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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Facebook Was Slow to Counter Antivaxxers

 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.

David Klepper and Amanda Seitz at AP:
In March, as claims about the dangers and ineffectiveness of coronavirus vaccines spun across social media and undermined attempts to stop the spread of the virus, some Facebook employees thought they had found a way to help.

By altering how posts about vaccines are ranked in people’s newsfeeds, researchers at the company realized they could curtail the misleading information individuals saw about COVID-19 vaccines and offer users posts from legitimate sources like the World Health Organization.

“Given these results, I’m assuming we’re hoping to launch ASAP,” one Facebook employee wrote, responding to the internal memo about the study.

Instead, Facebook shelved some suggestions from the study. Other changes weren’t made until April.

When another Facebook researcher suggested disabling some comments on vaccine posts in March until the platform could do a better job of tackling anti-vaccine messages lurking in them, that proposal was ignored at the time.

Critics say the reason Facebook was slow to take action on the ideas is simple: The tech giant worried it might impact the company’s profits.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Including High-Support-Needs People in Autism Research

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss research priorities.

At The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Audrey Thurm and colleagues have an article titled "Making Research Possible: Barriers and Solutions For Those With ASD and ID." The abstract:
Participation in research can provide direct and indirect benefit to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their caregivers, families, and society at large. Unfortunately, individuals with high support needs, including those with intellectual disability, cognitive disability or minimal verbal ability, are often systematically excluded from research on ASD. This limits the ability to generalize discoveries to all people with ASD, and results in a disparity in who benefits from research. This piece outlines the importance and extent of the problem, which is part of a broader lack of inclusivity in ASD research. It also provides examples of studies that have directly addressed issues that arise when conducting inclusive research and makes recommendations for researchers to reduce disparities in research participation.

From the article:

We must focus on ways to be more inclusive in studies that aim to be generalizable to all people with ASD, which must include people with ID. However, we must also remember that people with ID+ASD may require focused study, particularly around etiology and treatment. To achieve these goals, a comprehensive approach is required, including a) increased fexibility for study engagement to reduce participant and family burden, b) increased workforce training, including clinical training around ID for professionals (e.g., pediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists), research staf, community liaisons, and others who may work directly on improving research methods for this population, c) new methods to increase the participation, compliance, and success of individuals with ID in clinical research (e.g., mobile technology, telehealth, telemetric assessments, use of alternative and augmentative communication), including both standardized and non-standardized measures, and most importantly, d) an overall goal of research that is relevant and useful for people with ID+ASD. This is to ensure there is better inclusion of, and more rigorous reporting of, cognitive abilities in study participants.


Friday, October 29, 2021

Home Care Update

Robert Holly at Home Health Care News:
President Joe Biden on Thursday went to bat for a significantly trimmed down version of his Build Back Better plan, a massive economic proposal that seeks to expand the country’s social safety net.

“No one got everything they wanted, including me,” the president said in his public remarks. “But that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on.”

Biden’s update came as the White House unveiled a drastically revised framework for Build Back Better that omits several original goals, including paid family leave and tools to lower drug costs.

The new framework, revised in an effort to achieve full Democrat support, also leaves out free community college and an expansion of the Medicare program.

One thing the $1.75 trillion framework doesn’t leave out: funding for in-home care for America’s older adults.

“The Build Back Better framework will permanently improve Medicaid coverage for home care services for seniors and people with disabilities, making the most transformative investment in access to home care in 40 years, when these services were first authorized for Medicaid,” a White House outline explains.

Specifically, the plan will carve out $150 billion to help reduce waiting lists for in-home care services and improve pay for low-wage in-home care professionals.

A substantial portion of Biden’s public remarks discussed the importance of home-based care, both for seniors and individuals with disabilities. At one point, the president said his home care agenda is “more popular or as popular as anything else we’re proposing.”

Michelle Diament at Disability Scoop:

While the home and community-based services funding is far short of initial expectations, Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, said she’s glad the program is included.

“$150 billion isn’t enough to end waiting lists nationwide, but it’s still the largest investment in HCBS we’ve ever seen and will do a lot of good,” she said. “Our focus is on getting this bill across the finish line, and then making sure each state takes up the additional funding and improves the services they offer.”

Bascom’s group along with others including The Arc and Autism Speaks spent Thursday urging their members to call federal lawmakers to support added spending on home and community-based services and other priorities in the reconciliation bill.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021


In The Politics of Autism, I write:

But what is equal treatment? This question raises the “dilemma of difference,” as legal scholar Martha Minow explains. “When does treating people differently emphasize their differences and stigmatize or hinder them on that basis? And when does treating people the same become insensitive to their difference and likely to stigmatize or hinder them on that basis?”[i]

[i] Martha Minow, Making All the Difference (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 20.

Nicole Buonocore Porter at The Regulatory Review:

When people think about the stigma surrounding disabilities, they usually think about discomfort, fear, or sometimes even disgust.

But as I have previously argued, stigma can also result from people with disabilities receiving special treatment in the form of accommodations. I call this “special treatment stigma,” and it occurs in a variety of settings, including the workplace.

In higher education, this stigma often leads to students with disabilities either refusing to disclose their disabilities or experiencing social disapproval when they do. Both results are problematic.

Although people with disabilities are attending college in record numbers, they continue to face social, academic, and psychological stigma if their disability is visible or if they disclose a hidden disability.

Students with disabilities report feeling judged by their peers and their professors. They worry about standing out as different and perceive that their peers and professors either doubt their ability to perform academically or believe that they are receiving an unfair advantage if they receive academic accommodations.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Suicide and Self-Harm

Many analyses of autism speak as if it were only a childhood ailment and assume that parents are the main stakeholders. But most children with autism grow up to be adults with autism, and they suffer uniquely high levels of social isolation. Almost 40 percent of youth with an autism spectrum disorder never get together with friends, and 50 percent of never receive phone calls from friends. These figures are higher than for peers with intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, or learning disability. When school ends, many adults with autism have grim prospects. Though evidence is sparse, it seems that most do not find full-time jobs. Compared with other people their age, they have higher rates of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and suicide attempts.

A release from  Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health:
People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at substantially increased risk of self-injury and suicide, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. They found that odds of self-harm in people with autism spectrum disorder were over three times that of people without ASD. Elevated odds of self-harm existed in both children and adults with ASD, though there were slightly higher odds in adults. The findings are published in JAMA Network Open.

It is estimated that 5,437,988 U.S. adults (2 percent) have autism. In children, prevalence estimates have increased over the past several decades due in part to improved awareness, changes in documentation, and the identification of milder cases.

“The findings from our systematic review and meta-analysis underscore the need for targeted interventions to reduce the risk of self-harm in people with autism,” said Ashley Blanchard, MD, MS, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Among the myriad of health problems facing people with ASD is the excess risk of injury morbidity and mortality. The emergency department presents a unique clinical setting for interventions to reduce self-harm and other injuries in people with autism.”

The researchers used PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, PsychInfo, Web of Science databases from 1999 through June of 2020 to identify studies on the relationship between ASD and self-injurious behavior and suicide. They identified 31 studies with a wide range of ages and self-harm outcomes. Twenty-nine showed statistically significant positive associations between ASD and self-harm, and that people with ASD were at similarly increased risk of self-injury behavior and suicide.

According to the researchers, several factors may explain the excess risk of self-harm associated with ASD. The prevalence of self-injurious behavior, such as hand-hitting, self-cutting, and hair pulling, is as high as 42 percent in the autism population. Estimates also show that 28 percent of people with ASD have co-occurring attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, 20 percent have co-occurring anxiety disorders, and 11 percent have co-occurring depressive disorders. There is also a known link between self-injury and suicide.

“Our findings are of public health importance in light of the continuing increase in the reported prevalence of autism and the high prevalence of self-injurious behavior in this population—especially relevant during a period of heightened rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said study senior author Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, professor of epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School, professor of anesthesiology at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Further research should aim to determine the impact of co-occurring diagnoses, develop injury surveillance systems for the autism population, and implement effective prevention strategies to ensure the safety and well-being of people with ASD.”

Co-authors include Stanford Chihuri, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Carolyn DiGuiseppi, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The study was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (grant HD098522).

Monday, October 25, 2021

Autism Prevalence in New Jersey Communities

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the uncertainty surrounding estimates of autism prevalence

A release from Rutgers University:
In some New Jersey communities up to 8 percent of children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — more than triple the national average, according to a Rutgers study.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the study appears in the journal Autism Research.

Researchers analyzed data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network — a group of programs funded by CDC to estimate the number of children with autism — looking at 5,453 children in public school districts in Essex, Hudson and Union counties who were 8 years old in 2016.

They discovered an estimated ASD prevalence of 36 children per 1,000 in most regions, but greater than 70 per 1,000 in multiple school districts in the state. The national average of children with ASD is 2 percent.

“When we focused on the district level, we recognized that many communities in our region —approximately one in five, including some of the largest — had ASD rates between 5 percent and 10 percent,” said study co-author Josephine Shenouda, a project coordinator at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “These variations may reflect differences in use of services or access to care. Larger districts may provide more services from a greater number of professionals or have additional resources for detection or care of ASD. It is also possible that parents of children with learning or developmental disorders relocate from small districts to large districts to maximize their children’s educational attainment.”

The study also found that one in five school districts had ASD estimates greater than 5 percent and that Hispanic children were less likely to be identified with ASD, compared to white and Black peers, indicating a significant disparity in identification.

ASD prevalence was approximately 5 percent in Newark, the state’s largest school district. Tom’s River, which is the state’s largest suburban school district, had the highest ASD prevalence (7.3 percent), with a 12 percent prevalence among boys. “We found that mid-socioeconomic status communities, like Toms River, had the highest ASD rates, which was contrary to expectation because in earlier U.S. studies ASD rates were highest in high- socioeconomic status communities,” said Shenouda.

“The study suggests that effective educational and health planning should be informed by community and county level estimates and data as well as by state and national averages,” said coauthor Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “It also shows that additional effort is needed to reduce disparities in the identification of ASD in the Hispanic community, including expansion of ASD screening of toddler-age children.”

Other Rutgers authors include Emily Barrett, Amy L. Davidow, William Halperin and Vincent Silenzio.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Buttar Battle

Rob Kuznia, Scott Bronstein, Curt Devine and Drew Griffin, at CNN:
[Dr. Rashid] Buttar has shared all manner of outrageous claims and misleading statements about the pandemic: Most people who took the vaccine will be dead by 2025. It's all part of a "depopulation plan." Covid-19, he wrote on Twitter -- where he has 88,000 followers -- was a "planned operation."
In a recent interview with CNN's Drew Griffin, Buttar stood by it all.
"I've told people the best thing that could happen is you get Covid," he said.
"The best thing that can happen is get Covid?" Griffin asked.
"Of course," Buttar replied. "You're going to build your own innate immune system and then you don't have to worry about it anymore."
He later said, falsely: "More people are dying from the Covid vaccine than from Covid."

Buttar, 55, has long been popular among anti-vaxxers and parents of children with autism. He has reportedly drawn patients from most US states and more than 40 countries. (Buttar puts the country count at 94.) In an especially high-profile case in 2009, then-celebrity couple Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey -- both noted vaccine skeptics -- referred a woman who said that she'd been sickened by a flu vaccine to Buttar for his unorthodox treatments, according to the 2013 book, "Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine," by vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit.
Buttar is a believer that environmental toxins such as mercury and lead are at the root of many chronic maladies, from autism to heart disease to cancer. He has treated patients -- hundreds of them children with autism -- with a patented cream that he claims removes poisonous metals from the body, according to Offit's book.
Buttar has twice been reprimanded by the North Carolina Medical Board, in 2010 and 2019.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Bright Autistic Students

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

Sally M. Reis, Nicholas W. Gelbar & Joseph W. Madaus have an article at The Journal of Autism and Development Disorders titled :"Understanding the Academic Success of Academically Talented College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders." The abstract:

Little is known about the academic and extra-curricular experiences of academically talented students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study focused on how these capable students with ASD successfully navigated and completed high school, and specifically, the experiences that enabled them to attend competitive colleges. Using comparative case studies and directed content analysis, data were derived from semi-structured interviews with 40 students who had been identified as academically talented with ASD, and were enrolled in, or recently graduated from, highly competitive colleges in the United States. The majority were identified as having academic talents, participated in challenging honors classes, enrichment opportunities, interest-based extra-curricular activities, residential summer programs, and pursued other advanced educational experiences. Implications for educational and talent development services are included.

From the article:

Educators and parents who support 2e students should focus on having their talents recognized, as it was important for these participants to have been identified as gifted or as having academic talents, enabling their inclusion in more advanced content classes and strength-based educational opportunities. As several participants were identified after completing comprehensive testing for the ASD, special education teachers and administrators should try to focus on students’ strengths and talents, as well as their disabilities, as a result of testing for special education services. As has been advocated in previous research (Reis et al., 2014), inclusion of talent development experiences and advanced learning opportunities made an important difference in the future academic success of this group, as did these participants’ identification as 2e.

Educators and parents of 2e students should advocate for the inclusion of talent development opportunities, especially extracurricular activities as goals for 2e/ASD students. The IEP or Sect. 504 plan can also include engaging and interest-based extracurricular activities such as those in which these students participated, including science fair, invention convention, or debate club. These extracurricular interest areas can help address 2e/ASD students’ social skills and leadership capabilities, using their interests and talents. Parents and educators should also consider the ways they can support these students’ social development, academic interests, and future college experiences by exposing them to residential programs that will help them to develop socially which will aid in their meta-cognitive development and understanding of how they learn. For these participants, residential programs attended during middle and high school were essential contributions to their subsequent academic success.

Students who are identified as 2e/ASD should be given opportunities to develop their interests and talents in both school and extracurricular activities. They should also have the opportunity to learn about their profiles of both strengths and weaknesses and understand the implications of their dual identification. They should be given information about why they should participate in advanced classes, extra-curricular activities, and residential programs, and they should have the opportunity to ask questions about why these different activities can be beneficial, even if they are uncomfortable initially.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Tasing an Autistic Man

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not -- as recent events have shown -- things get out of hand

Holly Bristow at Fox 35 Orlando
Eustis Police tased a man with severe autism multiple times Saturday in what Police Chief Craig Capris calls a "perfect storm."

"We did everything per policy per protocol per policy people say you tased an autistic man. That’s not true. We tased a felony suspect that wasn’t complying. We later found out he happened to be autistic," Chief Capri told FOX 35 News.

Officers eventually get the man into handcuffs. A little over four minutes into the video the people start running towards the officers yelling, "We know him! He’s autistic! He’s non-communicative."

It’s the man’s family. They say he has the mental capacity of a toddler.

Officers can be heard explaining that they tased the man, identified as 20-year-old Louis Grahai. He was uncuffed and put in an ambulance.

According to a police report, once officers realized Louis didn’t have the mental capacity to commit a crime, they let him go without pressing charges.

Thursday, October 21, 2021


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

Judith Newman at National Geographic:
[M]ore parks and recreation centers are seeking recognition as “Certified Autism Centers.” The imprimatur comes from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), which oversees training in the field of cognitive disorders originally created by the Autism Society of America.

The National Park Service formed its own Accessibility Task Force in 2012, with the goal of making some areas of the outdoors available to those with physical disabilities. It’s only been in the last two years that the NPS has discussed extending its accommodations to those with developmental disabilities like Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The National Parks access pass for autism is still not widely known, but you can apply for $10 and get free access to virtually every national park in the country.

Despite abundant research showing that spending time in nature can be deeply soothing to those on the spectrum (as it is to the rest of us) and can even help improve attention and focus, there are significant obstacles. The list of triggers includes new smells, new sensations, unfamiliar noises, too much light…the list goes on and on. With natural beauty, there is also a great deal of unpredictability. Certainly no one can control the weather.

For autistic families, the great outdoors is not a first choice. According to one recent study by the IBCCES, 87 percent of autism families never go on vacation at all. When they do go, it might be to a theme park, or a city.

But the new IBCCES initiative to certify certain parks and recreation centers as autism-friendly could be a game changer. To earn certification, 80 percent of all personnel must receive specialized training on dealing with people on the spectrum.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Hire the Neurodivergent

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of people on the autism spectrum.

 Brent Orrell at AEI:

Depending on how the term neurodivergent is defined, between 10 and 30 percent of the population has a neurodivergent trait. In the case of autism, every year, 50,000 children on the autism spectrum reach the age of 18, and 44 percent pursue some sort of postsecondary education in order to prepare for the labor market and employment. Yet, over 80 percent of adults on the spectrum go on to be unemployed. Half of those on the spectrum that are employed are underemployed, meaning that they have skillsets that go beyond what their job requires.

Work is integral to social well-being as well as developing meaning, purpose, and sense of contribution to community, but work isn’t just good for neurodivergent workers, it is also good for employers. By excluding neurodivergent individuals from the workforce, we lose their unique gifts and skills, such as exceptional pattern recognition and recall capacity, as well as denying them the satisfaction of being recognized and valued. Companies such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard reformed their hiring processes to improve access to neurodivergent talent, and have seen productivity gains as well as increased employee engagement for both neurotypical and neurodivergent workers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

IACC Seeks Public Comments

On behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) is seeking public comments to assist the IACC in identifying priorities for the 2021-2022 update of the IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as required by the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2019. 

The IACC is requesting public comments on research, services, and policy issues related to the seven topics addressed by the IACC Strategic Plan: Screening and Diagnosis, Biology, Risk Factors, Treatments and Interventions, Services, Lifespan Issues, and Infrastructure and Surveillance. The IACC is also requesting information on two additional issues related to autism described in two supplemental questions that are included in this Request for Public Comment.

Responses to this notice are voluntary and the public comment period will be open from October 1, 2021-November 30, 2021.

All comments must be submitted electronically via the web-based form at:​meetings/​public-comments/​requests-for-information/​2021/​strategic-plan.shtml.

Specific questions about this Request for Public Comment should be directed to: Rebecca Martin by phone at (301) 435-0886 or email at

The IACC​is a federal advisory committee composed of federal and public members that provides advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on autism spectrum disorder. The Committee is authorized under the Autism CARES Act of 2019, Public Law 116-60. The law requires that the IACC develop a Strategic Plan for autism research and update the Plan annually. The current IACC Strategic Plan can be viewed at:​publications/​strategic-plan/​2019/​. The IACC last provided an update on the progress of the Strategic Plan in 2019, after which the committee went out of session as a new committee was being appointed. The IACC reconvened in July 2021 and is now developing a new update of the IACC Strategic Plan.

The IACC Strategic Plan chapters are organized around seven topic areas that are related to community-focused questions:
  • Question 1. How Can I Recognize the Signs of ASD, and Why is Early Detection So Important? (Topic: Screening and Diagnosis)
  • Question 2. What Is the Biology Underlying ASD? (Topic: Biology)
  • Question 3. What Causes ASD, and Can Disabling Aspects of ASD be Prevented or Preempted? (Topic: Risk Factors)
  • Question 4. Which Treatments and Interventions Will Help? (Topic: Treatments and Interventions)
  • Question 5. What Kinds of Services and Supports Are Needed to Maximize Quality of Life for People on the Autism Spectrum? (Topic: Services)
  • Question 6. How Can We Meet the Needs of People with ASD as They Progress into and through Adulthood? (Topic: Lifespan Issues)
  • Question 7. How Do We Continue to Build, Expand, and Enhance the Infrastructure System to Meet the Needs of the ASD Community? (Topic: Infrastructure and Surveillance)

The Committee also seeks public comment related to the two following questions:
Supplemental Question 1. What are important issues for the IACC to consider with regard to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the autism community?
Supplemental Question 2. What are important issues for the IACC to consider with regard to the needs of underserved populations within the autism community, including racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged communities, and rural populations?

Submission Information. For each topic/question in the Request for Public Comment, commenters may provide input on what they consider to be the most important research, services, and policy issues and remaining gaps in the subject area covered by that Question.

Please note that the web form will accept a maximum of 1,500 characters (including letters, numbers, punctuation, etc.) per topic area. A valid email address is required for submission, and only one submission per email address will be accepted. If duplicate submissions are received ( i.e., form letters), only one example of such a submission will be included in the final set of comments.

The information that commenters provide will become part of the public record; as such, please do not include any personally identifiable or confidential information in the comments. The web form will provide the option of submitting responses anonymously, or the choice to include a name and/or organization associated with the comment. Comments are subject to redaction in accordance with federal policies and the IACC's public comment guidelines and privacy policy. To view the IACC's public comment guidelines and privacy policy, visit:​meetings/​public-comments/​guidelines/​. All comments or summaries of comments received will be made publicly available on the IACC website within 90 days of the closing deadline for this notice. Email addresses associated with comments will not be included as part of the public disclosure. After the closing deadline, responses cannot be edited or withdrawn. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government's use of such information.

Instructions. All comments must be submitted through the web form at​meetings/​public-comments/​requests-for-information/​2021/​strategic-plan.shtml. Individuals submitting comments will receive an onscreen confirmation acknowledging receipt of the comment, but commenters will not receive individualized feedback or responses from the IACC. Only one comment per email address will be accepted, and if duplicate comments are received, only one example will be provided to the IACC.

Dated: September 30, 2021.

Susan A. Daniels,
Director, Office of Autism Research Coordination, National Institute of Mental Health.
[FR Doc. 2021-21883 Filed 10-6-21; 8:45 am]

Monday, October 18, 2021

Court Filing: Walmart Discriminates

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

Melissa Repko at CNBC:
The firing of Marlo Spaeth, an employee with Down syndrome who worked at Walmart for nearly 16 years, was not a one-time incident, but rather part of the retailer’s pattern, a disability rights attorney said in a court filing Friday.

In the document, attorney Monica Murphy describes how she has represented six Wisconsin residents with disabilities, over the past five years, who have faced similar discrimination at Walmart. She said Walmart refused to accommodate these workers and instead took away their hours or forced them to take unpaid leave. Murphy is an attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, a nonprofit group with a mission of protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

Several other court filings on Friday told the stories of other Walmart employees with disabilities who were fired from their jobs. They included lawsuits filed by the workers’ families and a jury verdict in another discrimination lawsuit that awarded more than $5 million in damages to a former Walmart employee. The employees lived in other states, including Maine, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The filings are the latest development in a legal battle between Walmart and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency has taken up the case of Spaeth, who worked for more than a decade folding towels, tidying aisles and helping customers as a Walmart associate at a Wisconsin Supercenter. Attorneys for the EEOC argued that Walmart wrongfully fired Spaeth rather than making reasonable accommodations for her disability

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Long, Sordid History of Antivax

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

The antivaxxers have been at it for a very long time.

Damian McNamara at WebMD:

Even as the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases trends downward, one aspect of the pandemic remains strong: differing opinions on the value of COVID-19 immunization and vaccine mandates across the U.S.

Strong feelings around vaccination are nothing new. Claims that link the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism and opposition to measles vaccination that triggered outbreaks in California are recent examples.

People who were against smallpox immunizations, for example, ran advertisements, wrote to newspapers, and formed anti-vaccine organizations, as seen in news clippings from the 1860s to the 1950s.

In other words, although the furor over vaccines feels like a modern experience, disagreements throughout history reveal many similarities.

"There are a lot of parallels -- many of the same exact arguments," says Anna Kirkland, PhD, director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

"Some of the differences now are the stark political alignments by party that we see under COVID, which were there in some ways before but became very prominently organized by party," she says. "Those are only differences of degree, though, because there has long been an anti-government backing of anti-vaccine sentiments."

For example, the Anti-Vaccination Society of America was founded in 1879. Its public campaign against mandatory smallpox vaccination used wording about personal freedoms that might sound familiar today: "Liberty cannot be given, it must be taken."

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Pennsylvania Problems

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  One is a shortage of caregivers and direct support professionals, which is likely to get worse.  

 Nancy Murray at The Latrobe Bulletin:

Families, adults with intellectual disabilities and autism, organizations that provide services, and disability advocates are witnessing the collapse of Pennsylvania's intellectual disability and autism (ID/A) system. Day programs have closed or scaled back services, at least 6,500 people have lost services in the past 18 months, and families are facing unemployment and financial ruin to stay home and care for adults with disabilities. The reason is clear: the payment rates set by the Department of Human Services have not kept pace with the cost of providing home and community-based services (HCBS), so provider organizations are unable to recruit, hire and retain Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to work in these programs.

Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Wolf must work together to stop the collapse of the ID/A system that supports some of our most vulnerable families.

For the first time in my decades of family advocacy I am fielding distraught calls from families of people with intellectual disabilities who, after desperately waiting for years on the Office of Developmental Program's (ODP) waiting list, are now reporting that programs have no staff available to provide services for their loved ones. And as of Aug. 31, ODP reported that there are an additional 12,287 people with intellectual disabilities waiting for services and that 5,128 people have an emergency need for residential and day services.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Partisan Divide on Vax Mandates

 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.

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers

 Aaron Blake at WP:

The new YouGov poll shows that fewer than half of Republicans — 46 percent — now say parents should be required to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases.

That’s both far shy of where Democrats are at — 85 percent — and also far shy of where Republicans used to be. Used to be, as in last year.

YouGov has polled this question repeatedly over the years, and up until recently Republicans were in a pretty similar place to Democrats. Back in 2015, both 81 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans believed such vaccines should be mandated for children.

And that split held pretty constant, through 2020 — until the coronavirus vaccines.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the gap grow, with Republicans turning more against mandatory childhood vaccines. The Pew Research Center polled the issue in 2009 and found virtually no partisan difference. But by 2015, with some Republicans floating the idea of more of a choice for parents (and the GOP preparing to nominate a man who had baselessly linked vaccines to autism), there became a little separation. While 76 percent of Democrats favored mandatory vaccines, 65 percent of Republicans did.

Maybe respondents are thinking about COVID vaccines, not vaccines in general, but...

Republicans have often distilled this talking point down to “no vaccine mandates” rather than saying “no coronavirus vaccine mandates.” The party has also co-opted the “my body, my choice” language generally used by abortion rights supporters.

This is helpful for them because it simplifies the argument as a libertarian one, without bothering with the meddling issue of why you oppose mandating one fully approved vaccine (for the coronavirus) but not others. The GOP has struggled mightily to explain why it’s drawing the line there, especially since the Pfizer vaccine obtained full approval.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

An Antivaxxer's Syringe Swastika

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.  

Alexandra Larkin at CBS:
Republican candidate Hershel Walker, the former NFL player running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, canceled a fundraiser on Wednesday after the event's host was condemned for using a profile picture of a swastika made of vaccine syringes on social media.

Republican donor Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, a Texas filmmaker, was scheduled to host the fundraiser in Parker, Texas, this weekend, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported the story.

Viviano-Langlais's Twitter account has been taken down at the time of reporting, but a screengrab captured earlier shows the vaccine-swastika logo, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The image has been used by opponents of vaccine mandates who liken the policy to the Nazi oppression and genocide of Jews — a comparison that's been widely condemned.

A Walker spokesperson told the newspaper: "This is clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic. Herschel unequivocally opposes anti-semitism and bigotry of all kinds."

The campaign later confirmed that the fundraiser was canceled, CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL reported.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Disability Employment: A Remedy for the Labor Shortage

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of people on the autism spectrum.

Jonathan Bennett at Human Resource Executive:

Businesses across the country are facing a labor shortage. Employers are struggling not only to bring back many of the workers they let go earlier in the pandemic but also to retain their existing employees. Adding to this challenge, the “great resignation” is far from over–our research found that 37% of U.S. workers are likely to search for a new job in the next six months.

One way to address this labor shortage–while also addressing companies’ commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion–is to focus on hiring people with disabilities, who are disproportionately under-employed or unemployed. In August 2021, just 19.2% of people with disabilities were employed, compared to 63.9% of people without disabilities.

As a prerequisite, employers should be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law that broadly protects people with a wide range of disabilities from discrimination. Some managers may be surprised to learn how all-encompassing the ADA is. In fact, one in four U.S. adults has some kind of disability. It’s critical for employers to be aware of the full range of disabilities that employers play a role in supporting–including disabilities that may not be immediately visible to a coworker or manager.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Vaccines and People 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. 

 A. Blythe Ryerson and colleagues at MMWR:

COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower among U.S. adults with a disability than among those without a disability, even though adults with a disability reported less hesitancy to getting vaccinated. Unvaccinated adults with disabilities were more likely than were those without a disability to report thinking that the vaccine is important protection, indicating that there might be potential for increasing vaccination coverage in this group. However, adults with a disability anticipated or experienced more difficulty obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination than did those without a disability. Reducing barriers to scheduling and making vaccination sites more accessible might improve vaccination rates among persons with disabilities (7).

Much work has been done to adapt COVID-19 health messages into more accessible formats††; however, more effort is necessary to increase health equity for persons with disabilities. A recent exploratory analysis of official state and territorial COVID-19 vaccination registration websites found substantial variability and suboptimal compliance with basic accessibility recommendations (8). Information is available for developers of online health information resources and scheduling systems to make web content more accessible.§§ Further, online scheduling systems can provide call lines for persons who need assistance making an appointment or requesting assistance getting to a vaccination site. CDC recently provided funding to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to create a national Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) to assist persons with disabilities obtain a COVID-19 vaccination.¶¶

Even if vaccination locations are identified and appointments are secured, vaccination sites might vary in their accessibility options. All vaccination sites are required to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, regulations do not require that sites have American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or providers trained to work with persons with intellectual or other developmental disabilities (9). Transportation to a vaccination site might be particularly challenging for persons with a disability who depend on another person to take them or who need accessible vehicles or public transportation. To help overcome some of these challenges, CDC recently provided funding to ACL to provide grants to aging and disability networks in every U.S. state and territory to expand access to COVID-19 vaccination among older adults and persons with disabilities.*** These grants aid with scheduling vaccination appointments, providing direct support services needed to attend appointments, providing transportation to vaccination sites, and connecting persons who cannot leave their homes independently to in-home vaccination options.