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Thursday, September 30, 2021

YouTube to Take Down Videos Linking Vaccines to Autism

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

Dan Milmo at The Guardian reports that YouTube will take down videos with vaccine misinformation, including claims that they cause autism.

Matt Halprin, the global head of trust and safety at YouTube, said vaccine misinformation was a global problem and had spilled over from the spreading of falsehoods about Covid jabs.

“Vaccine misinformation appears globally, it appears in all countries and cultures,” he said.

Halprin added that falsehoods around the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which has been wrongly attributed to causing autism, were an example of the misinformation YouTube will target.

“There is still a lot of challenges around MMR and people arguing whether that causes autism. And as we know, the science is very stable that vaccines do not cause autism,” he said.

Halprin said the ban would also apply, for instance, to content that claims vaccines cause cancer, infertility or contain microchips, the latter having gained prominence as a falsehood about Covid jabs.

In 2019, a major study affirmed that there was no link between autism and MMR, in the wake of a pre-Covid upsurge in vaccine scepticism, fanned by social media and anti-government populism. A paper in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which is published by the American College of Physicians, found “no support for the hypothesis of increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination in a nationwide unselected population of Danish children”.
On Wednesday, a search under the terms “MMR vaccine autism” produced a page of results containing rebuttals of any link between the vaccine and autism, including a video entitled “Vaccines and autism: how the myth started”. However, the page also includes a TV interview with the actor Robert De Niro in which he states that Vaxxed, a documentary directed by Andrew Wakefield – one of the key figures in promoting discredited links between MMR and autism – is a film that “people should see”. De Niro was being interviewed in 2016 after his Tribeca film festival pulled a screening of Vaxxed in the wake of a backlash against the film.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

CEO Lessons

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

Once they start receiving services, parents have to become case managers, coordinating the work of multiple providers. Some services take place in the home, but others (especially speech and occupational therapy) require a trip to an office far away. "Appointments. Lots of appointments," says one autism parent who drives two hours from a home in Rolla to a care center in Columbia, Missouri.

A CEO has the money and skills to do these things. But the lessons from a CEO are only partially transferrable to others.  Constraints of time, money, and location may severely limit options

At Forbes, Jennifer Palumbo writes:

Alison French is the CEO of Emerged Inc., a SaaS healthcare technology company based in San Diego. French is also a mother of three and a Marine Corps spouse who has spent her career working remotely. This has given her an inherent understanding of the importance of balancing and aligning personal and business life.

"E-commerce and digital marketing became my passion because I loved the analytics and attribution that came with this niche," French said. "My skill set was in high demand, and it allowed me to choose the jobs that fit my lifestyle (military spouse with children, and the need to move every 2-3 years). I quickly discovered that startups gave me the freedom of location that I needed, but, more importantly, I got to dive into a variety of different roles. I realized I loved managing all facets of a business, not working in a single silo. This desire to lead a business is ultimately what led me to Emerged."

Emerged began in 2020, which was also the year French's daughter received an autism diagnosis. As a fellow working parent with a neurodivergent child, we spoke about what skills as a CEO and entrepreneur helped her advocate for her child.


Only Accepting an A-Team: "I'm very open with my team that I only accept A-level performance. I'm quick to fire employees that underperform. In this case, the team is the extended circle of occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, teachers, psychologists, childcare." French recommends that you be prepared to fire quickly if you don't see your child progressing within reasonable milestones. Moving on and finding new care providers is hard, but you will see a transformation once you get the right group of people supporting your child.

Evaluating the ROI: "Evaluating the ROI for medical care is just like assessing the ROI on any business investment," advised French. "Medical care can be expensive, especially when electing to go out-of-network for the care your child needs. But it's not just the financial cost you need to consider. You also need to factor in the price of time associated with care when taking your child to recurring medical appointments. These two areas can be expensive for a family, and ensuring you're getting the ROI is critical."

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Pausing a Study of Autism Genetics

In The Politics of Autism, I explain:

When a pregnancy is under way, doctors can detect certain kinds of disorders, but neither amniocentesis nor any other prenatal test can currently tell us whether a fetus will become autistic. Suppose that such a test did exist. “The best case use of a prenatal test at the moment would be if you could say to a parent, your child has got an 80 percent likelihood of autism and so once the baby's born, we would like to keep a close eye on that child in case they need extra support like speech therapy or social skills training or some sort of behavioral approach,” says leading autism scientist Simon Baron-Cohen. But would the “best case use” be the most common? When amniocentesis indicates Down Syndrome, most mothers choose abortion. A study of autism parents in Taiwan found that just over half would abort if a prenatal test indicated that their next child would be autistic. We cannot be sure what the figures would be if such tests were available in the United States, but it seems likely that a large share of autism pregnancies would end in abortion.

Katherine Sanderson at Nature:

A large, UK-based study of genetics and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been suspended, following criticism that it failed to properly consult the autism community about the goals of the research. Concerns about the study include fears that its data could potentially be misused by other researchers seeking to ‘cure’ or eradicate ASD.

The Spectrum 10K study is led by Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) at the University of Cambridge, UK. The £3-million (US$4-million) project, which is funded by the London-based biomedical funding charity Wellcome, is the largest genetic study of ASD in the United Kingdom. It aims to collect DNA samples, together with information on participants’ mental and physical health, from 10,000 people with autism and their families. This will be used to study the genetic and environmental contributions to ASD, and to co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy and gut-health problems. “If we can understand why these co-occurring conditions are more frequent in autistic people, that could open the door to treatment or management of very distressing symptoms,” says Baron-Cohen.

But soon after the study’s high-profile launch on 24 August, people with autism and some ASD researchers expressed concern that it had gone ahead without meaningfully consulting the autism community. Fears about the sharing of genetic data and an alleged failure to properly explain the benefits of the research have been raised by a group called Boycott Spectrum 10K, which is led by people with autism. The group plans to protest outside the ARC premises in Cambridge in October. A separate petition against the study gathered more than 5,000 signatures.

Damian Milton, a researcher in intellectual and developmental disabilities at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, is one of those who signed the Boycott Spectrum 10K petition. Milton has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of ASD. He says it is not clear how the study will improve participants’ well-being, and its “aim seems to be more about collecting DNA samples and data sharing”.

As a result of the backlash, the Spectrum 10K team paused the study on 10 September, apologized for causing distress, and promised a deeper consultation with people with autism and their families.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Hassan and HCBS

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of insurance and  Medicaid services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilitiesHome and Community-Based Services (HCBS) are particularly important.

 Sara Luterman at The 19th:

Sen. Maggie Hassan doesn’t often dominate headlines and cable news chyrons. The New York Times has described her as “low-key.” POLITICO called her “quiet” and “reserved.” But in an interview with The 19th, Hassan, a moderate Democrat from New Hampshire, laid out one of her major priorities in ongoing reconciliation discussions: Home care for people with disabilities and seniors, funded through Medicaid — an issue that is close to home for the senator.

Hassan has been an advocate for home care funding since she entered politics. For her, the issue is personal: Her son, Ben, has cerebral palsy and needs around-the-clock support. Hassan credits her career to his care workers, especially his primary care worker, who has been with him for over 30 years.

“I was able to work outside the home, develop a profession and support my family because I was able to find a talented caregiver I could partner with,” Hassan said.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Antimaskers Endanger Students with Disabilities

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.

Erica L. Green at NYT:
The opposition to masks has been particularly crushing for parents [Tennessee autism mom Kim] Hart, who see in-person schooling as a lifeline for their children with disabilities. Those students have been among the most underserved during the pandemic but also sometimes face a higher probability that going to school could make them severely ill.

Tennessee is one of seven states that the federal Education Department is investigating to determine whether governors’ orders allowing families to flout school mask mandates discriminate against students with disabilities by restricting their access to education.

Even though many local school boards, including Williamson County’s, have voted to require universal masking, an executive order issued by Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, allows parents to send their children to school maskless, no questions asked. At the high school Ms. Hart’s son attends, data published weekly by the district shows that more than 30 percent of parents have formally opted out, a percentage that mirrors the district’s overall.

“We’ve always known that not everybody really cares about our children, but it is in our face right now — that it’s not worth you asking your child to wear a mask, so my child can be safe,” said Ms. Hart, who is a researcher and a trained epidemiologist. “That is the scar that I will carry from the pandemic, this playing out in my face over and over and over again.”

Parents of special education students in two Tennessee counties covering the eastern and western parts of the state have sued to block the governor’s order; one lawsuit has succeeded. A third, covering Williamson County, had a hearing before a judge this week.

In the most recent complaint, three lawyers argued that the governor, the Williamson County school board and a carve-out district within the county called the Franklin Special School District, are violating the rights of special education students by allowing parents to opt their children out of the mandate.

The suit was filed on behalf of a student with Down syndrome and another with Type 1 diabetes, but seeks protections for all “similarly situated” students. “Defendants’ actions have pitted children against children, while placing the health and safety of medically vulnerable children with disabilities in danger,” the complaint said.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Policy Paradox and Early Intervention

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

Research suggests that a new therapy may boost social development in infants with autism; however....

The researchers write at The Guardian:

James Cusack’s piece on the results of our new autism therapy trial (A new therapy for children who may have autism risks carrying a hidden cost, 22 September) points out some paradoxes of progress, and the need for ongoing conversation.

This therapy works with parents (not the infant at all) to help their awareness and responsiveness to infant differences in communication, restoring a “synchrony” in their reciprocal interaction – the theory being that positive developmental outcomes will naturally flow. And this indeed is what we find happens. Contrary to any sense of “opposing” autism, it cherishes neurodiversity by attending to and understanding it, giving equal opportunity to these infants for an adapted and responsive social environment. The positive developmental outcomes we see are simply a consequence of getting this early communication right; the infant is able to benefit like any child from an adapted social environment. The children continued to be neurodivergent with developmental difficulties but these were more likely to be reduced below a clinical autism threshold.

The paradox is that this progress and developmental benefit might feel like a problem. First, families may no longer receive services for which an autism diagnosis is an entry ticket. This just highlights the perverse incentives in resource allocation, and the focus should surely be on a better system based on needs. We highly appreciate, too, concerns around autistic identity, but neurodiversity and the essential need for good adaptations to it remain. Maybe what really needs to happen as a result of this work is an examination of the very concept of clinical diagnosis itself and the way it is made.

Prof Jonathan Green University of Manchester and Prof Andrew Whitehouse University of Western Australia

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Early Intervention and Unintended Consequences

Infants who seemed headed for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) had milder symptoms as toddlers if their caregivers were subject to a social communication intervention when infants were just 1 year of age, a randomized clinical trial found.

Infants whose families participated in the intervention exhibited significantly milder ASD symptoms 12 months later compared to those in the control group. They also had lower odds of being diagnosed with ASD by an independent clinician at age 3 years (6.7% vs 20.5%, OR 0.18, 95% CI 0.00-0.68), according to the study group led by Andrew Whitehouse, PhD, of the University of Western Australia.

"To our knowledge, this randomized clinical trial is the first to demonstrate that a preemptive intervention for infants showing early signs of ASD led to a small but enduring reduction in ASD symptom severity and reduced odds of ASD diagnosis in early childhood," the researchers wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.

ASD can be detected at 18 months and reliably diagnosed at age 2, but is often not diagnosed until children are much older, according to the CDC.
What makes this complicated, however, is that social communication skills are one of the main things measured when someone is assessed for an autism diagnosis. The fact that this therapy boosted those skills meant that children scored lower on those parts of autism assessments, which in turn meant they didn’t meet the criteria for an autism diagnosis. In fact, the study shows that this therapy reduced autism diagnosis by two-thirds. It is worth noting that the numbers leading to this effect are quite small, but significant nonetheless.

That raises questions that should give us pause. The main concern for us in the UK is that support only follows diagnosis. Even if the therapy allows autistic people to have a better start in life, the system will need to change to ensure support is there if and when it is needed.

We’re working to fund research to create a system where support is based on needs and not on diagnosis, but we’re not there yet. This study itself shows that early, timely and sensitively designed support makes a difference, so what impact could the delay of support have in the long term?

We also have to ask what else a child may miss out on if they go on to be diagnosed with autism at a later date. For many autistic people, autism is part of their identity. As it stands under the current system, delaying a diagnosis could mean they miss out on a level of peer support and understanding that they could otherwise benefit from.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Antivax Talk Radio

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.  

Several prominent antivax talk-radio hosts have died of COVID.

In terms of the spread of misinformation, talk radio’s impact is unappreciated, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, said.

“It is clearly a driving force. A lot of people understandably focus on online, especially when it comes to anti-vax information. But the reality of it is, when the dust settles, I think what we’re going to find is that the real source of a lot of the most damaging anti-vax messaging was driven largely by traditional media: talk radio and traditional rightwing forces like Fox News,” he said.

“When we think about talk radio, the reason it has had such influence is the reach. It still is reaching the largest number of people. Fox [News] is going to reach a couple of million people a day. Talk radio is reaching 40 million, 60 million people depending on the day, maybe even more.

“The guys who are dying, you could treat them as [having] small radio shows, but they have really high concentration in their communities.”

“Talk radio has always bashed elites and the mainstream media, and I think it is an extension of that to be questioning the public health professionals who are the ones handing down, seemingly from on high, these ever changing public health edicts tied to masks and vaccines and other things,” said Brian Rosenwald, a scholar-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States.

While radio hosts might be the public voice of that skepticism, it is a common misconception that audiences are “puppets”, Rosenwald said. Instead, it’s radio hosts who might find themselves “entrapped by what the audience wants to hear”.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many rightwing talk radio hosts were publicly skeptical, and, not wishing to lose listeners, and with them advertisers, they had backed themselves into a corner.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Eric Trump to Speak at Anti-Vax Event

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.  

Will Sommer at The Daily Beast:
Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump will give the keynote speech next month at an anti-vaccine conference, marking the latest alliance between the Trump family and the GOP’s fringiest elements.

Trump is set to speak at the Truth About Cancer Live! convention between Oct. 22 and 24 in Nashville, joining a speakers’ lineup that includes some of the most prominent promoters of disinformation about vaccines, as well as leading figures in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

The conference is the brainchild of Ty and Charlene Bollinger, two major promoters of anti-vaccine disinformation who have made tens of millions of dollars promoting both alternative health cures for cancer and vaccine fears. The Bollingers have dubbed the coronavirus vaccine “that abominable vaccine,” according to a Center for Public Integrity report, and sell a $200 video series promoting vaccine fearmongering on their website.

Trump confirmed his scheduled speech in an email to The Daily Beast.

“I am not there to talk about vaccines,” Trump wrote. “I am in Nashville to talk about the accomplishments of the 45th President of the United States.”


Monday, September 20, 2021

Ruth Christ Sullivan, RIP

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss parent activism and autism organizations.

Ruth Christ Sullivan, co-founder of the Autism Society, has passed.  Her obituary:

Ruth Christ Sullivan, Ph.D., age 97, died in Huntington, W.Va., on Sept. 16, 2021. Ruth Sullivan was a parent, expert and pioneer in the field of autism who is recognized globally. She was an influential lobbyist and speaker who not only made autism far better known to the public, but improved conditions for people with autism worldwide. She co-founded the Autism Society of America in the 1960s and served as its first elected president. She lobbied for the inclusion of autism in the landmark 1975 IDEA law, which mandated that all American children receive a free public education, and she was the chief author of the law's autism-specific language. She founded and ran Autism Services Center in Huntington from 1979 to 2007, and she successfully lobbied for state funding for the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University. After raising seven children, she earned the nation's first autism Ph.D., from Ohio University, at age 60. By the time she retired at age 83, she had received dozens of awards and had been invited to speak around the world, including at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in Argentina, Kuwait, Ireland, Australia, Namibia and Mexico, among others.
She was a loving mother and a born leader whose unwavering focus and determination joined a keen interest in kindness and fairness, especially toward society's most vulnerable. The oldest of seven children, Ruth Marie Christ was born on April 20, 1924, to a rice-farming Cajun French-German family in Mowata, La. During World War II, she earned a Registered Nurse degree from Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1943, then joined the Army Nurse Corps, working at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. After the war, she moved back to live with her family in Lake Charles, La., and became a public health nurse. She later earned a B.S. in Public Health Nursing and in 1952 an M.A. in Public Health Administration, both from Columbia University Teachers' College, where she also met her future husband, William P. "Bill" Sullivan, a fellow graduate student and U.S. Navy veteran who later received his doctorate from Columbia. They married in December 1952 and in the next 11 years had seven children. Bill Sullivan was a professor of English at Marshall University until his retirement.
In 1962, they began to realize that their fifth child, Joseph, was not a normal little boy. In 1963, he was diagnosed with classical autism by a psychiatrist who told them the boy would "always be unusual." Ruth Sullivan began to research, network and organize. In 1965, she co-founded the National Society for Autistic Children, now known as the Autism Society of America. In Huntington, W.Va., where the family moved in 1968, she started an Information and Referral Service to answer the queries she was receiving from around the world. She won a $500,000 grant from the U.S. government to publish the first directory of autism programs in the nation. In 1979, she founded Autism Services Center (ASC), an agency in Huntington, W.Va., that eventually grew to provide services to thousands of people with autism and developmental disabilities in West Virginia. In 1984, she successfully lobbied the West Virginia legislature for funding to start the Autism Training Center at Marshall University. In 2002, she also founded NARPAA, a national association for residential providers of autism services.
In 1988, Sullivan was contacted by the producers of the movie "Rain Man." Actor Dustin Hoffman met with her and Joseph prior to and during filming, and for the role of Raymond he studied outtakes from a documentary about Joseph at age 24, "Portrait of an Autistic Young Man." Along with the other parents he consulted, Hoffman thanked "Joe Sullivan and his mother" when accepting the Oscar for the film in 1989, and she was listed in the final credit of the movie. "Rain Man" spurred many television appearances, with mother and son interviewed by Oprah, Larry King, Maria Shriver and CBS Morning News, among others, as well as a four-page article in People magazine. Sullivan often said the film did more to make autism known than all her years of work in the field.
Ruth was a longtime parishioner of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Huntington. Throughout her life, she was committed to "making every place better because you have been there." Her gift was instilling this commitment in others through her own example. She was preceded in death by her husband, William P. Sullivan, Ph.D.; her father, Lawrence Christ, her mother, Ada Matt Christ, her brother, Robert Christ, her sister Jeannette "Dena" Nodier; her brothers-in-law Jerry Buckingham, Ferdinand "Fred" Nodier, Joseph Sullivan and John Sullivan; her sisters-in-law Jackie Singer Christ, Madeleine Verdiere Sullivan and Catherine Sullivan. She is survived by her children, Julie Sullivan (David Winn), Christopher Sullivan (Jerri Tribble), Eva Sullivan (Frank Conlon), Larry Sullivan, Joseph Sullivan, Lydia Sullivan and Richard Sullivan; her siblings, Charles "C.J." Christ, Geraldine Landry (Lester), Frances Buckingham, Julie Miller (Remy); and dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Services will be announced at a later date. Klingel-Carpenter Mortuary is assisting the family with arrangements. In lieu of flowers expressions of sympathy may be made to Autism Services Center in Huntington or the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University. Family Guestbook at To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Ruth Christ Sullivan, Ph.D., please visit our Tribute Store.


Published by Klingel-Carpenter Mortuary on Sep. 19, 202

Sunday, September 19, 2021


 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. 

 In the Bay Area, Christopher Egusa reports at KALW-FM:

A June 2021 study from the CDC found that 70% of parents and unpaid caregivers of adults suffered mental health issues during the pandemic, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and suicidal thoughts. In fact, family caregivers like Fiona were eight times more likely to contemplate suicide than others.


The problem starts with basic math. Changing demographics like an aging baby boomer generation means that over the next decade the US is going to need more care workers. Like, 4.7 million more, according to a report by the Paraprofessional Research Institute. That’s the most of any occupation. more than the second and third places combined.

But the number of care workers is actually shrinking, as workers leave the industry. The reason? Caregiving jobs are of such poor quality. Mostly minimum wage or below, offer few benefits, and provide minimal training. Nationally, one in five care workers live below the poverty line, and over half receive public assistance.

The end result is an industry that experiences shockingly high turnover. Some estimates put it at over 60%. This is a problem when one of the most important aspects of a caregiver’s work is developing a trusting relationship with their client and learning their specific needs. The revolving door of care workers means that cases like Fiona and Linus get stuck in limbo for months or years, unable to find the consistent care they need.

Care workers are 87% women, 49% POC, and almost a third immigrants, and some advocates argue that the poor job quality speaks to a long history of oppression and discrimination.

Saturday, September 18, 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.  

 Tommy Beer at Forbes:

Bob Enyart, a conservative radio talk show host in Denver who urged listeners to boycott Covid-19 vaccines and vowed never to get a shot, has lost his life after contracting the virus, one of his co-hosts announced earlier this week, in what is but the latest instance of a right-wing radio pundit succumbing to the coronavirus.


Dick Farrel, a Florida-based conservative radio host and anchor on Newsmax TV who had called vaccines “bogus bullsh*t” and characterized Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “lying freak,” died on August 4 due to complications from Covid-19.

In late August, Marc Bernier, who spoke out against Covid-19 vaccines and even called himself “Mr. Anti-Vax” on his radio show from Daytona Beach, died after battling the virus for weeks.

Jimmy DeYoung Sr., a religious radio broadcaster from Tennessee who published an interview advancing a conspiracy theory that the Pfizer vaccine would make women sterile and asked if the virus and vaccines were forms of governmental control, died on August 18 after contracting Covid.

Phil Valentine, a popular conservative talk radio host in Nashville who voiced vaccine skepticism and mocked Democrats’ efforts to encourage people to get the jab, was killed by the virus in mid-August after reportedly telling his brother he regretted not being a “more vocal advocate” of getting inoculated.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Learning Loss and COVID Shutdowns

 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. 

Amanda Morris at NYT:

Education experts have said that it may take months or years to fully grasp the learning loss that children have suffered from remote schooling during the pandemic. But many of the parents and guardians of the roughly 200,000 students with disabilities in New York City say they have already seen drastic damages from their children’s loss of their usual therapies, services or learning accommodations.

Each school year presents myriad challenges for the thousands of parents who file for special education services. But the shift to remote learning has “exacerbated pre-existing achievement gaps” for children with disabilities, according to a recent report by the state’s comptroller’s office.

According to that report, autism is the state's fourth-largest special-ed classification, accounting for nearly 10 percent of students with IEPs

The NYT story continues:

Nasheema Miley’s autistic, largely nonverbal son, Marcellus, was saying a few words before the pandemic, thanks to the work of speech therapists at his school in Harlem.

When classes went remote, Marcellus, 5, stopped having in-person speech therapy sessions three times a week and occupational therapy twice a week. Instead, Ms. Miley, 27, said she got a phone call once a week from both therapists.

During this time, he stopped speaking completely, she said.

Marcellus went back to school full time last fall and has started making progress again, but his mother thinks he is still behind.

The family thought about filing a complaint or lawsuit, but Ms. Miley said she is unable to afford a lawyer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Left, Right, 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.

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

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.  Recent examples include a member of the House COVID subcommittee and a crackpot who is seeking the party's US Senate nomination in OhioCalifornia gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder gave a radio platform to Andrew Wakefield.

Orac (David Gorski) notes that there was once a stereotype that antivaxxers were mostly on the left.

In actuality, this perception of a strong leftward political bias in the antivaccine movement was never really accurate. It’s long been known that antivaccine views tended to be the pseudoscience that crossed political boundaries. Indeed, there has always been a libertarian and right wing component to the antivaccine movement, with a very strong strain of antivaccine views on the right as well. Examples included General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation, far right libertarians, and others who distrust the government, including government-recommended vaccine schedules, an observation that led me once to ask in 2013 why the antivaccine movement seemed so at home among libertarians. Indeed, at the right-wing Libertarian FreedomFest in 2012, I was privileged to watch a debate between Julian Whitaker and Steve Novella about vaccines. At the debate, vaccine pseudoscience flowed freely from Whitaker in a most embarrassing fashion, and I couldn’t help but note that FreedomFest that year featured two screenings of Leslie Manookian’s antivaccine propaganda piece, The Greater Good and had featured antivaccine talks in previous years. Ironically, at one point, one of the antivaccine bloggers at the crank blog Age of Autism blamed “progressivism” for failing to “get” autism. (Translation: From his perspective, his fellow progressives don’t accept the vaccine-autism link the way he would like, while conservatives apparently did.)

It is no coincidence that the most powerful antivaccine legislator in the 1990s and into the first decade of the 2000s was Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana), who for many years was the foremost promoter of the pseudoscience claiming that vaccines cause autism. His activities in support of antivaccine views as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform were legion while he was in Congress and Republicans controlled the House. For instance, Burton held showboating, Kangaroo court-style hearings about thimerosal and autism back in 2002 that now remind me, more than anything else, of the hearings about Stanislaw Burzynski by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) back in the 1990s. Burton also was known for harassing FDA officials over thimerosal in vaccines, and at one point tried to insert himself into the Autism Omnibus hearings by writing a letter to the Special Masters asking them to consider crappy scientific papers (e.g., a this paper, which was pure crap) allegedly supporting a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Antivax Movement Starts to Infect Canada

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.  

 Dr. Peter Hotez at Global News:

Well, it has finally happened. News this week of widespread and disruptive anti-vaccine protests at Canadian medical centres means that America’s destructive, self-defeating and totally nonsensical anti-vaccine movement has begun crossing the border.

As a pediatrician, vaccine-scientist and parent of an adult daughter with autism and intellectual disabilities, I have had a front-row seat to America’s anti-vaccine movement for the last two decades. I’m also a lead target, and sometimes known as the ‘OG Villain’ for writing the book, Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism a few years back.
Today, the anti-vaccine movement has three major drivers. One of them is anti-science aggression from the far-right, as highlighted above. However, there are also at least a dozen non-governmental groups identified by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate as responsible for approximately two-thirds of the anti-vaccine disinformation in America.

The third is Russian propaganda, which promotes anti-vaccine disinformation as a means to destabilize the U.S. and other democratic countries, possibly including Canada.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Wellness World 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.

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

The wellness world’s entanglement with vaccine hesitancy dates back to well before the covid pandemic. For years, the anti-vaccine movement grew on various Facebook groups, freely spreading discredited theories that shots cause autism and other ailments, until the tech giant began limiting those group’s reach and ability to pay for promotional ads in 2019. Of course, not all yoga instructors and holistic healers are anti-vaxxers, and many actively promote vaccines and support medical science.

But tight links have developed between groups focused on anti-vaccine messages and those dedicated to parenting, alternative health practices and concerns over genetically modified food, according to a study published online in February from George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. The study identified a large cluster of Facebook groups that focused on posting and spreading covid-19 misinformation, including anti-vaccine messages. It then showed that links from those groups were often posted in wellness groups, and vice versa.

When the coronavirus vaccines started becoming available and millions of people turned to the Internet to find out more information, many found answers in the wellness groups and networks of influencers that were already a daily part of their social media diet.