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Monday, October 31, 2022

In Virginia, Parents Almost Always Lose in Due Process

Justin Wm. Moyer and John D. Harden at WP:
Northern Virginia school systems grant fewer than 1 percent of requests from parents of children with disabilities seeking enrollment in schools that better accommodate their needs, according to data submitted in a civil rights lawsuit.

Plaintiffs allege the state’s education department has “curated” officials who almost always decide cases in its favor, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in federal court last month by parents of an autistic student. The state has prevented disabled children from getting the educational support they need, the parents say, disadvantaging a generation of people with special needs.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the story of a student referred to only as “D.C.," a 19-year-old who suffers from autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome, among other disorders. Attorneys in the case shared the data with The Washington Post.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which protects disabled students, allows parents to appeal school placements. But between 2010 and July 2021, just three petitions out of 395 in Northern Virginia prevailed.

Across Virginia, the results were not much better, according to the data. Just 13 parents in 847 cases, or about 1.5 percent, successfully challenged school district decisions about their children’s placements. By comparison, the suit said almost 35 percent of California parents — the state with the most special needs students in the country — won such cases, as did around 15 percent of Maryland parents. Virginia served more than 169,000 disabled students from 2021 to 2022, officials said.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Conspiracy Theory and the Attack on Paul Pelosi

Summer Lin, Salvador Hernandez, and Terry Castleman at LAT:
In the months before police accused him of attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Friday morning, David DePape had been drifting further into the world of far-right conspiracies, antisemitism and hate, according to a Times review of his online accounts.

In a personal blog that DePape maintained, posts include such topics as “Manipulation of History,” “Holohoax” and “It’s OK to be white.” He mentioned 4chan, a favorite message board of the far right. He posted videos about conspiracies involving COVID-19 vaccines and the war in Ukraine being a ploy for Jewish people to buy land.

DePape’s screeds included posts about QAnon, an unfounded theory that former President Trump is at war with a cabal of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring and control the world. In an Aug. 23 entry titled “Q,” DePape wrote: “Either Q is Trump himself or Q is the deepstate moles within Trumps inner circle.”


DePape posted videos to Facebook by MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell saying that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, according to reports.

He also linked to sites with claims about the deadliness of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The death rates being promoted are what ever ‘THEY’ want to be promoted as the death rate,” one post read.

In July of 2021, Gustaf Kilander reported at Yahoo:

Photos are being shared on social media of former Trump National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell posing with others in front of a whiteboard filled with arrows and names.

The board, igniting conspiracy theories among right-wingers and confusion and alarm among others, highlights biblical quotes and names connected to former President Donald Trump, whose image is in the middle of the board.

Flynn posted the image to his Telegram account. The messaging platform was created by two Russian brothers and has been called a “safe haven” for white supremacists by the Anti Defamation League.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Special Ed Teacher Standards

Madeline Will at Education Week:
In the face of teacher shortages, many states have lowered licensing standards to get teachers in classrooms as quickly as possible. But here’s a Catch-22: they can’t do that with special education teachers.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law on educating students with disabilities, requires that special education teachers be “appropriately and adequately prepared and trained” and “have the content knowledge and skills to serve children with disabilities.”

The U.S. Department of Education has taken note that some states and districts may be skirting the law. On Oct. 4, Valerie Williams, the director in the office of special education programs at the education department, warned state directors of special education that those requirements haven’t changed—despite the challenges many states are facing in recruiting enough special educators to fill vacancies.

From the memo by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services:

Those qualifications must ensure that each person employed as a public school special education teacher in the State who teaches in an elementary school, middle school, or secondary school: (1) has obtained full State certification as a special education teacher (including certification obtained through an alternate route to certification as a special educator, if such alternate route meets minimum requirements described in 34 C.F.R. § 200.56(a)(2)(ii) as such section was in effect on November 28, 2008), or (2) passed the State special education teacher licensing examination and holds a license to teach in the State as a special education teacher, except in the case of a teacher teaching in a public charter school. A teacher teaching in a public charter school must meet the certification or licensing requirements, if any, set forth in the State’s public charter school law. In addition, public school special education teachers may not have special education certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis; and must hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Pandemic and Special Education

 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 the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Lauren Morando-Rhim and  Sumeyra Ekin have a report titled "How Has the Pandemic Affected Students with Disabilities? A Review of the Evidence to Date."

What We Know 

  • Many students with disabilities did not receive the same quantity or quality of specialized therapies they received before the pandemic, due to shortened school days and the challenges of remote instruction.  
  • Students with disabilities experienced higher rates of absenteeism, incomplete assignments, and course failures compared to their typical peers, and the effect is more significant in mathematics than reading. 
  •  Districts struggled most notably when trying to meet the needs of students who require more supports, including students with complex communication and learning disabilities. 
  • The negative impacts may be especially large for the youngest and oldest students— preschoolers aged three and up, in the earliest grades, and young adults nearing the age of twenty-one, when they transition out of special education and need new, community-based supports. 
  • Not all remote learning experiences were negative. Some students with disabilities, particularly those with emotional and attention issues, thrived in online environments that, when constructed with intentionality, fostered focused, individualized learning experiences. 
  • Greater technological connection helped many families become more involved with their children’s schooling. The shift to remote learning prompted districts to arrange virtual and more easily accessible IEP meetings with teachers, staff, and families. It also catalyzed efforts to prepare parents to support student learning at home. 
  • Initial challenges fueled the rapid development of positive, meaningful changes in service planning in some states. For example, a new California law requires all IEPs to specify how services will be provided under emergency conditions, such as when a student cannot physically attend school for more than ten consecutive days. 

What We Don’t Know 

  • The true scope of the impacts of service interruptions in terms of students’ progress, including regression in basic skills among students with intensive needs, remains unclear. 
  • How the pandemic has affected the social and emotional development of students with disabilities is also unknown.

  • We know little about how the pandemic has impacted academic, behavioral, socialemotional and post-graduation outcomes for students with disabilities. When theiroutcomes are explored, students with disabilities are often treated as a monolith, whichlikely masks critical variation in outcomes depending on students’ intensity of special education services, race, socioeconomic status, and English learner status.
  • Almost all students declined academically, but students with disabilities were especially impacted.

  • Even as many students returned to in-person learning, educators noted intensified mental health concerns for all students. Families of students with medical conditions or more significant support needs grappled with tradeoffs between in-person learning and their children’s health.
  • More students who need special education services may not be getting identified, particularly young children from birth to age two.
  • An untold number of families are still waiting for compensatory services to make up for what students lost earlier in the pandemic. Many are not even aware they qualify.
  • The pandemic disrupted students’ transition services and progress toward traditional graduation requirements, but the implications of these disruptions for students’ postschool experiences are not yet known.
  • Reliance on underqualified teachers – particularly for special education positions – may be increasing from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Early analyses of how states and districts spent their Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding raises concerns for how well-positioned schools will be to make long-term and systemic improvements to benefit students with disabilities

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Autistic Insurrectionist

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. 

Kyle Cheney at Politico:
A Jan. 6 rioter who wielded a hatchet and smashed two windows with a flagpole will serve no jail time, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, finding that Asperger’s syndrome made him susceptible to the influence of the mob.

Nicholas Rodean of Frederick, Md., attempted to address U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden Wednesday and visibly struggled to complete thoughts and sentences while explaining and apologizing for his Jan. 6 conduct. At one point, he clutched his head in frustration.

McFadden ultimately chose to sentence Rodean to 240 days of home confinement. But he said he was convinced that Rodean’s severe mental illness significantly mitigated “the blameworthiness of your conduct.”

In handing down a sentence that was lower than the minimum under sentencing guidelines, Judge McFadden attributed Mr. Rodean’s actions to autism spectrum disorder, according to Politico. Mr. Rodean, from Frederick, Md., was ordered to pay $2,048 and spend 240 days of his five years of probation in home detention.


Rodean famously stood alongside Jan. 6 defendant Jacob Chansley — who wore a horned helmet and face paint — in a standoff with Capitol police that occurred amid a frantic effort to evacuate then-Vice President Mike Pence and senators from the Capitol.

Rodean’s attorney, Charles Burnham — who also represents Donald Trump associates Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman in ongoing Jan. 6 matters — said Rodean had become fixated on politics during the pandemic, when he was isolated and without his typical support structure. He said Rodean was particularly susceptible to the influence of “assertive male figures” like Trump. And once inside the Capitol, he added, Rodean was similarly drawn in by Chansley, who commanded the attention of the crowd that day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


 In The Politics of Autism, I examine the role of social media in the development of the issue

 Sandra Jones at The Conversation:

A quick look at some TikTok stats shows more than 38,000 posts under the hashtag #Autism, with more than 200 million views. The hashtag #ActuallyAutistic (which is used in the autism community to highlight content created by, and not about, autistic people) has more than 20,000 posts and 40 million views.

TikTok is one of the world’s leading social platforms, and has exploded in popularity at a time when other social media megaliths have struggled. It has become an important channel for expression for its young usership – and this has included giving autistic people a voice and community.

It’s a good start. In some ways TikTok has helped drive discussions around autism forward, and shift outsiders’ perspectives. But for real progress, we have to ensure “swipe up” environments aren’t the only spaces where autistic people are welcomed.

TikTok’s algorithm is highly curated to individual users. The app decides what videos to show a user based on: their previous interactions including which videos they watch, like and favourite; video information (such as captions and hashtags); and their device and account settings.

This means users will likely see their own perspectives and beliefs reflected back to them. Autistic people may begin to believe this is the only reality that exists, leading to the creation of a “false reality”.

On TikTok, autistic people see an idyllic world where everyone understands and embraces autism. We forget that outside our “echo chamber” there is a world of people living in their own echo chambers.

If we want to see genuine improvement, we have to make autism acceptance and inclusion a priority across public life. We could start by including more autistic voices in TV shows, movies, books and news, as well as more representation in leadership teams and among policy makers.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The ABA Debate

 In The Politics of Autism, I write:

As long as government funds so much research, politics will shape the questions that scientists ask and determine the kinds of research that receive funding.  Politics will even influence which scientists the policymakers will believe and which findings will guide public policy. In the end, science cannot tell us what kinds of outcomes we should want.  ABA “works” in the sense that it helps some autistic people become more like their typically developing peers.  Most parents regard such an outcome as desirable, but not all people on the spectrum agree.  

The book also includes an extensive discussion of autism service providers.

 At WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, Liz Tung does a deep dive on the ABA debate:

When parents first heard about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in the 1990s, it felt like a lifeline — for both them and their autistic kids.

ABA was an intensive therapy based around a system of rewards and punishments designed to change children’s behavior; through repetition and consistent reinforcement, good behaviors could be formed, while undesirable ones were eliminated.

The therapy was individualized and time-consuming — to the tune of 40 hours a week — and it needed to be delivered early in a child’s development.

Suddenly parents were seeing positive results. For some, it offered the promise of normalcy for their kids; for others, the humbler goal of making their family lives more manageable.

It was also expensive — so parents lobbied to have it covered by insurance or schools. By the 2010s, ABA became a standard treatment for kids with autism.

But over the past few years, that first generation of kids to receive intensive ABA has grown up — and they’re telling a different story.

Instead of being a key that unlocked their freedom — and that unlocked their brains from the “confines” of autism — many have criticized ABA as harmful and even abusive, calling it “conversion therapy for autistic people.”

ABA practitioners and experts have defended the therapy, saying that they’ve seen major changes for the better, and that the progress it offers outweighs its potential for damage. But self-advocates aren’t convinced — with some saying that, with other therapeutic options available, there’s no reason to keep ABA at all. Maybe, they say, it should be scrapped altogether. Maybe it’s simply rotten to the core.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Antivax, QAnon, MAGA Rally

 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 and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.   Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures. 

The anti-vax movement has a great deal of overlap with MAGAQAnon, and old-school conspiracy theory.  

Kelly McClure at Salon:
This weekend, a cabal of right-wing figures — some who are looking to win votes, and some who are looking to save souls, have rallied together at the perfectly named Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pennsylvania for an anti-vax, anti-trans, pro-QAnon rally called The ReAwaken America Tour.

Eric Trump, one of the speakers of the event along with a long list that includes Roger Stone, pillow man Mike Lindell and Doug Mastriano, gave the audience a thrill during Friday's kick-off when he called his dad from the stage and played the audio into a mic for all to hear.

"We're gonna call him quickly," Eric said to a cheering audience elated to hear the former president's voice add itself to the frothed up atmosphere.

"So dad, you have an amazing crowd here in Pennsylvania," the junior Trump said to his father, holding up the phone for everyone to scream into it and cheer.


Produced by Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark, the event will close on Saturday with a speech by Trump-backed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who has been vocal about his anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ beliefs during his campaign.

It included a rogues gallery of antivaxxers:Sherri Tenpenny, Simone Gold, Patrick Byrne, Lori Gregory, Judy Mikovits.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Training Videos for First Responders

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people

In Rhode Island, the Autism Project (TAP) created short videos to educate police, fire, EMS, and state troopers about interactions with autistic people and their families during stressful or routine encounters.

From the YouTube page:

This project is supported by Grant No. 2020-J1-BX-0013 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, The National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this video are those of the participants and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Here is the trailer:

Friday, October 21, 2022

Worsening Shortage of Direct Support Professionals

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.  

For the third consecutive year, ANCOR has measured the impact of the direct support workforce crisis on community providers and their ability to provide high-quality community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Although our research indicates that this was a significant challenge long before the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the 2022 State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis confirms that these problems have not only been amplified by the pandemic but are also at the root of service and program closures, service launch delays, struggles adhering to quality standards and more. The results of our 2022 survey reveal that this workforce emergency is now to the point of denying access to services and further threatening the quality of services for people with I/DD.

Over the course of a four-week period beginning in August 2022, ANCOR fielded a survey across its provider network that garnered 718 responses. In the broadest terms, what we found is that providers are unable to attract and retain DSPs at a rate that, if left unaddressed, has the potential to completely collapse the system of services as we know it.

Key findings from ANCOR’s 2022 State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis survey include that:
  • 83% of providers are turning away new referrals, a 25.8% increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • 63% of providers are discontinuing programs and services, a staggering 85.3% increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • 92% of providers are struggling to achieve quality standards, a 33.3% increase since the beginning of the pandemic and a 13.6% increase in the last year alone.
  • 71% of case managers are struggling to find available providers, citing difficulty to connect families to long-term services and supports due to lack of available providers.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

An ER Horror Story

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss health care issues and state Medicaid services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

William Wan at WP:

By his fourth week waiting for help in the emergency room, Zachary Chafos’s skin had turned pale white from lack of sun.

His mother, Cheryl Chafos, bathed her autistic teenage son daily in the ER’s shower, trying to scrub the sickly pallor off him. His father, Tim Chafos, held the 18-year-old’s hand, trying to soothe his son’s pain and confusion over what was happening.

They’d brought Zach to Howard County General Hospital on Nov. 12, 2020, amid a severe mental crisis. All his life, he’d been the joyful center of their family. But after months of pandemic isolation, Zach had become uncontrollably angry and begun physically assaulting his parents and his younger brothers.

Now he and his parents found themselves in medical purgatory, waiting for psychiatric treatment that never seemed to arrive. Every day, Zach’s case manager in the ER would call to see if a psychiatric bed had opened up. Every day, the answer was no.

In the state of Maryland, there are roughly 1,040 licensed psychiatric beds for adults in general and private hospitals and another 240 for children and teens. The majority are almost always full.

After 48 days in ER, he finally got a bed in a neuropsychiatric unit.  Ten days later, he was dead.  The death certificate listed an epileptic seizure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Florida Antivax Surgeon General Goes on Bannon

 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 and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.   Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures. 

The anti-vax movement has a great deal of overlap with MAGA, QAnon, and old-school conspiracy theory.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Enabled Intelligence

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.

Katrina Manson at Bloomberg:

Enabled Intelligence's main type of work, known as data annotation, is usually farmed out to technically skilled but far cheaper labor forces in countries including China, Kenya and Malaysia. That’s not an option for US government agencies whose data is sensitive or classified, [CEO Peter] Kant said, adding that more than half his workforce of 25 are “neurodiverse.”


For decades, workers with developmental disabilities, especially autism, have faced discrimination and disproportionately high unemployment levels. A large shortfall in cybersecurity jobs, along with a new push for workplace acceptance and flexibility — in part spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic — has started to focus attention on the abilities of people who think and work differently.

Enabled Intelligence has adjusted its work rules to accommodate its employees, ditching resumes and interviews for online assessments and staggering work hours for those who find it hard to get in early. It has built three new areas for classified material and hopes to secure government clearances for much of its neurodiverse workforce — something the US intelligence community has sometimes struggled to accommodate in the past. Pay starts at $20 an hour, in line with industry standards, and the company provides health insurance, paid leave and a path for promotion. Enabled Intelligence expects to make revenues of $2 million this year and double that next year, along with doubling its workforce.

The US intelligence community has been slow to catch on to the opportunity, critics say. It falls short of the 12% federal target for workforce representation of persons with disabilities, according to the latest statistics out this month. Until this year, it has also regularly fallen short of the 2% federal target for persons with targeted disabilities, which include those with autism.

“In other countries it’s old hat,” said Teresa Thomas, program lead for neurodiverse talent enablement at MITRE, which operates federally funded research and development centers. She cites well established programs in Denmark, Israel, the UK and Australia, where one state recently appointed a minister for autism.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Identifying Autistic Children in the Court System

As work continues to bring lasting reform to the judicial system for individuals with autism, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty today announced the launch of a new data initiative being piloted within the dependency court system to assist children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

The goal of the pilot data collection effort is to identify children diagnosed or self-reported with autism at the time of entry into the court system. In doing so, county, judicial and law enforcement agencies will be better informed and further equipped to recognize and respond to individuals with autism in dependency cases. At the completion of the pilot program, Dougherty hopes to expand the effort system-wide. 

By making this information available will be better prepared to meet the needs of all court users. “One in 44 children and one in 56 adults in Pennsylvania are diagnosed with autism,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty.  “Three years ago we joined forces with judges, attorneys, court staff, advocates, law enforcement, medical practitioners and more with a shared goal of making the court system a place where everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are and offered the help they need, when they need it the most. “

 In 2020, the Supreme Court signaled its commitment to Pennsylvanians with autism by forming a firstof-its-kind partnership with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to heighten the focus on helping judges better understand the necessary evaluations required for diagnosis, treatment and services for individuals with ASD. 

Committed to moving the initiative forward, Dougherty and DHS developed a statewide virtual listening tour to hear first-hand about challenges faced in the system from medical professionals, service providers and individuals with autism alike as they sought access to justice. 

Since that time, Justice Dougherty has partnered with the Pennsylvania Courts’ Office of Children and Families in the Courts to create a taskforce known as the Autism in the Courts Taskforce. The taskforce is focused on providing increased training opportunities for judges, helping further identify gaps in the system for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities and creating a local roadmap to resources and services. 

For more information about the Autism and the Courts effort visit

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Identity-First or Person-First?

 From the preface to The Politics of Autism.

A major theme of this book is that just about everything concerning autism is subject to argument. There is not even any consensus on what one should call people who have autism and other disabilities. “In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terms such as `Autistic,’ `Autistic person,’ or `Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity,” writes blogger Lydia Brown.[i] Other writers prefer “people-first” language (e.g., “persons with autism”) since it puts the persons ahead of the disability and describes what they have, not who they are.[ii] For the sake of stylistic variety, this book uses both kinds of language, even though this approach will satisfy neither side. I can only say that I mean no offense.

Amanda Taboas and colleagues have a short report in Autism titled "Preferences for identity-first versus person-first language in a US sample of autism stakeholders."  Lay abstract:

 There is currently disagreement among professionals (such as teachers, therapists, researchers, and clinicians) about the most appropriate and respectful way to refer to individuals with disabilities in general, and those with autism, in particular. Supporters of person-first language feel that it is important to emphasize the person rather than the disorder or disability, and promote the use of terms such as, “person with autism” or “a person with ASD.” The goal is to reduce stereotypes and discrimination and emphasize the person’s individuality rather than their disability. However, some people within the autism community have questioned the use of person-first terms because they are awkward and use an unconventional style of language that draws attention to the disability. Moreover, autistic individuals and their families are beginning to support the use of identity-first language that embraces all aspects of one’s identity. Surveys in the United Kingdom and Australia support the idea that both types of language are preferred by different groups of autism stakeholder groups. In our study, we surveyed autism stakeholders in the United States. Overwhelmingly, autistic adults (n = 299) preferred identity-first language terms to refer to themselves or others with autism. Professionals who work in the autism community (n = 207) were more likely to support and use person-first language. Language is dynamic and our findings support the need for open communication among autism professionals about how we communicate with and about autistic individuals and their families.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Campaigns and Prejudice Against People with Disabilities

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including casual prejudice against disabled people.

Mehmet Oz is a doctor who peddles dubious supplements and hosts antivaxxers on TV.  His Trumpist campaign for a Senate seat from Pennsylvania has attacked opponent John Fetterman for his speech problems following a stroke.  Alex Samuels at FiveThirtyEight:
The lines of attack used against Fetterman, many of which are ableist (meaning they convey prejudice, either overt or subtle, against people with disabilities), tap into long-standing stereotypes about people with disabilities and could affect voters’ perceptions of him. That’s because there continues to be stigma against people with disabilities, according to Lisa Schur, a co-director of the Rutgers Program for Disability Research. As a result, she said, political “candidates with disabilities have to work extra hard to ensure voters that, yes, I’m competent and capable of doing the job.” This stigma can be particularly intense for candidates with mental or cognitive disabilities — or even for candidates where questions are raised about their cognitive function.

To be sure, we don’t have enough evidence to say for certain whether candidates with disabilities have a lower chance of winning elections. We do know, however, that people with disabilities are dramatically underrepresented in government. That’s especially true at the federal level where just over 6 percent of elected officials reported having a disability compared with 12 percent at the local level, according to a study from Schur and her co-director Douglas Kruse.

It figures Oz is positively canine in his devotion to Trump.  In 2020, I wrote a piece for USA Today on Trump's contempt for people with disabilities:

He displayed that attitude long before he became president. As his niece Mary Trump recounts in her new book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” Trump cut off his nephew’s medical coverage after he challenged the will of family patriarch Fred Trump. The nephew had a baby son with a severe neurological disorder. A reporter for the New York Daily News asked Trump how he felt about coldly stopping health insurance for a disabled infant. “I can’t help that. It’s cold when someone sues my father.” The nephew and his wife eventually settled with Trump. Their son now lives with cerebral palsy.

Barbara Res, who ran construction at the Trump Organization, recalled Trump talking to an architect in a Trump Tower elevator. He asked the architect about the raised dots next to the floor numbers. When the architect explained that they were Braille, Trump shouted, “Get rid of the (expletive) braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower.’

His contempt for disabilities spilled into national view when he mocked New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski. Trump made fun of Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis, a condition that limits the use of his arms. “Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don't know what I said! I don’t remember!’” Trump said as he thrashed his arms. Trump later denied that he was ridiculing Kovaleski’s disability, claiming that he did not remember the reporter. He lied.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Workplace "Hidden Curriculum"

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

Karla L. Miller at WP:
While the topic of disabilities often brings to mind visible markers — wheelchairs, guide dogs, sign language — many health conditions aren’t as readily apparent. It’s especially difficult to detect the barriers that prevent neurodivergent adults — those with attention deficit, autism, dyslexia, or other neurological differences — from accessing fulfilling full-time employment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2.2 percent of adults are on the autism spectrum, although the condition often goes undiagnosed, particularly in women. Joseph Riddle, director of Neurodiversity in the Workplace, estimates that “fewer than 1 in 6 neurodivergent job seekers are employed full-time at the level they should be.”

When people do land full-time jobs, they often encounter internal barriers that make it difficult to keep those jobs. “Every workplace has what’s called a ‘hidden curriculum,’ ” says Riddle — an implicit set of assumptions and expectations about how people behave and communicate that can be difficult for neurodivergent thinkers to navigate.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Oz 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.

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.   Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures.

David Corn at Mother Jones:
In February 2021, as the new vaccines that would tame the Covid pandemic were being released to the general public, an article sourced to an osteopath in Cape Coral, Florida, claimed that the vaccines were “a medical fraud” and did not counter the disease. The shots, it said, “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”

The man pushing these false statements was Joseph Mercola, a pioneer of the anti-vaccination movement, who had a history of Covid denialism, having asserted that there was no pandemic and that Covid was a “scam.


Yet a few years earlier, Dr. Mehmet Oz, now the Republican candidate for US Senate in Pennsylvania, had validated Mercola and boosted his audience, helping this anti-vaxx crusader expand his ability to disseminate false and possibly dangerous information.

In 2009, after Oz had appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show dozens of times, Winfrey set him up with a syndicated television show of his own on which he covered assorted health issues. It was a success. But four years later, in a lengthy profile of Oz, New Yorker reporter Michael Specter noted that Oz had “consistently” booked “guests with dubious authority” to challenge conventional medicine. That included Mercola, who had quit practicing as a doctor to run a highly profitable business selling alternative health products and dietary supplements.

...In 2014, Steven Salzberg, a professor of biomedical engineering and computer science at Johns Hopkins University and a columnist for Forbes, penned a similar critique of Oz’s promotion of Mercola:

Why has Dr. Oz repeatedly had Joe Mercola on his show? This is a tough one. Does Oz believe that autism is caused by vaccines, something Mercola has claimed repeatedly over the years? Does he understand that Mercola’s anti-vaccination campaign leads to genuine harm? Does he know that the FDA has repeatedly issued warnings to Mercola to demand that he stop making false claims about his vitamins and supplements, as Chicago Magazine reported?

Or does Dr. Oz keep inviting Mercola back because he knows Mercola has a big audience that will increase his own viewership?

In 2016, Julia Belluz reported on Trump's appearance on Oz's show:

Oz — a cardiothoracic surgeon — isn’t known for being a tough interviewer, particularly when it comes to vaccine deniers. In the past, he’s been criticized for lending his giant platform to anti-vaxxers, including the alternative medicine doctor Joe Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy. (Oz has already said he won't ask Trump things that he wouldn't want to answer.)