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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Antivax Radio Hosts Die of COVID

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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

Daniel Politi at Slate:
Yet another conservative radio host who publicly spoke out against COVID-19 vaccines has died from the coronavirus. Marc Bernier, 65, a prominent conservative radio host from Daytona Beach, Florida, died Saturday after a nearly month-long battle with the virus. He is now the third conservative radio host to die from COVID-19 after publicly questioning the need for vaccines. Bernier wasn’t just a vaccine skeptic, he had even characterized himself as “Mr. Anti-Vax” at one point.

Benier died a week after Phil Valentine, a 62-year-old conservative radio host in Nashville, died of COVID-19. Valentine had expressed skepticism of the COVID-19 vaccine but reportedly changed his mind and urged friends and family members to get vaccinated from his hospital bed. Earlier, Dick Farrel, a 65-year-old conservative radio host from Florida, died of COVID-19 on Aug. 4. Farrel, who was also an anchor on Newsmax, frequently criticized vaccines on Facebook but his friends said he changed his stance on the issue after he was hospitalized. “COVID took one of my best friends! RIP Dick Farrel. He is the reason I took the shot. He texted me and told me to ‘Get it!’ He told me this virus is no joke and he said, ‘I wish I had gotten it!’ ” Amy Leigh Hair wrote on her Facebook page.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Education Dept to Probe Mask Mandate Bans

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. 

People with autism and other disabilities appear to be at higher risk from COVID.

 From the US Department of Education:

Today, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened directed investigations in five states exploring whether statewide prohibitions on universal indoor masking discriminate against students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 by preventing them from safely accessing in-person education.

"The Department has heard from parents from across the country – particularly parents of students with disabilities and with underlying medical conditions – about how state bans on universal indoor masking are putting their children at risk and preventing them from accessing in-person learning equally," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "It's simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve. The Department will fight to protect every student's right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall."

OCR sent letters today to the chief state school officers of Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, outlining how prohibitions of universal indoor masking prevent school districts from implementing health and safety policies that they determine are necessary to protect students from exposure to COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions related to their disability. OCR is concerned that state mask restrictions on schools and school districts "may be preventing schools…from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19," the letter states.

OCR has not opened investigations in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, or Arizona because those states' bans on universal indoor masking are not currently being enforced as a result of court orders or other state actions. Due to these rulings and actions, districts should be able to implement universal indoor masking in schools to protect the health and safety of their students and staff. However, the Department will continue to closely monitor those states and is prepared to take action if state leaders prevent local schools or districts from implementing universal indoor masking or if the current court decisions were to be reversed.

The investigations will explore each state's compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), which is a federal law that protects students with disabilities from discrimination based on their disability. Section 504 guarantees qualified students with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education in elementary and secondary school, commonly referred to as FAPE. This includes the right of students with disabilities to receive their education in the regular educational environment, alongside their peers without disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate to their needs.

The investigations will also explore whether statewide prohibitions on universal indoor masking violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, including public education systems and institutions. OCR's regional offices will begin collecting data from each state educational agency as part of the direct investigations over the coming weeks.

During the investigation, OCR is a neutral factfinder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from state education agencies and other sources as appropriate prior to reaching determinations in these matters. Opening a directed investigation does not imply that OCR has decided whether there has been a violation of a law that OCR enforces.

On Aug. 18, 2021, President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Education to "assess all available tools in taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law" to ensure that governors and other officials are giving all students the opportunity to participate and remain in full-time, in-person learning safely, without compromising their health or the health of their families. In response to the President's call, Secretary Cardona laid out the steps the Department of Education can take to protect the rights of all students to access safe in-person learning equally, including using the enforcement authority of the Office for Civil Rights.

Secretary Cardona also sent letters earlier this month to each of the states that are the subject of the direct investigations that OCR announced today. The letters note that: "The safe return to in-person instruction requires that school districts be able to protect the health and safety of students and educators, and that families have confidence that their schools are doing everything possible to keep students healthy."

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Fighting Bans on Mask Mandates

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. 

People with autism and other disabilities appear to be at higher risk from COVID.

 At USA Today, Alia Wong reports on mask mandate bans. She cites the example of Samantha Boevers and her son Porter, a 4-year-old with autism.

Yet Boevers and her family live in South Carolina – one of more than half a dozen states where schools are prohibited from requiring everyone on campus to mask up. Mask-wearing has been the exception rather than the rule in many of South Carolina’s school districts, and evidence suggests the trend has taken a toll. South Carolina has the third-highest rate of pediatric COVID-19 infections in the U.S., according to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, with children accounting for roughly a fifth of the state’s positive cases.

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Boevers and other parents and advocates recently filed suit in federal court challenging South Carolina’s ban on school mask mandates. The lawsuit, which names several state officials and local school boards as defendants, alleges South Carolina’s policy violates federal law by effectively excluding students with disabilities from participation in the public education system.

It’s one of at least seven lawsuits filed in recent weeks in states with similar restrictions – including Arizona, Florida and Texas – many saying the rules violate the rights of students with disabilities. In one of the Florida suits, a circuit court judge has already issued a ruling, concluding the state’s order banning school mask mandates is unlawful and districts have the right to set their own policies.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Need for Lifespan Research

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee and research priorities.

 At Time, Eric Michael Garcia writes about the need for more research into lifespan issues:

And this is not for a lack of things to research about autistic people’s lifespans. Many autistic people still struggle to find employment—one study showed that autistic people in their early 20s had a lower employment rate than their disabled peers—and that is to say nothing of autistic people who go undiagnosed or diagnosed later, which is often the case for women, femme-presenting people and people of color. Similarly, it is divorced from the legitimate health needs such as how that biggest killer of autistic people with intellectual disabilities is epilepsy while those without intellectual disabilities are also at risk of dying from circulatory diseases like heart disease or suicide. Similarly, plenty of autistic people I interviewed for my book dealt with homelessness and poverty, while others are unable to access programs like Supplemental Security Income because they are not “disabled enough,” even while struggling to find employment.

Friday, August 27, 2021

COVID, Special Ed, and Alphabet Soup

 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.  

From the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

We recognize that SEAs, LEAs, LAs, and EIS providers have worked hard to meet children’s needs and provide required services, given the unprecedented educational disruptions and other challenges resulting from the pandemic.4 OSERS wants to reiterate and emphasize that, notwithstanding these challenges, infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families and children with disabilities retain their rights to receive appropriate services under IDEA. This includes ensuring that IEPs are in effect for children with disabilities at the start of the upcoming school year, and all other rights of children with disabilities and their parents under IDEA Part B are protected. Similarly, IDEA Part C requires IFSPs to be implemented and that all other rights of parents and their infants and toddlers with disabilities must be protected. 


  • SEA: state education agency
  • LEA: local education agency
  • LA: state lead agency
  • EIS: early intervention services
  • IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • IEP:  individualized education program
  • IFSP: individualized family service plans

For children under three, the first stop is an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), which maps out Early Intervention (EI). After age three, children get an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from their local education agency (LEA), that is, their school system. The IEP explains how children will receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) The program may include speech therapy (ST), occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), adapted physical education (APE), and applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions including discrete trial training (DTT). Depending on which state they live in, official agencies or insurance companies may also subsidize services from NPAs (nonpublic agencies). As attorney Gary S. Mayerson observes drily: “Given the confusion that all these unhelpful acronyms are causing for parents and professionals, it is not without irony that autism is associated with communication dysfunction.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2021


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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.

 Robert Porter at Business Insider:

As part of his bid to encourage Fox News viewers to question the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, Tucker Carlson in June praised the work of an obscure campaign group named the Informed Action Consent Network, or ICAN.

Carlson described ICAN as "a group that advocates for transparency on vaccines," citing emails it had obtained to attack White House medical chief Dr. Anthony Fauci, a popular hate figure for the far right.

ICAN is seen by many as a more extreme — and dangerous — organization that Carlson's description let on.

It was one of the figures on the so-called "disinformation dozen" list cited by President Joe Biden's administration as the main sources for anti-vaccination disinformation online, which Biden has called on Big Tech to combat.

ICAN is particularly notable, experts say, because it has actively courted conservatives and supporters of former President Donald Trump, whom multiple studies have shown to be the most reluctant to trust the shot.

Since being founded three years ago, the group has waged a media, legal, and online campaign to hammer home the theory that the damage caused by vaccines is being systematically suppressed.

The group is based in Texas, a hub for libertarian right-wing causes, and the campaign is — per a Washington Post investigationlargely bankrolled by the New York financier Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021


 In The Politics of Autism, I write:

There is no evidence linking autism to planned violence, but in recent years, mass shootings by young men have led commentators in the mainstream media and on the Internet to suggest such a connectionAfter the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, for instance, news reports said that the shooter was on the spectrum. The speculation made little sense to anyone who understood autism. Whereas autistic people have language delays and deficits, the killer had learned English as a second language — and learned it well enough to major in the subject in college. Later on, it turned out that he had an entirely different problem, a social anxiety disorder. Adam Lanza, who committed the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, may have had an Asperger’s diagnosis, but his father emphasized that his behavior stemmed from the psychiatric illnesses that he also had. Nevertheless, the media speculated about Lanza’s place on the spectrum, which worried autism parents. One mother of an autistic child wrote: “This is the first time I'm truly afraid for him. Afraid of what may happen to my son with autism at the hands of a stranger; a stranger who has chosen to buy into the media-fueled misinformation that individuals diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder are dangerous and capable of horrendous acts of terror and violence.” 
Or as Eric Michael Garcia has written: " As someone who is autistic — and having spent the last few years researching and writing a book about autism — I can say that these rationales are unequivocally (to quote the president) a bunch of malarkey."

Criminal defendants, however, are still trying to claim autism as a defense. Examples: a Canadian who used a rental van as a weapon, the Capital Gazette shooter  and a Capitol insurrectionist.  Now real estate heir Robert Durst, as Nancy Dillon reports at the New York Daily News:

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin suggested it was suspicious Durst didn’t check with Kathie’s family before he placed his first call to police.

The prosecutor alleged that was because Durst knew he’d already killed, dismembered and disposed of the 29-year-old medical student, so there was nothing to learn from her family.

“Wouldn’t the first thing you would do is you would call Kathie’s family, her mom, her sisters, her brother, and find out, ‘Hey listen, has anybody seen Kathie?’ Isn’t that what a normal person does?” Lewin asked during his cross-examination of the skyscraper scion.

“I’m not a normal person. I am told that I am somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I don’t know what a normal person does,” Durst testified.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Elder v. ADA

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

California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder opposes the Americans with Disabilities Act

Eric Hananoki at Media Matters for America:

In March 2010, Elder wrote of George W. Bush: “On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by his father, Bush bragged about the law's importance and effectiveness. That such an assault on private employers engenders praise says much about the GOP's acceptance of federal government's command and control.”

Later that year, Elder called for “a November 3 Contract with America” that “reduces government's size and scope so that we never again jeopardize our prosperity -- which threatens our national security by robbing Americans of the resources necessary to defend ourselves against our enemies.” As one of his proposals, Elder wrote that the government should “repeal laws that violate the principle of federalism, such as wage and hour laws; federal minimum wage; the Clean Air Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; equal pay laws; the Davis-Bacon Act (mandating prevailing union wages for those working under federal contracts); and all federal anti-discrimination laws that apply to the private sector.”

Elder has repeated his anti-ADA stance on his radio program. On January 14, for example, he criticized George H. W. Bush for signing the ADA, which he said was a “horrible intrusion on private business, mandating that businesses do this and that and this to accommodate the handicapped, not that that's a bad thing, obviously, but government shouldn't be mandating this, for crying out loud.”

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Autism and COVID Risk

 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. 

At Autism, Whitney Schott, Sha Tao, and Lindsay Shea have an article titled  "COVID-19 risk: Adult Medicaid beneficiaries with autism, intellectual disability, and mental health conditions."

The lay abstract:

 Autistic adults, adults with intellectual disability, and adults with other mental health conditions may have higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing more severe illness from COVID-19 if infected. We used data from Medicaid to look at whether autistic adults and other adults with intellectual disability and other mental health conditions were more likely to have risk factors for COVID-19, such as living in a residential facility, receiving services regularly in the home from outside caregivers, having had a long hospitalization, having had avoidable hospitalizations, and having high-risk health conditions. We found that autistic adults had higher odds of living in a residential facility, receiving in-home services from outside caregivers, having had an avoidable hospitalization, and having a high-risk health condition, compared to neurotypical adults without mental health conditions. Adults with intellectual disability had similar odds of having these conditions. Adults with other mental health conditions were also more likely to live in a residential facility, receive services from outside caregivers, and have had avoidable hospitalizations compared to the neurotypical population without mental health conditions. They had three times higher odds of having a high-risk health condition. High risk of COVID-19 among autistic adults and adults with intellectual disability and mental health conditions should be recognized by clinicians, and these groups should be prioritized for vaccine outreach.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Wakefield Effect

 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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong

Half of COVID vaccine rejectors think that vaccines in general cause autism.  

Andrew Wakefield, who appeared on Larry Elder's radio show, bears much of the blame.

 Matthew Motta and Dominik Stecula have an article at PLOS ONE titled "Quantifying the effect of Wakefield et al. (1998) on skepticism about MMR vaccine safety in the U.S."



Efforts to trace the rise of childhood vaccine safety concerns in the US often suggest Andrew Wakefield and colleagues’ retracted 1998 Lancet study (AW98)–which alleged that the MMR vaccine can cause children to develop autism–as a primary cause of US vaccine skepticism. However, a lack of public opinion data on MMR safety collected before/after AW98’s publication obscures whether anecdotal accounts are indicative of a potentially-causal effect.


We address this problem using a regression discontinuity framework to study change in monthly MMR injury claims (N = 74,850; from 1990–2019) from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) to proxy concern about vaccine safety. Additionally, we suggest a potential mechanism for the effect of AW98 on vaccine skepticism, via automated sentiment analyses of MMR-related news stories (N = 674; from 1996–2000) in major television and newspaper outlets.


AW98 led to an immediate increase of about 70 MMR injury claims cases per month, averaging across six estimation strategies (meta-analytic effect = 70.44 [52.19, 88.75], p < 0.01). Preliminary evidence suggests that the volume of negative media attention to MMR increased in the weeks following AW98’s publication, across four estimation strategies (meta-analytic effect = 9.59% [3.66, 15.51], p < 0.01).


Vaccine skepticism increased following the publication of AW98, which was potentially made possible by increased negative media coverage of MMR.


Childhood vaccine skepticism presents an important challenge to widespread vaccine uptake, and undermines support for pro-vaccine health policies. In addition to advancing our understanding of the previously-obscured origins of US vaccine skepticism, our work cautions that high-profile media attention to inaccurate scientific studies can undermine public confidence in vaccines. We conclude by offering several recommendations that researchers and health communicators might consider to detect and address future threats to vaccine confidence.

Friday, August 20, 2021

ISAAC Alerting Act

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including safety during emergencies.

A release from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA):
Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced the bipartisan Information Sharing and Advanced Communication (ISAAC) Alerting Act to improve 9-1-1 emergency response for people with disabilities.

“The idea of this legislation was brought to me by an amazing mom and advocate named Holly from Spokane. She’s an ability advocate in memory of her son Isaac, and she’s made a difference in our community with the ISAAC Alert System, which is currently helping emergency responders in Eastern Washington and Idaho better aid people with disabilities,” said Rodgers. “Far too often, first responders lack critical information and training when responding to people with disabilities. This can put families, first responders, and people with disabilities at risk during emergency situations like the wildfires currently burning across our communities. By requiring the FCC to examine the feasibility of implementing a 9-1-1 disability alerting system, the ISAAC Alerting Act will help identify and address the challenges first responders face in these situations. It will improve the overall quality of care when a first responder enters a home and may need to provide unique assistance to someone with a disability.”

The ISAAC Alert system currently operates in cooperation with Spokane County Dispatch and the Spokane Fire Department. The namesake of the Isaac Alert is Isaac Lytle, a Spokane resident with Autism Spectrum Disorder who passed away in 2007. Isaac inspired his mother, Holly, to help families who were struggling with the hardships of having a loved one with autism.

“I feel very fortunate that Spokane County has the technology, infrastructure and support from local first response agencies to make ISAAC Alerts available to our disability community,” said Holly Goodman, ISAAC Foundation Founder. “There is a tremendous amount of comfort knowing first responders arriving at your home have important information to help them navigate an emergency more effectively with your loved one with a disability. Seeing our information sharing system implemented nationwide would be a dream come true.”

Today, the ISAAC Foundation provides educational, emotional, and financial support programs to families affected by autism in Spokane, Stevens, Lincoln, Whitman, and Kootenai Counties. The ISAAC Foundation worked with Spokane County Dispatch to create the ISAAC Alert system to inform law enforcement if there is someone with a disability in a residence they are responding to.

The ISAAC Alerting Act would assist in expanding that alerting system nationwide, as well as direct the Federal Communications Commission to prepare a report on a 9-1-1 disability alerting system to identify improvements that need to be made.

Cathy was joined in introducing this legislation by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12).

“We have a responsibility to ensure law enforcement agencies and first responders have vital information they need when responding to emergency calls to keep themselves and the public safe,” said Dingell. “With this legislation, we will take a critical first step in ensuring law enforcement and first responders are better equipped to respond to 911 calls from households with an individual with a disability.”

NOTE: Cathy first learned about the ISAAC Foundation in 2016 and was inspired by Holly’s commitment to honoring her son, Isaac, through outreach and engagement in the autism and disability communities. Understanding the value the ISAAC Alert System has brought to families and first responders in Eastern Washington, as well as the challenges communities across the country have faced when trying to implement a similar system, Cathy sought to create a pathway for a nationwide disability alerting system. The ISAAC Alerting Act is the first step in this process.

CLICK HERE to read the bill.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Disability Rights Texas Fights Ban on Mask Mandates

 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. 

An August 17 release from Disability Rights Texas is below.  One of the plaintiffs, H.P., is autistic.

Today, Disability Rights Texas, the federally mandated protection and advocacy agency for Texans with disabilities, and pro bono partners Winston & Strawn LLP filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 14 child plaintiffs against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.

The complaint states that the Governor’s Executive Order GA-38 prohibiting school districts and charter schools from implementing mask mandates is putting students with disabilities at significant risk, is discriminatory, and violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected students with disabilities, beginning with the closure of the public school system in the spring of 2020. These students lost critical instruction and services, continuing into the 2020-21 school year. Now, the Delta variant and a surge in cases is threating this school year. Students with disabilities need in-person schooling more than other student groups, but they must be able to receive instruction and services safely. Many of these students have underlying health conditions and are at high risk for illness and even death due to COVID-19.

One of the student plaintiffs, J.R., lives in Bexar County and attends San Antonio ISD. J.R. is eight years old and lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a growth hormone deficiency, and moderate to severe asthma. Her mother, Julia Longoria, doesn’t get much sleep right now because of the very real worry that her daughter, who needs in-person instruction to succeed in school, is at greater risk of serious illness, hospitalization and even death if she gets the virus. This is a very real possibility if schools are open at full capacity, with optional masking and the current level of community spread. “Having to make a choice between my daughter’s education or her life – what kind of choice is that?” said Ms. Longoria. “My child has the right to an education and to be safe at school. I shouldn’t have to choose.”

This is the first federal lawsuit to challenge the Governor’s Executive Order. The complaint explains how the order is a barrier to public schools for students with disabilities and that no family should be forced to choose between health and their child’s education. It also states that Texas needs to follow the recommendations of public health officials to include the mandated use of masks in areas with significant exposure.

“Under Gov. Abbott’s order, parents of these children face an untenable choice: educate their children at school and expose them to potential severe illness, long COVID, and even death or keep their children home, where they will receive a fraction of their education in one of the least integrated settings available with limited to no exposure to non-disabled peers,” said Tom Melsheimer, attorney from Winston & Strawn. “Either outcome is a violation of students’ rights under the ADA and Section 504, and both are wholly avoidable.”

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order that requires Governor Abbott, TEA, and the districts named to cease violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 and allows local school districts and local public health authorities to require masks for its students and staff as they determine is necessary.

Read the full complaint attached below.


The case filed on August 17, 2021, has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel. Today, Plaintiffs filed a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from prohibiting local school districts from requiring masks for their students and staff. The full motion is attached below along with the original complaint.

The filing includes sworn statements from the parents of the young plaintiffs with disabilities about their health conditions and risks. It also includes compelling declarations from two medical experts explaining the harm posed to children with serious health conditions in schools not allowed to implement mask mandates with the exploding spread of the Delta variant.

The brief explains that plaintiffs will prevail because it violates federal disability laws to exclude them from school or make them risk their lives to get an education.

Plaintiffs also argue they will succeed because the Governor’s order violates the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, in which Texas districts received over $11 billion dollars in funding so that they can adopt plans for a safe return to in-person instruction.

“The injunction is required to protect the lives of children with disabilities and their basic right to attend school,” said Dustin Rynders, Supervising Attorney with Disability Rights Texas.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

RFK Jr.'s Group Keeps Doing Harm

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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

A nonprofit group founded by prominent anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is suing Rutgers University over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Children’s Health Defense filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of 18 Rutgers students. The plaintiffs argue that the university’s policy, which requires all students to be fully vaccinated for the fall semester, is illegal and “​​an affront to human dignity and personal freedom because it violates our basic right to control our bodies.“

It appears unlikely that the legal challenge will prove successful. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a similar challenge that eight students brought against Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.

There is arguably no one who has done more to spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and hesitancy than Kennedy Jr., the son of former presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and an environmental lawyer. He has peddled a number of debunked conspiracies about all sorts of vaccines, including that they cause autism.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Garcia on Autism

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

 At NYT, Eric Michael Garcia talks to John Williams about his new book, We're Not Broken.

In the interview, he talks about the impact of IDEA and ADA:

That created the larger thesis of my book, because it said that the whole reason people like myself — I was born in 1990 — got to have resources was because of deliberate public policy decisions. It made me realize that my life was made significantly better because of it. I went to private school from 7th grade on, but before that I went to public schools, and I got accommodations that wouldn’t have been available otherwise. And at university, I got tutoring and I got disability services. Those were the result of the A.D.A. Our lives are often determined by things beyond our control. People like to talk about personal responsibility and personal choices, but my ability to determine my destiny was because of those deliberate public policy decisions that hadn’t been made before.

The major takeaway:

Whether you know it or not, you know someone with autism. We often talk about autism while talking past autistic people. I tried to include as many voices and cover as many people as possible. If you truly care about autistic people, listen to what they need.


Monday, August 16, 2021

Letting Military Families Down

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

In March, the Defense Health Agency, which oversees TRICARE, announced that by May, advanced behavioral analysis services outside of clinical settings will no longer be covered by the military insurance.


Prior to the TRICARE changes, technicians could accompany children with autism to school and help facilitate the child’s learning.

According to a July news release from TRICARE, behavior technicians were reclassified as non-clinical, thus not covered by the insurance, and as a result, not accompanying children into the classroom.

The release states a TRICARE contractor may authorize board-certified behavior analysts to provide time-limited clinical advanced behavioral analysis services for a child in the school setting.

 [Fort Bragg combat veteran James] Martin compared the change to going to a doctor’s office that has no support staff, physician assistant or licensed practical nurse.

Community settings such as dental appointments or sporting events are no longer considered the space for behavior technician unless determined “clinically appropriate” based on a child’s treatment plan, the news release states.


 Martin said it seems as if the Defense Health Agency is limiting services, which he said is causing applied behavioral analysis companies to leave Fayetteville. 

“It feels like this new policy change was backdoored and was not in the best interest of the families concerned,” Martin said. “I know the government needs to budget, but going after services for disabled children with autism is a new low.”  

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Los Angeles Antivax Melee

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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

A case in point:

James Queally and Alex Wigglesworth report at LAT:
An anti-vaccine rally at Los Angeles City Hall turned violent Saturday, with one person stabbed and a reporter saying he was assaulted, according to police and protesters on the scene.

A crowd of several hundred people, many holding American flags and signs calling for “medical freedom,” had descended on City Hall around 2 p.m. for the planned rally. A few dozen counterprotesters had amassed on 1st Street near the former offices of the L.A. Times before the clash.

A fight erupted on the corner of 1st and Spring streets shortly after 2:30 p.m., as counterprotesters in all black and anti-vaccine demonstrators draped in American flag garb and Trump memorabilia traded punches and threw things at one another. It was not immediately clear how the fight started, though each side quickly blamed the other.

One person, who the anti-mask protesters claim was part of their rally, could be seen collapsed in the intersection, bleeding. Police on the scene said the person had been stabbed, and paramedics arrived to take him to a hospital.

In the melee, counterprotesters could be seen spraying mace while members of the anti-vaccine rally screamed death threats. One older man screamed “unmask them all” and clawed at a woman’s face.

A short time later, KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze could be seen walking out of the park near City Hall being screamed at by anti-mask protesters. One man could be seen kicking him. Stoltze later told a police officer he had been assaulted while trying to conduct an interview. Spell confirmed that a police report was taken.

Stoltze later tweeted this statement: “Something happened to me today that’s never happened in 30 yrs of reporting. In LA. ⁦@LAist⁩ I was shoved, kicked and my eyeglasses were ripped off of my face by a group of guys at a protest - outside City Hall during an anti-vax Recall ⁦@GavinNewsom⁩ Pro Trump rally.”

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Autism and the Mischiefs of Faction

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss divisions and factions within the autism community.
To the extent that the stakeholders form a “community,” it is a quarrelsome one. James Madison identified the causes of faction, including a zeal for different ideas and interests.  In autism politics, the factional disagreements are diverse and deep.    Emotions run high because the stakes are high. Few things are more frightening to parents than not knowing whether a child will ever be able to live independently, indeed to survive without them.  For people with autism, the issue involves their very identity.  

Laura T. Coffey at Today:
“There’s this tragedy narrative out there implying that autism is a fate worse than death — when it simply is not,” said Amanda Seigler, 39, an autistic mom of autistic children who serves as an administrator of a Facebook group called Autism Inclusivity, which has more than 70,000 members.

“There are too many ‘martyr parent’ groups out there — groups where parents use their children for sympathy,” Seigler continued. “They say, ‘Oh, poor me, my child had a meltdown today.’


“I feel very strongly that the complaints by mildly affected autistic adults that parents are violating their kids’ privacy by writing about them represent the most insidious form of censorship,” said Amy Lutz, a Pennsylvania author, mom of a 22-year-old severely autistic son and vice president of the National Council on Severe Autism. “Severely autistic individuals don’t have the capacity to consent, therefore parents are forbidden to speak about them, therefore the only voice the public is supposed to hear is that of autistic adults who claim to speak for the entire spectrum.”


John Elder Robison is an autism expert who feels empathy for all the autism factions who spar on the internet. A best-selling author of memoirs about his own autism diagnosis at age 40 and a leader of neurodiversity initiatives for universities and U.S. government committees, Robison is also the son of an autistic father and the father of a 31-year-old autistic son.

In a recent Psychology Today essay with the headline “Your Autistic Child Is Perfect and May Need Help,” Robison addressed the autism wars being waged online.

“In the autism community, we often say, ‘Nothing about us without us,’ meaning any conversation about autistic people should be led by autistic people,” Robison wrote. “It makes sense, but it’s not the whole story in this case. There is another equally valid perspective. ‘Nothing about us without us’ applies equally well to parenting. ... If the topic is parenting an autistic child, what better voices than autistic parents?”