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Monday, August 31, 2020

Inequality and Special Education During COVID

 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. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.  To make matters worse, the crisis is deepening inequality.

 Anna Almendrala at Kaiser Health News:
As children head back to school online across California and much of the nation, some of the disparities that plague education are growing wider. Instead of attending the same school with similar access to supplies and teacher time, children are directly dependent on their home resources, from Wi-Fi and computers to study space and parental guidance. Parents who work, are poor or have less education are at a disadvantage, as are their kids....
The gap in online learning experience is sharply visible in [Alhambra teacher Tamya] Daly’s class, and the parents’ role is crucial. For parents who don’t have to work, distance learning may be tense and time-consuming, but it becomes part of a daily routine to be endured until the pandemic ebbs. For others, schooling is an unworkable nightmare burdening parents already stretched to their limits.
School started Aug. 12. By day five, Daly knew which children had the luxury of a stay-at-home parent and which were being supervised by older siblings. She knew which students struggled to get online on time every day — a new state requirement for all virtual learners — and which ones needed reminding to eat breakfast before class started.
She also knew, from last spring, that most of the parents couldn’t print the worksheets she had uploaded to Google Classroom. Their printers were broken, or printer ink cost too much, or they didn’t have printers. For this semester, she set up a time every Thursday for parents to drive by the school and pick up packets for the following week.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Greta Thunberg and Asperger Awareness

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."  Perhaps the most prominent is climate activist Rachel Thunberg.

At The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Micah Hartwell, Ashley Keener, Sara Coffey, Tessa Chesher, Trevor Torgerson & Matt Vassar have a brief report titled "Public Awareness of Asperger Syndrome Following Greta Thunberg Appearances." 
Results from our study suggest that Thunberg’s increased media attention during the climate summit and subsequently being named Time’s person of the year was strongly associated with increased public awareness for AS. More than 1.3 million searches for AS occurred in September in concordance with the UN summit, nearly double the volume from the previous month. The search trend for AS remained well above the forecasted values through the end of the year. In turn, the executive director of the Asperger/Autism Network stated the organization sees increased call volumes, specifically related to acquiring a diagnosis, when prominent figures such as Thunberg receive heightened media attention and reveal their diagnosis (Ortiz 2019). Additional evidence of increased help-seeking behavior during this period may be supported by the increased internet traffic for the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) and Autism Speaks websites.
Trump insulted her. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Autistic Candidate in Louisiana

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."  Previous posts have discussed autistic officeholders and political candidates in New YorkGeorgiaTexas, Pennsylvania, and Washington State

Leslie A. Zukor at The Mighty:
Joshua Collins wanted to be the first openly autistic U.S. Congressperson in American history. While his campaign fell flat, another autistic candidate is still in the running. Louisiana Democrat Rob Anderson, who is on the autism spectrum, is a self-described progressive Southern Democrat campaigning to unseat two-term incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins in Louisiana’s third district.
Encompassing the Bayou State’s southwest and south-central regions, the third district has been in Republican control since 2011. The current race, however, has been described as one of two statewide Congressional competitions that are “expected to be competitive” for Democrats in the fall. According to Mark Ballard, capitol bureau editor at The Advocate, Anderson is running a “surprisingly strong challenge” in a four-way battle for the seat in the state’s November primary. If no candidate achieves a plurality, the top two vote-getters regardless of party will compete in a runoff election to determine the district’s next legislator.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Guardianship and Voting Rights

Today under federal election law, there are only two groups that states may exclude from voting—felons and persons categorized in some way as having mental impairments. Restoring the right to vote to felons who have served their time has gained much-needed attention in recent years, but access to the polls by persons having mental impairments who are under guardianship is rarely seen as a priority inquiry. The inattention is inexcusable.
More recently, Pennsylvania’s Senator Bob Casey introduced the Accessible Voting Act of 2020 in Congress. The bill includes several supports to enable older adults and adults with disabilities to exercise their right to vote, including an explicit provision on voting by persons under guardianship that draws directly upon ABA policy:
A State shall not determine that an individual lacks the capacity to vote in an election for Federal office on the ground that the individual is subject to guardianship, unless a court of competent jurisdiction issues a court order finding by clear and convincing evidence that the individual cannot communicate, with or without accommodations, a desire to participate in the voting process.
While applicable only to federal elective office, the provision would have the practical effect of bending the curve dramatically even in state and local elections, bringing guardianship law closer to contemporary scientific knowledge of capacity, and helping to ensure that every American retains the right to vote. In a time when the franchise is increasingly under siege, small advances represented by this kind of legislation make a huge difference.
A 2017 table of state laws.  (See a recent change in Wisconsin.)

Carli Teproff at The Miami Herald:
At 22, Tyler Borjas had a job, a bank account and got around using Uber and Metrorail.
But he couldn’t legally vote, buy a house or make travel plans. That’s because a Miami-Dade court deemed Borjas, who has autism, “incapacitated,” and placed him under guardianship.
”I want to make my own decisions,” Borjas, who is now 25, said. “I want my rights back.”
Guardianship essentially stripped Borjas of his rights, meaning he couldn’t legally make decisions for himself, said Viviana Bonilla López, an attorney working with Disability Rights Florida, an advocacy group.
Bonilla López has set out to change that for Borjas and other adults by promoting a mechanism known as Supported Decision Making instead of guardianship. If Borjas succeeds, it’s believed he’ll be only the second person in the state to reclaim his rights back in this manner.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Online Instruction and Special Ed in the DC Suburbs

 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. Providing services is proving to be very difficult.

Heather Graf at WJLA-TV in Washington:
With less than two weeks to go until the first day of virtual learning for Fairfax County Public Schools, Wednesday's town hall meeting focused on special education. During the nearly hour-long conversation, several parents expressed concerns that distance learning just won't work for students with special needs.
"I have a son who's in the enhanced autism classroom and he has not been able to successfully access any schooling virtually. He gets quite angry, honestly, violent in front of the screen. He will throw the screen, kick the screen," said one frustrated parent who called into the meeting. "So my question is, what accommodations can be made for students like him? And if not, what's going to be done to make up for the thirty hours a week of special education that he has not been able to access since March?"
In response, Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand said Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to providing in-person instruction for small groups of vulnerable students, "as soon as possible".

Lauren DeMarco WTTG-TV:
... Greg has autism and when the pandemic began he couldn’t understand why everything stopped. He came down with a few medical issues including an ear infection and his parents think it was all just too much.
"He started to combat the stress and trauma with catatonic freezes," says Rowse.
Greg was diagnosed with a condition called Autism Related Catatonia.
There is little known about the condition but doctors say it is serious.
Greg who had never in his life spent the night away from home has been in the hospital 46 days and counting. His parents are unable to visit due to the COVID outbreak.
Karen Boden says her typically happy 7th grader John is suffering.
He has high functioning autism but finds virtual class extremely frustrating and isn’t comfortable turning on his camera. Their tutor, Cameron Buckingham says at one point in the spring his teacher just gave up. "She got to a certain point where she just ended the call."
Both of these families want to see Montgomery County Schools allow in-person learning for special needs students. They believe it can and should be done safely with the proper precautions in place.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

COVID and Autism Services in Michigan

 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. Providing services is proving to be very difficult.

Anna Clark at Michigan Health Watch:
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, affirming that all people have the right to participate in civil society. But that’s especially difficult in the era of coronavirus and social distancing. In addition to thwarted school and caregiving, it’s more difficult for children and teens with autism to access therapeutic services or even get a diagnosis. Also, because sensory issues make it hard to wear a mask, it’s tough for families to leave the home.
“This is the busiest I can ever remember being,” said Colleen Allen, president and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan. The Alliance, which offers a free navigator program that answers questions and connects resources, ordinarily receives up to 2,000 calls a year. This year, it expects many more, especially for complex cases that involve crisis and safety.“I think it is going to get much worse before it gets much better,” she added.
The COVID cataclysm challenged a statewide network of autism services that already had gaps, leading to long waiting lists for diagnoses and programs.
It’s been less than a decade since private and public health insurers have been required to cover people with autism. Early on, there weren’t nearly enough providers to meet the need. This has improved somewhat in the years since, as, for example, colleges launched training programs.
But access still depends on geography. Care is far more available in southeast Michigan than the Upper Peninsula. There are also service gaps, including a lack of support for psychiatric crises. And in a city like Detroit, many families entitled to services backed by Medicaid have no idea it’s available. “They’re not getting there,” Allen said about outreach efforts.
This year changed care in ways that nobody could have predicted. Henry Ford Health System offered ABA and integrated speech therapy at three Detroit-area centers, and comprehensive in-person evaluations at the Henry Ford Autism Center in Hamtramck.
“With the COVID, everything came to a blinding halt,” said Dr. Tisa Johnson, medical director of Henry Ford’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Distance Learning Is Problematic

 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. Providing services is proving to be very difficult.

The behaviors started a few days after COVID-19 closed schools indefinitely in March: Eleven-year-old Ronan Strouse would bite one arm, issue frequent short, high-pitched yells, bang his leg hard.
Ronan, who is intellectually disabled, has autism and other complicated conditions, can’t carry on a conversation, but he had words enough to ask his mother: “School sick?” “Yes,” Celine Nace would tell her son. “School is sick.”
Ronan’s is one of 500 families across the country who have signed onto a federal class-action lawsuit filed in New York in July; the number grows daily, said Patrick Donahue, the lawyer who filed the action, which seeks to either force schools to reopen or offer parents vouchers to obtain the services their children need, plus compensatory education and punitive damages for missed months of education.

“There’s no pandemic pass,” said Donahue, who also runs a private school for special-needs students. His school sent workers to offer in-person services in students’ homes when the coronavirus first shut schools; it fully reopened in May. “These are the most vulnerable of our population, and most schools have abandoned these families.”
Dan Albano at The Orange County Register:
 Jessica Postil, co-owner and executive director of Autism Spectrum Consultants, said agencies such as hers have helped students be more successful with distance learning through in-person support. She recommends parents discuss support options for academics with their district as well as the Regional Center of Orange County or even their private insurance.
“With in-person assistance, we have a higher ability to manage behavior and keep the client online and working on their educational goals because we are addressing their behavior,” said Postil, whose company serves Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego.
“Some of our kids don’t like looking at faces or eyes (on the computer screen) and it causes them anxiety,” she said. “Other kids with autism have high distractibility. If they are given a device, they are minimizing that classroom screen if they’re not managed and they are on a game immediately.”

Monday, August 24, 2020

African Americans and Diagnosis Disparities

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss evaluation and diagnosis of young children.

Elizabeth Hlavinka at MedPage Today:
African-American families with concerns about their children's development have to surmount many obstacles before reaching an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis with providers, a study indicated.
Among 584 Black children with ASD, the mean age of diagnosis was 5.4 years, more than 3 years after parents first reported concerns about children's development, reported John Constantino, MD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues.
More than four in 10 parents (41.6%) said they went to multiple providers before their child was diagnosed, and 14% said they saw at least six doctors before reaching an ASD diagnosis, the group wrote in Pediatrics.

Delays due to a lack of available professionals or significant wait times were reported in 31.3% and 35.6% of the cases, respectively.
"When families were asked about intervention services, those were generally delayed way beyond the time when developmental therapies are recommended and have the highest level of impact on the outcomes of children," Constantino told MedPage Today. "Developmental therapies are capable of preventing severe cognitive impairment in some children with autism and impact their adaptive functioning outcomes."
In 2016 data from the CDC (not stratified by race/ethnicity), 84% of children with suspected developmental delay were evaluated as toddlers, and the median age of diagnosis was about 3 years.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

QAnon and the Antivax Movement

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.

“That activity has raised the profile of the very long-standing problem of coordinated brigading. That kind of mass harassment has a significant impact on people'’s lives,” said Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory and an expert in online disinformation.

At this point, QAnon has become an omniconspiracy theory, says DiResta—it’s no longer just about some message board posts, but instead a broad movement promoting many different, linked ideas. Researchers know that belief in one conspiracy theory can lead to acceptance of others, and powerful social-media recommendation algorithms have essentially turbocharged that process. For instance, DiResta says, research has shown that members of anti-vaccine Facebook groups were seeing recommendations for groups that promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory back in 2016.

“The recommendation algorithm appears to have recognized a correlation between users who shared a conviction that the government was concealing a secret truth. The specifics of the secret truth varied,” she says.
Ben Collins at NBC:
Erin McAweeney, a senior research analyst at Graphika, a New York-based social media analysis company, discovered that some alternative health, religious and anti-vaccination communities appeared to become singularly focused on COVID-19 health
misinformation right as the pandemic was beginning to ramp up in the United States.
"Over the months we saw these networks fully refocus to produce and communicate solely on the impact of the pandemic and the differing government responses," McAweeney said.
But even more dangerously, many of the recommended groups seemed to converge around one community: QAnon. Since QAnon has become something of a catch-all conspiracy for an omnipotent power keeping society down, the details are vague enough to offer a "bridge" to all sorts of beliefs.
"The strongest bridge we found between QAnon and non-QAnon communities was spirituality and religion," McAweeney said. "This content isn't inherently problematic, but people are often most vulnerable when seeking spiritual information online and more susceptible to alternative and extreme views."

Daniel Malloy at Ozy:
Trump has a natural soft spot for the anti-vax crowd, aside from their tendency to like him. Conspiratorial by nature, he has for years spread the disproven allegation that vaccines cause autism with his usual blind certainty. If a culture war erupts over vaccinations — and everything causes a culture war these days — it’s easy to imagine Trump taking the QAnon approach and trying to avoid alienating a segment of his fan base. In fact, there’s ample overlap between QAnon adherents and anti-vaxxers, who in some cases fear the vaccine is a form of mind control. And that Bill Gates might be involved.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Including Children with Developmental Disabilities in the COVID Equation

 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. Providing services is proving to be very difficult.

Children with developmental disabilities receive therapy and support from intervention services at specialized centers as well as in schools. Consistency and intensity of intervention is key. This is why children often continue to receive therapy during school vacations. COVID-19 related curtailment of services within the community and school closures limits the provision of continued intervention services, including that of home-based therapy. Video conferencing and telemedicine are being widely used to facilitate learning and therapy from home. However, children with impairments in communication, attention and/or coordination, require specific accommodations to participate and learn effectively.(Ingersoll and Berger 2015) Within the home environment, caregivers may struggle to provide the same level of academic support without the training and expertise of an educator. Children with certain developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may also lack the cognitive flexibility to understand that parents are trying to play the role of their teachers or therapists and thus be less compliant. Further, families with limited access to technological infrastructure and the internet, risk being cut off from support services.
When planning online learning, educators should accommodate children with developmental disabilities with targeted strategies to address their difficulties. For example, children with ASD might require visual schedules, specific communication strategies and additional behavioral support to participate effectively during learning activities. Therapy and/or educational packs containing these materials can be made available online for parents to print or be mailed to families. For children with extremely challenging behaviors, school/center-based care should be made available as far as possible to provide much needed respite for caregivers and their families.
Ingersoll, B., & Berger, N. I. (2015). Parent engagement with a telehealth-based parent-mediated intervention program for children with autism spectrum disorders: Predictors of program use and parent outcomes. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17(10), e227.

Friday, August 21, 2020

More Back to School

 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. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Cory Turner at NPR:
Some families and advocates have filed lawsuits arguing schools broke federal disability law by providing insufficient services in the spring. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act guarantee students with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education and protect them from discrimination. In spite of the ongoing pandemic, those laws "have not changed," says Diane Smith Howard, with the National Disability Rights Network. "Those laws have not been repealed. There are no waivers to those laws. So they are in effect."
David Jeck, the superintendent of schools in Fauquier County, Va., believes the reason there haven't been more lawsuits is because, in the early months of the pandemic, parents of children with disabilities seemed to extend school leaders a certain amount of "grace."
He describes the jump to remote learning as "every school leader's greatest nightmare," and says parents understood "that we're only human. We're going to do the best we can, and that's what we did."
This fall is "a different animal," he says. "We've had more time to plan. We've had more time to prepare." And schools may no longer be able to count on the "grace" of parents.
Serena McNiff at Healthday:
"The burden of stress on the families of children with disabilities is significant, and even more so during the pandemic when the supports typically available are not accessible, and interaction with extended family and friends is not possible," said Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo, an associate professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
In normal times, a child with autism, for example, may participate in peer-to-peer workshops to help them develop their social skills. But conducting this kind of workshop virtually may not be feasible or effective.
And without school, autistic children with social deficiencies are missing out on building essential social skills. "Some schools have social communication classrooms," Kraus de Camargo said. "They have a social-skills training for these kids that have been very successful in making them more comfortable in social interactions."
Without these kinds of services, children's development can regress. "They can lose the ground they gained during treatment," Kraus de Camargo explained.
Kraus de Camargo gave one example of an 8-year-old autistic boy who refuses to eat normally—a condition called pediatric feeding disorder. "Before the pandemic, he was making progress by participating in feeding workshops, which helped him to tolerate different foods and textures," Kraus de Camargo said. "Since March, he has stopped trying new foods and now is back to only McDonald's french fries and Fruitopia."
The boy's mother was afraid to take her son to the doctor for fear of him catching COVID-19. "This child is regressing in his skills and probably already has nutritional deficiencies," Kraus de Camargo added.
Taylor Hannon at School Transportation News:
Board-certified behavior analyst Patrick Mulick, who is also a frequent speaker at the TSD Conference and STN EXPO, addressed this need during an Aug. 12 webinar on re-engaging students with special needs as they make their way back to school.
Mulick said that while many people have reacted to the pandemic with various levels of fear, students with disabilities are often ill-equipped to deal with change. He noted that anxiety is also the main emotion experienced by children who have autism because of the unpredictable nature of simply walking out their front door.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Democratic Platform on Disabilities

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

From the 2020 Democratic Platform:
One in four American adults live with a disability. Democrats believe people with disabilities deserve to lead full, happy, and healthy lives. Democrats will fully enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and the Help America Vote Act, among other bedrock statutes protecting the rights of people with disabilities. We will oppose any efforts to weaken enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We will ensure non-discrimination in access to health care, building on the protections for people with disabilities enshrined in the Affordable Care Act. We will ensure every federal agency aggressively enforces the integration mandate affirmed in the Olmstead decision, and repair the damage done by the Trump Administration.
We will rigorously enforce non-discrimination protections for people with disabilities in health care, employment, education, and housing, and ensure equal access to the ballot box.
Democrats are committed to supporting the millions of Americans on the autism spectrum and their families. We will expand early childhood screening, particularly in underserved communities, and promote equitable treatment of students on the autism spectrum in schools and educational settings, in keeping with our commitment to providing equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities. By eliminating state waiting lists for home and community-based care, ending the institutional bias in Medicaid, and expanding support for informal caregivers, Democrats will enable more individuals with autism to receive the support they need in their homes and communities.
Democrats will phase out the subminimum wage, expand competitive, integrated employment opportunities, and protect and strengthen economic security for people with disabilities. We will take a holistic approach to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs that are essential for millions of Americans with disabilities by increasing SSI benefits, eliminating waiting periods for SSDI, and eliminating the “benefit cliff” for SSDI benefits. We will increase federal funding to expand accessible transportation and accessible, integrated, and affordable housing. We will protect people with disabilities in emergencies and meet the needs of travelers with disabilities. We will ensure new technologies benefit, and are affordable and accessible for, people with disabilities. We will expand access to tax-advantaged ABLE savings accounts, which provide people with disabilities a way to pay for disability-related expenses like housing, education, and transportation. And Democrats will improve access to home- and community-based care for people with disabilities and older Americans, including by enforcing the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Settings Rule, ending the institutional bias within Medicaid, and expanding the home care workforce to end state waiting lists for long-term services and supports.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Vaccine Fears

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.

Ben Kamisar and Melissa Holzberg at NBC:
Less than half of American adults say they would get a government-approved coronavirus vaccine if one becomes widely available, new data from the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll show, with the majority unsure about getting the vaccine or saying they're ruling it out entirely.
Forty-four percent of American adults say they would get the vaccine, with 22 percent saying
Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, 31 percent say they aren't sure whether they would get a vaccine, while 36 percent say they would and 33 percent say they wouldn't. While a majority of Democrats and those who lean Democratic — 58 percent — say they would get a vaccine, 30 percent say they're unsure and just 12 percent say they wouldn't get vaccinated.
With different wording, Gallup found that most Republicans would not take the vaccine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Pinterest and Vaccines

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.

Influenza epidemics happen yearly, and the World Health Organization estimates that the virus is connected to between 290,000 and 650,000 annual deaths. The most effective way to prevent seasonal influenza is vaccination. The prevalence of vaccine misinformation on social media is increasing, but the visual platform Pinterest is understudied in this area. The current study is the first to explore the content and nature of influenza information that is shared on Pinterest. Using a quantitative content analysis, Pinterest messages were theoretically analyzed for Health Belief Model variables as well as for message source, engagement, and position on vaccination. Findings showed concerning trends but also promising opportunities for health organizations and professionals.
From the article:
 While many recent vaccine-focused social media studies have produced an alarming picture of a clear majority of anti-vaccine posts on several platforms [13], [15], this study suggests posts that surface when searching for the vlu vaccine on Pinterest were more balanced between provides a more balanced picture posts supporting and posts critiquing the flu vaccine, at least before Pinterest’s policy changes from 2019. Similarly, perceived benefits of the flu vaccines and perceived barriers to the vaccine were each present in approximately-one quarter of the total sample. Finally, posts originating with Pinterest influencers – which may be more likely to be spread on the platform – were more likely to be pro-flu vaccine.
However, the news is not entirely good. In general, pins associated with higher engagement appeared to be primarily associated with anti-vaccine variables and constructs: for example, pins that refer to deadly consequences of the flu vaccine, other adverse reactions to the flu vaccine, mistrust of flu vaccine safety, alternative ways of protecting oneself from the flu, and several types of fear provoking visuals (e.g., a syringe needle, threat signs such as a skull and crossbones, or a scared facial expression) all elicit significantly higher engagement than pins that do not refer to these concepts.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Back to School

 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. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Rashaan Ayesh, Erica Pandey at Axios:
Over the summer, some schools found ways to move IEPs online, but there are a slew of problems. "Delivering special education online is not easy," says Emily Smith, founder of Teleteachers, which provides online tutoring to students with disabilities. "We're seeing a big learning curve."
For example, in Northern Virginia, "8-year-old Theo Duran, who is autistic, struggles more to walk up the stairs or hold a crayon to write — all tasks he was making progress on before the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut down his school," Perry Stein and Valerie Strauss write for the Washington Post.
Students rely on in-person learning so they can pick up on social cues and further develop socially and behaviorally.
And the parents of students who receive multiple services — such as occupational therapy, speech therapy or counseling — have to keep up with a packed schedule of online sessions on top of virtual class time.
Special educators often have behavioral aides or other support staff in the classroom.
"In our new environment, there is no support staff," Smith says. "That falls on the parents who are likely working and likely have no idea how to help their child participate in a session."
The other side: Some students could potentially benefit from online school since they will be learning in the familiar environment of home.
Once teachers and parents figure it out, the integration of new technology could make special education more tailored for the individual student, Cunningham says.
Go deeper... Podcast: Special ed under pressure

Carolyn Jones at EdSource:
As schools in California begin re-opening virtually, state education officials have taken steps to improve distance learning for a group of students who were largely left behind in the spring: Those in special education.
But some parents wonder if distance learning will ever work well for students with disabilities.
The most significant new law, passed in June as part of the state budget, requires districts to craft distance learning plans for all students in special education, tailored to each student’s unique needs. The plans will apply to any emergency that forces a school to close for 10 days or more, including wildfires, earthquakes and pandemics.
The plans will be part of a student’s individualized education program, or IEP. Teachers, parents, therapists, counselors and other staff will create the plan during a student’s regularly scheduled IEP review, if not sooner.
“Finally, there’s something for parents to point at that guarantees a distance learning plan as part of an IEP,” said Robert Borrelle, an attorney for Disability Rights California, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities. “Before this, some districts were doing nothing.”