producing a vaccine that could be more dangerous than the desease....but tell that to trump. Desperate to find a vaccine for a desease he thinks doesn’t exist. Bizarre.”
Vaccine critics, like those who work in Robert Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense, an organization that aims to undermine vaccine usage and promote the widely discredited vaccine-autism link, have been quick to criticize this process, explaining how researchers made “the decision — deemed ‘morally questionable’ by some — to sidestep the standard process for vaccine development.”
As health economist Jay Bhattacharya recently told a House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, “the fallout from disinformation falsely linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism, seeding the anti-vaccine movement, is a cautionary tale.” Public health agencies, scientists, and government leaders would be wise to address misinformation with transparency, honesty, and clarity. Our lives may depend on it.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Report on Disability Employment

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.

As the nation celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), NCD reflects on the monumental social impact of this landmark civil rights legislation since its enactment on July 26, 1990. As a result of the ADA, people with disabilities enjoy protections that have allowed them to enter the competitive workforce, like protection from discrimination based on disability and the requirement of reasonable accommodations.
In this year’s statutorily required progress report, NCD acknowledges the achievements of the ADA over the past three decades but focuses attention on the persistent barriers that must be addressed in order to ensure the economic inclusion of people with disabilities into mainstream society in the future.
While significant progress has been achieved over 30 years, NCD found labor statistics continue to show extreme disparities between labor force participation rates of people with and without disabilities.
The report focuses heavily on the following areas:
  • Services for Transitioning Youth – NCD found disparities between skills training and employment-related services available to transition-age youth with and without disabilities. Students without disabilities were more likely to receive opportunities in job shadowing, internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer work, which prepare them to enter the workforce successfully. To the contrary, students with disabilities were less likely to have these opportunities, putting them further behind their peers.
  • Public Benefits – NCD identified employment disincentives tied to federal programs and other benefits which perpetuate a “poverty trap,” in which people with disabilities must choose to enter the workforce and risk losing the healthcare they need to live, or maintain their healthcare but remain impoverished indefinitely, due to the asset limitations imposed by federal means-tested programs.
  • Support of Entrepreneurship – Finally, the report identifies opportunities to expand employment for people with disabilities in the future by analyzing programs available under the Small Business Administration (“SBA”). With nearly ninety-seven percent of businesses being classified as “small,” NCD found that this underutilized federal agency has the potential to engage with the broadest number of businesses across the country that could benefit workers with disabilities.
NCD urges policymakers to address these barriers by concluding the report with recommendations to the President, Congress, and the Administration.
From the report:
In this war for talent, employers now routinely recruit job-ready candidates with disabilities for competitive integrated employment to enhance their bottom line, deeply enrich the skills available within companies, and promote diversity. For example, in 2012, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) partnered with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to create an Autism Internship Program to match
the needs of its company with the capabilities of autistic people who had college degrees
in the fields of computer science, mathematics, and finance. Likewise, companies like
JP Morgan, SAP, DXC Technology (formerly Hewlett Packard Enterprise), and Microsoft also have autism hiring programs, built on the idea that such employees have unique skills traits that are especially useful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries and that removing barriers to entry for them will allow such companies to access an untapped labor pool. In 2019, JP Morgan Chase reported that employees in its Autism at Work program were 48 percent more accurate and as much as 92 percent more productive than peers in comparable positions.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Disability Rights and Civil Rights

“Civil rights” usually referred to the fight against racial segregation.  In several ways, this struggle set the template for other civil rights issues, including disability rights. First, cases such as Brown v. Board of Education demonstrated that disadvantaged groups could gain protections in the courts.  Second, movement leaders found that nonviolent protests could gain public sympathy and put pressure on elected officials. Third, civil rights statutes that helped African Americans would also point to means by which the government could protect other excluded groups. 

In remembering disabled activists who were instrumental in the creation of America's disability rights movement and imagining what a more inclusive movement for social justice and full civil rights for the future could look like, we keep coming back to the partnership during the late 1970s between the Black Panther Party and the 504 activists, disability rights advocates who were pushing for implementation of a long-delayed section (section 504) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Prior to the 1990 enactment the Americans with Disabilities Act, section 504 was the most important disability rights legislation in the US. Modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 prohibited those who received federal aid from discriminating against any "otherwise qualified individuals with a disability." This stellar example of bridging movements resulted in the longest occupation of a federal building in US history in San Francisco -- and it is a historical moment that deserves more recognition, especially as America marks the 30th anniversary of the ADA.
Brad Lomax, a Black Panther who was also a pivotal figure in the movement for disability rights and helped lead the (ultimately successful) sit-in, was one of many activists who worked to make disability rights a presence and priority in the broader civil rights movement. Donald Galloway, who headed blind services and the Black Caucus at Berkeley's Center for Independent Living, recalled: "Brad was our linkage to the Black Panthers." Lomax brought together the growing disability rights movement, which Galloway remembered as "predominantly white," and the Black community in the Bay Area.

This kind of connection, sadly, is too often lost or forgotten when the stories of both movements are told: members within these movements are rarely aware that worlds and identities collided in the name of freedom and justice in ways that reshaped history.
David Shribman at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” President George H.W. Bush said when he signed the law in 1990. It was the disabled version of the Book of Exodus sentiment — Let my people go! — that Harriet Tubman used as a code for enslaved people escaping to the North and that Al Jolson and Paul Robeson made famous.
That phrase is enshrined in the American Songbook, in the hearts of the marginalized and the striving, in the soaring words of a patrician president who claimed the ADA was the achievement of which he was most proud, in the American spirit and, 30 years ago, in the American legal code.
“President Bush truly was passionate about disability rights and felt the ADA was the greatest civil rights act in the country after the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” Andrew H. Card, deputy White House chief of staff at the time and interim chair of the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, said in an interview. “He used to say that disability knew no barrier between ethnic groups and religious affiliation. People with disabilities were pushed aside, and he was proud to make them part of the fabric of America.”

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Unmet Needs of Autistic Adults

In The Politics of Autism, I write:

When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. ... People in the disability community refer to this point in life as “the cliff.” Once autistic people go over the cliff, they have a hard time getting services such as job placement, vocational training, and assistive technology. IDEA entitles students to transition planning services during high school, but afterwards, they have to apply as adults and establish eligibility for state and federal help. One study found that 39 percent of young autistic adults received no service at all, and most of the rest got severely limited services.
Whitney Schott, Stacy Nonnemacher & Lindsay Shea have an article at The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled "Service Use and Unmet Needs Among Adults with Autism Awaiting Home- and Community-Based Medicaid Services."  The abstract:
Autistic adults in need of long-term services and supports spend months on waiting lists before receiving such services through Medicaid. Data from a state-wide survey of adults and their caregivers on a waiting list for autism waivers suggest that the majority have unmet needs for functional skills services (63.6%), employment or vocation services (62.1%), and mental and behavioral health services (52.8%). Almost a third require case management services (28.3%). Predictors of greater service need are African American race and the number of physical and behavioral health diagnoses. Predictors of greater service receipt were employment status, housing type, and school enrollment; there was lower service receipt for African American race, Hispanic ethnicity, over age 21 years, and college completion.
 From the article:
The transition to adulthood continues to be a key time for unmet needs to arise and for service use to decline. A recent focus on transition into adulthood has placed a spotlight on issues such as service drop of after aging out of school enrollment (Department of Health and Human Services 2019). Eforts among educators, health administrators, and policymakers to ensure continued access to services including early planning for service transitions are idiosyncratic and often depend on available options in local schools and communities. A specifc challenge for connecting individuals who are waiting for HCBS to services is the lack of cohesion in the education-focused environment of school systems and the dual home- and community-based focus of Medicaid (van Schalkwyk and Volkmar 2017). Elements of a successful transition planning process would bridge these gaps to transcend and plan for service needs beyond an education, home, or community-based focus, and be able to support the individual across all three environments.
Second, racial and ethnic disparities continue to challenge systems, as vulnerable populations have substantially greater unmet needs and are less likely to receive services across the four various service categories. In particular, needs appear to be most acute in employment support services, a crucial need for individuals coming from less  advantaged backgrounds. Eforts to confront this issue could include a system of waiting list triage or priority ranking for service delivery to reach the most vulnerable populations frst. Early, substantial, and efective linkages to employment supports could also provide a fnancial tax incentive for states to meet the employment service needs of the hundreds of thousands of individuals waiting forMedicaid-funded HCBS and could bolster funding for more individuals to enroll in the Medicaid programs, thereby elivering a more robust array of home and community supports.
Third, this evidence suggests that individuals who are in group settings may have better access to services, perhaps as they can be reached more easily in groups, whether that be through community housing, through school enrollment, or through employment. These fndings suggest that community participation may play an important role in simply helping connect individuals to resources that can serve them, while isolation may mean individuals have a lower likelihood of connecting to crucial services. Working to create opportunities for appropriate community participation may further bolster support to individuals with ASD, a key policy\ implication

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Biden on Caregiving and HCBS

Biden will allocate $450 billion to give more people the choice to receive care at home or in supportive community situations, or to have that choice for their loved ones. He will help states offer cost-effective options for affordable primary and preventive care, and affordable support services like help with meals, transportation, home safety, and quality day programs for older Americans. This commitment will reduce health expenditures, help more Americans avoid unnecessary and expensive hospitalizations, and result in an expansion of the caregiving and community health workforce by roughly 1.5 million jobs. Specifically, Biden will: 
  • Eliminate the current waitlist for home and community services under Medicaid. Approximately 800,000 people are on the waitlist for home and community care under Medicaid. It can take as many as five years for these individuals to get the services they badly need. Biden will increase Medicaid funding to states, the District of Columbia, and outlying territories to pay for the full cost of ensuring these 800,000 individuals and families receive long-term services and supports in the most appropriate setting, with the support of qualified care providers. Following the elimination of the current waiting list, states will be given a choice to convert their current home and community based care services waivers into a new state plan option with an enhanced federal match. This will enable states to make home and community-based services more available to people in need. 
  • Establish a long-term services and supports innovation fund to help expand home and community-based alternatives to institutional care. Biden believes we must move aggressively to eliminate the institutional bias that pervades our public programs. A Biden Administration will dedicate substantial resources to this fund to help states and locally based entities test innovative models that expand home- and community-based alternatives to institutional care. These could include approaches that provide care while allowing individuals to retain independence, such as day programs and respite services that enable unpaid caregivers to work, alternative home and community models that coordinate or directly provide care, and Medicaid buy-in models. For example, the CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place-Advancing Better Living for Elders) Program provides home repairs and modifications to help create safer, more functional home environments for older adults. An initial trial in Baltimore found about $3,000 in program costs yielded more than $20,000 in savings. The pilot is now being tested in 27 cities in 16 states. Successful, cost-effective approaches to long-term care will be scaled up nationally. This fund will be administered by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which was established by the Affordable Care Act to support innovations that improve health care while constraining costs

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

SSI Limits

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

Becca R. at Yahoo:
Imagine the year is 1984. A dollar went a lot further than it does today. What cost a dollar then would cost $2.47 in 2020. In 1984, the SSI asset limit was $2,000, and that amount remains the same today.
In 2020, clearly $2,000 doesn’t get you as far now as it did back in 1984. With inflation of 147%, the $2,000 asset limit from 1984 would equate to $4,935 in 2020. The asset limit should be increased to $4,935 and continue to grow with inflation year after year.
Experts say that your emergency fund should be large enough to cover expenses for a minimum of three to six months.

A September Release from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI):
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) along with Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act today, a bill that makes common-sense but impactful adjustments to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides assistance to disabled or elderly individuals, but has gone largely unchanged since 1972.

Constituents in the autism advocacy community raised with Slotkin that the SSI program’s outdated restrictions currently prevent individuals with disabilities, and families caring for them, from accessing benefits the program is intended to provide. For instance, because the program has not kept pace with inflation, individuals with more than $2,000 in their savings account would not be eligible for benefits under this program.

“This issue is one I have heard about directly from autism advocates and families in our district, particularly parents preparing for children with disabilities to transition into adulthood,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin said. “I’m so proud to introduce a bill that can help ease the burden these restrictions are currently imposing on families trying to access benefits through this program. This bill brings the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program’s outdated limits up to speed with inflation -- a common-sense adjustment that will make a huge difference for individuals and families caring for someone with disabilities.”


"Autism Alliance of Michigan is a statewide professional organization serving individuals with Autism and Related Disabilities across the lifespan. The limitation on SSI has been a barrier for so many of our citizens living with disability in their pursuit of employment options. We applaud Representative Slotkin for introducing this important legislation and encourage others to support her efforts moving it forward,” said Colleen Allen, President and CEO.
 The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act:
  • Updates the amount individuals can earn from work to $399 a month, to encourage work from those who are able.
  •  Updates the amount of general income a person can make to $123 per month (general income is money received through means other than work).
  •  Repeals the marriage penalty and updates the amount of resources a person or couple can have to $10,000 and $20,000 respectively, so people can save for emergencies.
  •  Repeals the penalty for financial, food, and housing support from family.
  •  This bill streamlines and simplifies the claims process and restores a program that plays a pivotal role in the security of millions of Americans including over a million children.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Dell and Neurodiversity

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.

Sam Farmer at The Hill:
It comes as no surprise that Dell has chosen to pursue a culture of neurodiversity. CEO Michael Dell has been quoted as saying “diversity and inclusion helps drive innovation and growth, and is critical to the long-term success of our company. I'm proud of the legacy we are building as an employer of choice for all.” New ideas from a diversity of perspectives result in a greater capacity for problem solving. New ways of thinking are incorporated into the technology offerings, fostering greater accessibility. And the autistic employees benefit as well. As such, Dell's Autism Hiring Program is a win-win-win proposition: for the company, for its people and for its customers.
When asked to speak about their employment experience at Dell, a few of the autistic members of Dell’s workforce have had wonderful things to say, as have their nonautistic colleagues. These folks admit to being eager to learn and to try new things. They value having an impact on those around them and being able to teach others. Dell affords them these opportunities, and taking advantage of them instills in them a sense of fulfillment, empowerment, belonging and connectivity with their colleagues. The business impact of these outcomes is the enhancement of team spirit, cohesion and focus.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Education Bureaucracy Wants Protection from IDEA Litigation

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.

As schools prepare to reopen in the fall, there is a growing concern that school districts and educational service agencies will face unparalleled rates of litigation for their inability to meet requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) during the COVID-19 pandemic. This concern is well-founded. IDEA guarantees eligible students with disabilities a “free appropriate public education”
(FAPE) and a right to pursue a complaint through a due process hearing and federal court. Similarly, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require equal access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities. Also, the regulations implementing Section 504 require FAPE. However, during this unprecedented pandemic, FAPE comes with tremendous
costs to budgets and additional burdens on personnel that challenge school districts trying their best under the circumstances to meet the requirements.
To gauge the degree of concern, the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA) surveyed a subset of its members in 28 states between May 20 and June 16, 2020. AASA, the School Superintendents Association, also surveyed school leaders nationwide on the school response to the coronavirus pandemic in May of 2020. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has been collecting examples of IDEA-related concerns across the country since the beginning of COVID-19. The data gathered by these organizations informs our understanding of how potential and actual special
education litigations related to meeting the IDEA requirements during the pandemic may impact the budgets and operations of schools.
“School board members and other public school leaders have managed a herculean task to serve students during the pandemic,” said Anna Maria Chávez, the NSBA Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, in a recent national reopening collaboration document11 released by the National Labor Management Partnership (NLMP).
“We all agree that FAPE is important, but the legal understanding of FAPE during a pandemic cannot be the same thing as FAPE under normal educational circumstances. ESAs and school districts are doing the best they can to ensure all students are appropriately served when schools are closed due to a pandemic. Flexibility
at the federal government to shield districts from frivolous lawsuits is essential to putting ESAs and districts on a path towards a successful next school year
,” according to Joan Wade, AESA Executive Director.
AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech stated that “Congress must act swiftly to provide liability protection to districts around IDEA. District leaders need to be focused on addressing learning loss, not preventing litigation. This is not a free pass for districts to stop serving students with disabilities appropriately. Instead, this is an opportunity to provide reasonable, temporary, litigation protection for the vast majority of districts that are doing everything feasible to meet IDEA during the pandemic, but simply cannot meet every requirement exactly as intended for every single child.”
Although the U.S. Department of Education recognized that exceptional circumstances may affect how special education and related services/supports are provided to students with disabilities and would offer flexibility12, the policy support has been inadequate. The data from AESA, AASA, and NSBA suggest the flip side of flexibility, that is, the ambiguity of federal or state policies could lead to legal challenges for school practitioners.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Vaccine Hearing

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.

Emily Kopp at Roll Call:
The Food and Drug Administration should hold hearings and publish data before it approves a COVID-19 vaccine to boost public confidence, experts in infectious diseases and vaccination advise.
“It is incumbent on us as scientists to convey to the American public what we’re finding and seeing very, very clearly and loudly,” said Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford School of Medicine health economist and professor of medicine, at a House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy hearing Tuesday.
The fallout from disinformation falsely linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism, seeding the anti-vaccine movement, is a cautionary tale, he said.
“There, the early publication of essentially misleading information was incredibly damaging. So I think in the future and for the vaccine that comes out of this process . . . making the data transparent and available so everybody can see what the safety concerns are, if there are any, is absolutely critical,” Bhattacharya said.
Trust in an eventual COVID-19 vaccine will be fragile, public experts worry, because of these anti-vaccine conspiracy theories; the project’s unprecedented speed; FDA’s reversal on authorization for antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to be used against COVID-19; historical harms to Black Americans; and deep disapproval of President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic.

At about 1:08, antivax Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) cited the conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits and actually asked if the committee should hear from people like her.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Vaccines and Conspiracy Theory

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-19The antivaxxers are joining up with protests against the coronavirus shutdown. Belief in conspiracy is a common denominator.

Peter Jamison at WP:
Although African Americans stand to benefit enormously from a vaccine, they remain distrustful of a medical establishment with a history that includes the Tuskegee syphilis study and surgical experiments on enslaved people — not to mention the ongoing disparities they confront in the U.S. health-care system.

A recent Washington Post poll found that 63 percent of black adults said they were likely to get a coronavirus vaccine, compared with 70 percent of whites and 78 percent of Hispanics. Only 32 percent of black adults said they would definitely get a vaccine, compared with 45 percent of whites and Hispanics.
Assertions of disproportionate harm to African Americans from inoculation are often based on a 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that set off one of the more bizarre episodes in vaccine science history. That study, conducted in Georgia, observed slightly higher rates of autism among children who had received immunizations than among those who had not. The authors said this was probably because autistic children were required to be vaccinated to participate in preschool special-education programs.

Their findings were called into question when one of the authors, William Thompson, later claimed the CDC had suppressed data showing a stronger link between vaccines and autism in black children than in white children. Thompson’s allegations, made during secretly recorded telephone conversations with anti-vaccine activist Brian Hooker, were never substantiated. A 2014 paper Hooker published on the subject was retracted.
Anna Merlan at Vice:
But it’s not just QAnon. The strain of living in this particular time, with a dragging, devastating pandemic and a global uprising against police brutality and racial injustice, crashing together at the highest speed, has accelerated something that’s been going on for years. Call it the conspiracy singularity: the place where many conspiracy communities are suddenly meeting and merging, a melting pot of unimaginable density. UFO conspiracy theorists and QAnon fans are advocating for drinking a bleach solution promoted by anti-vaxxers. QAnon groups and Reopen America groups alike promoted Plandemic , a film clip jam-packed with conspiratorial claims about the causes and spread of COVID. The Freedom Angels, an anti-vaccine group based in California, are among the many such groups joining anti-lockdown protests, using language that feels heavily drawn from the Patriot movement: They're calling stay-at-home orders “tyranny,” addressing their followers as “Patriots,” and positioning themselves as “a new civil rights movements.” (They urged people to burn their facemasks on July 4th, adding, floridly: “Join millions of Americans on Independence Day as we show all these BLUE STATE GOVERNORS, SWAMP DOCS, and DEEP STATE RATS 🐀 how we feel about their latest ORDERS, DICTATES and MANDATES to wear our muzzles again.”)