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Friday, March 31, 2023

Biden Proclaims World Autism Awareness Day

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss efforts to raise the issue's profile.

President Biden:

There is no one way to be autistic — each individual with autism experiences it differently — but together, autistic people make industries, communities, and our Nation stronger. Today, we celebrate the achievements of neurodiverse people everywhere and champion the equal rights and dignity of all those living on the autism spectrum.

Here in the United States, more than 5.4 million adults are autistic, and 1 in every 44 children has been diagnosed with autism. Yet this developmental disability is still misunderstood. Autistic people continue to face obstacles when seeking employment, health care, education, and housing, and the immense contributions of people with autism are often overlooked. We owe it to our fellow Americans to address the disparities they face and to support autistic people with tools that facilitate clearer communication, increased productivity, and greater independence.

That is why my Administration is funding cutting-edge research to enable earlier autism diagnoses and to develop more resources to help neurodiverse people of all ages thrive. Recognizing that Autism Spectrum Disorder is categorized as a disability, my American Rescue Plan provided $25 billion to States to make it easier for people with disabilities, including autism, to receive care at home. We also rolled out new tools and strategies for partner organizations to connect disabled Americans with stable housing while helping them pay rent, fight eviction, and prevent homelessness.

Last year, I was proud to reauthorize Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which expands training for first responders and others giving care to people with autism. And in my recent State of the Union Address, I called on the Congress to increase its support for community living for people with disabilities.

My Administration is also boosting employment opportunities for autistic and other historically marginalized Americans. I was proud to sign an Executive Order advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the Federal workforce, which will help create new jobs for Americans with autism and make space for their voices in the policy-making process.

We are helping State and local governments, employers, and nonprofits tap Federal funds to hire more Americans with disabilities like autism through competitive integrated employment practices. We are cracking down on employers who discriminate on the basis of disability, and we are fighting to end the unfair use of sub-minimum wages. I continue to urge States that have not yet expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to do the right thing and provide health insurance to those currently locked out of Medicaid support that would otherwise be available to them from the Federal Government. Medicaid expansion would help many Americans with disabilities, including those with autism.

To support students with autism, the Department of Education is ensuring that public schools uphold their obligation to provide free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to all students. My Administration has also issued new guidance to help schools avoid the discriminatory use of discipline, which too often impacts autistic students, whose needs and behaviors are commonly misunderstood.

As we build a more inclusive, just, and equal Nation, we aim to lead by the power of our example. I reestablished the role of Special Advisor on International Disability Rights at the Department of State to prioritize disability rights in our policy discussions with foreign nations. The United States Agency for International Development is advancing disability inclusion as part of its democracy, climate, humanitarian, and peacebuilding activities. And as co-chair of the Global Action on Disability Network and a participant in the Global Disability Summit, the United States continues to promote the equal human rights of people with disabilities worldwide.

America is founded on the idea that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout their lives. Today and always, let us strive to live up to this ideal. Let us embrace our diversity; empower each other to reach our full potential; and promote the basic decency, acceptance, and fairness we know is right.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2, 2023, as World Autism Awareness Day. I call upon all Americans to learn more about autism to improve early diagnosis, to learn more about the experiences of autistic people from autistic people, and to build more welcoming and inclusive communities to support people with autism.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Big Merger of Providers

Laura Lovett at Behavioral Health Business:
Intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) nonprofits Merakey and Elwyn have announced their intentions to merge.

The pair recently signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding to create a joint company with a 12,000-person workforce caring for 55,000 individuals in 16 states. The partners said the merged company will be focused on delivering holistic care and coordinating physical, behavioral and educational services for people with IDD.

Combining the companies’ entities would create a business with just under $1 billion in annual revenue. Last year, Merakey reported $618 million in revenue, with Elwyn reporting roughly $385 million.

“We believe that this combination could dramatically improve the delivery of programs and services for our individuals and improve their quality of life, and we are tremendously excited about its potential,” Joseph S. Martz, CEO of Merakey, said in a statement. “An affiliation would maximize the resources to allow for significant new investment in programs and permit technology improvements that would be game-changing in terms of delivering a coordinated array of services.”

Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania-based Merkey operates in 12 states. It provides behavioral health, IDD and educational services. The provider will bring 8,000 employees to the merger.

Meanwhile, Elwyn is a Media, Pennsylvania-based provider that offers education, treatment and supportive services to children and adults with autism and IDD. Founded in 1852, the provider currently operates in eight states.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Lawyer Tries to Get Autistic Client to Melt Down

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.”

Capitol insurrectionist Jacob Chansley -- the "QAnon Shaman" -- unsuccessfully used autism as a defense earlier this year

Another insurrectionist failed with a similar argument.  And now this:

Jurors in the recently concluded trial of six Oath Keeper affiliates were “horrified” by a defense attorney’s effort to provoke his autistic client into a “breakdown” on the witness stand, one of those jurors said Tuesday in a newly released interview.

A woman who helped decide the fate of the six defendants sat last week for a 90-minute interview with C-SPAN — her employer of 32 years — just two days after the jury completed its work. She provided extraordinary details about the tense closed-door deliberations that resulted in four defendants being convicted of obstructing Congress for their role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Identified only as Ellen, the juror told C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb that several members of the jury cried in the courtroom while they watched one of those defendants, William Isaacs, take the stand under grilling from his own attorney. The jury interpreted the strategy as a “stunt” designed to accentuate Isaacs’ struggle with autism, she said.

“His defense attorney tried to get him to fall apart by yelling at him and not letting him wear his headset,” Ellen recalled. “He was torturing his client to get us to feel sympathy.”

What was worse, the juror recalled, was that the judge ultimately instructed the jury not to consider Isaacs’ autism as a defense against his potential crimes, which meant the entire spectacle had been “a waste of time.

Isaacs’ attorney, Charles Greene, acknowledged that most of the jury recoiled at his posture toward his autistic client. It was all by design, he said, because he viewed acquittal as possible only if the jury could see Isaacs’ profound struggle.

“The strategy was: The jury’s going to hate me, but usually when you kick a puppy, the jury hates the person who kicks the puppy but they have sympathy for the puppy,” Greene told POLITICO.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Education Secretary on Corporal Punishment

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

After an initial vote failed, the OK House voted to ban corporal punishment against some students with disabilities.

Letter from Secretary of Education Miguel A. Cardona to state and local officials:

Our nation's schools should make every effort to provide children and youth with safe and supportive environments that protect and enhance their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Unfortunately, some schools continue to put the mental and physical well-being of students at risk by implementing the practice of corporal punishment,1 defined by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) as the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students.2 Therefore, if the use of corporal punishment is permitted or practiced in schools and educational settings within your state or district, I urge you to move swiftly toward condemning and eliminating it.
Laws in a majority of states and the District of Columbia ban the use of corporal punishment in public schools,3 and other states have prohibited the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities.4 According to the Department's Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the number of public school students subjected to corporal punishment declined between the 2013-14 to the 2017-18 school years.5 However, the use of corporal punishment in school is either expressly allowed or not expressly prohibited in 23 states.6 Furthermore, researchers have determined that the use of corporal punishment in schools is likely underreported.7
The CRDC data also reflects that students of color, boys, and students with disabilities are reported to be disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment.17 In the 2017-2018 school year, nearly 900 preschool students were subjected to corporal punishment.18 Boys represented about 81 percent of all students subjected to corporal punishment, but only account for about 50 percent of the total public school student population. As captured in this Office for Civil Rights infographic [PDF, 984KB], Black students were 2.3 times more likely than white students to receive corporal punishment.19 These disparities are particularly acute for Black students and students who represent more than one of these groups. In states that reported instances of corporal punishment, Black boys were twice as likely as white boys to be subjected to corporal punishment, and Black girls were 4 times as likely as white girls to be subjected to corporal punishment.20 In some states, other student subgroups, such as Native American students, are subject to corporal punishment at disparate rates.21

Monday, March 27, 2023

Prevalence and Antivaxxers

  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   Examples include measlesCOVID, flu, and polio.

The CDC report on autism prevalence has produced a predictable response from antivaxxers.

David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine:

Going back over my posts on this blog and my not-so-super-secret other blog, I found that antivaxxers were flipping out over vaccines as a cause of autism in 2018 (when the CDC reported autism prevalence was reported to be 1 in 59), in 2014 (when the CDC reported autism prevalence was reported to be 1 in 68), and in 2012 (when the CDC reported autism prevalence was reported to be 1 in 88). So did our founder Steve Novella, who wrote in 20092011, and 2014 about how true autism prevalence has almost certainly been unchanged over the last two or three decades.

Rising autism prevalence dating back to the 1980s has, ever since the myth that vaccines cause autism arose in the 1990s, fueled an antivaccine narrative that there is an autism “epidemic,” which in some cases has even been called a tsunami, an intentional comparison with a devastating natural disaster that sweeps away everything. At the same time, any scientific pushback against the claim that vaccines are the cause of increasing autism prevalence would be attacked as “denial.” It is a narrative that continues, with longtime antivaccine activist Mark Blaxill having pontificated on it in an interview after he’d somehow managed to publish an article with Toby Rogers and, yes, Cynthia Nevison in a bottom-feeding peer-reviewed journal less than two years ago.

Each time the CDC releases new figures for autism prevalence, along with its analysis of those figures (publications that almost always show up near the end of March, just in time for Autism Awareness Month), antivaxxers regurgitate the same argument: “Autism prevalence is still skyrocketing! It must be environmental factors (translation: vaccines, pollution, high fructose corn syrup, heavy metals, but mostly vaccines), but the CDC is ignoring these potential causes. In fairness, no one rules out environmental contributors to autism development that can alter the risk; it would be irresponsible to do so for a condition that is as multifactorial as autism. However, the evidence, as summarized by Steve and me (and many others) is that, by far, the largest contributor to autism is genetic, a conclusion that continues to be reinforced by more recent studies, to the point that signs of autism have been detected in the fetus, with the contribution of environmental factors being estimated to be between 7%-35%, but possibly as low as zero.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Early Identification

Shaw KA, Bilder DA, McArthur D, et al. Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 4 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2020. MMWR Surveill Summ 2023;72(No. SS-1):1–15. DOI:

The Abstract:
Description of System: The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network is an active surveillance program that estimates prevalence and characteristics of ASD and monitors timing of ASD identification among children aged 4 and 8 years. In 2020, a total of 11 sites (located in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin) conducted surveillance of ASD among children aged 4 and 8 years and suspected ASD among children aged 4 years. Surveillance included children who lived in the surveillance area at any time during 2020. Children were classified as having ASD if they ever received 1) an ASD diagnostic statement in an evaluation, 2) a special education classification of autism (eligibility), or 3) an ASD International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code (revisions 9 or 10). Children aged 4 years were classified as having suspected ASD if they did not meet the case definition for ASD but had a documented qualified professional’s statement indicating a suspicion of ASD. This report focuses on children aged 4 years in 2020 compared with children aged 8 years in 2020.

Results: For 2020, ASD prevalence among children aged 4 years varied across sites, from 12.7 per 1,000 children in Utah to 46.4 in California. The overall prevalence was 21.5 and was higher among boys than girls at every site. Compared with non-Hispanic White children, ASD prevalence was 1.8 times as high among Hispanic, 1.6 times as high among non-Hispanic Black, 1.4 times as high among Asian or Pacific Islander, and 1.2 times as high among multiracial children. Among the 58.3% of children aged 4 years with ASD and information on intellectual ability, 48.5% had an IQ score of ≤70 on their most recent IQ test or an examiner’s statement of intellectual disability. Among children with a documented developmental evaluation, 78.0% were evaluated by age 36 months. Children aged 4 years had a higher cumulative incidence of ASD diagnosis or eligibility by age 48 months compared with children aged 8 years at all sites; risk ratios ranged from 1.3 in New Jersey and Utah to 2.0 in Tennessee. In the 6 months before the March 2020 COVID-19 pandemic declaration by the World Health Organization, there were 1,593 more evaluations and 1.89 more ASD identifications per 1,000 children aged 4 years than children aged 8 years received 4 years earlier. After the COVID-19 pandemic declaration, this pattern reversed: in the 6 months after pandemic onset, there were 217 fewer evaluations and 0.26 fewer identifications per 1,000 children aged 4 years than children aged 8 years received 4 years earlier. Patterns of evaluation and identification varied among sites, but there was not recovery to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels by the end of 2020 at most sites or overall. For 2020, prevalence of suspected ASD ranged from 0.5 (California) to 10.4 (Arkansas) per 1,000 children aged 4 years, with an increase from 2018 at five sites (Arizona, Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, and Utah). Demographic and cognitive characteristics of children aged 4 years with suspected ASD were similar to children aged 4 years with ASD.

Interpretation: A wide range of prevalence of ASD by age 4 years was observed, suggesting differences in early ASD identification practices among communities. At all sites, cumulative incidence of ASD by age 48 months among children aged 4 years was higher compared with children aged 8 years in 2020, indicating improvements in early identification of ASD. Higher numbers of evaluations and rates of identification were evident among children aged 4 years until the COVID-19 pandemic onset in 2020. Sustained lower levels of ASD evaluations and identification seen at a majority of sites after the pandemic onset could indicate disruptions in typical practices in evaluations and identification for health service providers and schools through the end of 2020. Sites with more recovery could indicate successful strategies to mitigate service interruption, such as pivoting to telehealth approaches for evaluation.

Public Health Action: From 2016 through February of 2020, ASD evaluation and identification among the cohort of children aged 4 years was outpacing ASD evaluation and identification 4 years earlier (from 2012 until March 2016) among the cohort of children aged 8 years in 2020 . From 2016 to March 2020, ASD evaluation and identification among the cohort of children aged 4 years was outpacing that among children aged 8 years in 2020 from 2012 until March 2016. The disruptions in evaluation that coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in prevalence of suspected ASD in 2020 could have led to delays in ASD identification and interventions. Communities could evaluate the impact of these disruptions as children in affected cohorts age and consider strategies to mitigate service disruptions caused by future public health emergencies.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Pushback Against RI License Bill

In The Politics of Autism, I write:

[M]any police departments have trained officers and other first responders how to spot signs of autism and respond accordingly.[i] Some organizations have also published identification cards that ASD adults can carry in order to defuse potential conflicts. Virginia provides for an autism designation on driver licenses and other state-issued identification cards. Once again, however, the dilemma of difference comes into play. One autistic Virginian worries: “Great, so if I get into an accident, who’s the cop going to believe, the guy with the autistic label or the guy without it?” Clinical psychologist Michael Oberschneider is concerned about the understanding level of first responders: “I think many people still think of Rain Man or, more recently, the Sandy Hook Shooter, when they think of autism even though very few people on the autistic spectrum are savants or are homicidal and dangerous.”[ii]

Antonia Noori Farzan at The Providence Journal:
A proposal to create special driver's licenses and car decals bearing the word "autism" is generating backlash.

Advocates described the legislation introduced by two Westerly Democrats — at the request of an autistic teenager — as well-intentioned but misguided.

The bill, which will probably be revised, aims to ensure that an autistic driver is not perceived as a threat during a police stop. But opponents say that it could lead to harassment and discrimination.

"It is literally labeling us and putting us into a box, rather than uplifting and supporting us," said Camille Shea.


People who testified against the bill on Tuesday expressed concerns that drivers with a special driver's license or car decal could face harassment, bullying or discrimination.

"Licenses are shown for many purposes, and this designation would lead to stereotyping and breaches of the individual's confidentiality," wrote Mireille Sayaf, executive director of the Ocean State Center for Independent Living.


Adria Marchetti, a self-described "Black autistic person and parent of autistic children," suggested that the creation of a voluntary registry would "only be used as an excuse for police brutality when Black and brown people don't register."

"If this bill takes effect, could lack of disclosure during an incident be used against the autistic person, aka 'you should have opted in?'" wrote Heather Bryant of North Providence.

Hannah Stern of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island said the group understood the intention behind the legislation, but took issue with the fact that it "puts the burden on an individual with a disability."

Friday, March 24, 2023

One in Thirty-Six

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss evaluationdiagnosis, and the uncertainty of prevalence estimates.

 Matthew J. Maenner et al., "Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2020" MMWR  / March 24, 2023 / 72(2);1–14

Description of System: The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network is an active surveillance program that provides estimates of the prevalence of ASD among children aged 8 years. In 2020, there were 11 ADDM Network sites across the United States (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin). To ascertain ASD among children aged 8 years, ADDM Network staff review and abstract developmental evaluations and records from community medical and educational service providers. A child met the case definition if their record documented 1) an ASD diagnostic statement in an evaluation, 2) a classification of ASD in special education, or 3) an ASD International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code.

Results: For 2020, across all 11 ADDM sites, ASD prevalence per 1,000 children aged 8 years ranged from 23.1 in Maryland to 44.9 in California. The overall ASD prevalence was 27.6 per 1,000 (one in 36) children aged 8 years and was 3.8 times as prevalent among boys as among girls (43.0 versus 11.4). Overall, ASD prevalence was lower among non-Hispanic White children (24.3) and children of two or more races (22.9) than among non-Hispanic Black or African American (Black), Hispanic, and non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander (A/PI) children (29.3, 31.6, and 33.4 respectively). ASD prevalence among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) children (26.5) was similar to that of other racial and ethnic groups. ASD prevalence was associated with lower household income at three sites, with no association at the other sites.

Across sites, the ASD prevalence per 1,000 children aged 8 years based exclusively on documented ASD diagnostic statements was 20.6 (range = 17.1 in Wisconsin to 35.4 in California). Of the 6,245 children who met the ASD case definition, 74.7% had a documented diagnostic statement of ASD, 65.2% had a documented ASD special education classification, 71.6% had a documented ASD ICD code, and 37.4% had all three types of ASD indicators. The median age of earliest known ASD diagnosis was 49 months and ranged from 36 months in California to 59 months in Minnesota.

Among the 4,165 (66.7%) children with ASD with information on cognitive ability, 37.9% were classified as having an intellectual disability. Intellectual disability was present among 50.8% of Black, 41.5% of A/PI, 37.8% of two or more races, 34.9% of Hispanic, 34.8% of AI/AN, and 31.8% of White children with ASD. Overall, children with intellectual disability had earlier median ages of ASD diagnosis (43 months) than those without intellectual disability (53 months).

Interpretation: For 2020, one in 36 children aged 8 years (approximately 4% of boys and 1% of girls) was estimated to have ASD. These estimates are higher than previous ADDM Network estimates during 2000–2018. For the first time among children aged 8 years, the prevalence of ASD was lower among White children than among other racial and ethnic groups, reversing the direction of racial and ethnic differences in ASD prevalence observed in the past. Black children with ASD were still more likely than White children with ASD to have a co-occurring intellectual disability.

Public Health Action: The continued increase among children identified with ASD, particularly among non-White children and girls, highlights the need for enhanced infrastructure to provide equitable diagnostic, treatment, and support services for all children with ASD. Similar to previous reporting periods, findings varied considerably across network sites, indicating the need for additional research to understand the nature of such differences and potentially apply successful identification strategies across states.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

DeSantis, Trump, and Antivaxxers

 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. 

Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair:
On December 14, 2020, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, wearing a mask, watched expectantly as a FedEx truck backed up to a loading dock at Tampa General Hospital. The truck carried precious cargo: boxes of the very first COVID-19 vaccines. With a flourish, DeSantis signed the FedEx manifest. “Today, we will have shots going in arms,” he proudly declared.

By the end of last year, however, DeSantis’s vaccine cheerleading was a distant memory. On December 13, almost exactly two years after the FedEx delivery, he petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to let him empanel a statewide grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccine makers, particularly Pfizer and Moderna. “It is against the law to mislead and misrepresent, particularly when you’re talking about the efficacy of a drug,” DeSantis said, comparing the vaccine push to the profiteering that drove the deadly opioid epidemic.


Even a former senior Trump official who worked on Operation Warp Speed, the program that successfully accelerated vaccine development, acknowledges that DeSantis’s anti-vax 180 is “good politics.” Trump himself has drawn boos at his rallies when he mentions the vaccines. “There is a whole contingent of the GOP that don’t like vaccines,” the former official says.


In April 2019, DeSantis nominated Dr. Scott Rivkees to be Florida’s surgeon general. When DeSantis interviewed him for the job, “we talked about the importance of childhood vaccination,” says Rivkees, who is now a professor at the Brown University School of Public Health. “It was recognized as an important pillar of public health
At the end of September 2021, however, Rivkees left and [Joseph] Ladapo, a Harvard Medical School graduate and associate professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, was brought in.Ladapo had already gained notoriety for his critiques of school closures and “fear-fueled policy making” in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.I

In July 2020, he had joined a press conference outside the US Supreme Court to oppose lockdowns and mask-wearing, and tout unproven cures for COVID, such as hydroxychloroquine. The protest was organized by a group called America’s Frontline Doctors, whose founder was later convicted of breaking into the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection.

In his 2022 book, Transcend Fear: A Blueprint for Mindful Leadership in Public Health, Ladapo credits a segment by Fox News host Tucker Carlson with crystallizing his world view:
…I listened to Tucker talk about how the lockdowns were really an exercise in political power. As he spoke, it was as if something my subconscious self knew suddenly snapped right into my consciousness. He is exactly right, I remember thinking. The fact that a desire for political domination was a major motivation for early pandemic decisions is widely recognized now, but Tucker was prescient in his observation that day.
In short, Ladapo had concluded that the public health decisions made as a novel airborne pathogen surged throughout the world, killing millions and threatening to topple health care systems, resulted from the desire of medical elites to control populations.

This rising trope is echoed in the book’s foreword, written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in which he describes how “virtually every doctor in Germany” during the Third Reich “participated in Hitler’s worst atrocities.”

Dan Ladden-Hall at The Daily Beast:

Donald Trump’s latest attack on his likely GOP nomination rival Ron DeSantis appears to be that he’s not enough of an anti-vaxxer. On Wednesday night, Trump shared a post on his Truth Social platform calling the Florida Gov. “Ron DeSoros” as he appeared in a 2021 Fox News segment celebrating a 100-year-old WWII veteran being given a COVID vaccine. “This is a Classic,” Trump wrote as he shared the post. “So much for Ron and anti-vax. Besides, he got the vaccine and booster, just doesn’t talk about it. He also closed up Florida, and its beaches.”


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Luna Perez v Sturgis Public Schools

 IThe Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. II also discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families

From the Supreme Court

Petitioner Miguel Luna Perez, who is deaf, attended schools in Michigan’s Sturgis Public School District (Sturgis) from ages 9 through 20. When Sturgis announced that it would not permit Mr. Perez to graduate, he and his family filed an administrative complaint with the Michigan Department of Education alleging (among other things) that Sturgis failed to provide him a free and appropriate public education as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). See 20 U. S. C. §1415. They claimed that Sturgis supplied Mr. Perez with unqualified interpreters and misrepresented his educational progress. The parties reached a settlement in which Sturgis promised to provide the forward-looking relief Mr. Perez sought, including additional schooling. Mr. Perez then sued in federal district court under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seeking compensatory damages. Sturgis moved to dismiss. It claimed that 20 U. S. C. §1415(l) barred Mr. Perez from bringing his ADA claim because it requires a plaintiff “seeking relief that is also available under” IDEA to first exhaust IDEA’s administrative procedures. The district court agreed and dismissed the suit, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Held: IDEA’s exhaustion requirement does not preclude Mr. Perez’s ADA lawsuit because the relief he seeks (i.e., compensatory damages) is not something IDEA can provide.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Black Single Female Caregivers

 In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday experiences of autistic youths and caregivers.

At SSM - Qualitative Research in Health, Jennifer S. Singh has an article titled "Intersectional analysis of autism service inequities: Narratives of Black single female caregivers."

Despite the wide range of research on autism disparities in early identification, diagnosis, and access to services in racial and ethnic minorities in the United States compared to White children, few studies focus distinctly on the experiences of Black single female caregivers of children with autism. The dominant research and cultural narrative of White, married, and upper-middle-class families of a child with autism devalues the standpoint and experiences of caregivers whose social and economic position situates their differential experience of raising a child with a disability. Based on a narrative analysis of three Black single female caregivers who have a child diagnosed with autism and rely on Medicaid health insurance in the southern United States, this study offers an intersectional analysis of autism service inequities in diagnosis and services driving evident disparities based on race, gender, and social class. The analysis highlights intersecting ideological, political, and economic domains and associated institutions (i.e., education, employment, housing, and governing laws) that reflect and shape these narratives of autism service inequities. This study re-centers much-needed attention to the silent voices of Black single female caregivers made invisible in the structure of our society and offers a way forward by thinking critically about universal systems of care that can benefit all people.

From the article:

One important finding of this narrative analysis was the effects of caregiving on the mental and physical health of Black single caregivers raising a child with autism. This finding was also evident in the larger sample (Hong & Singh, 2019). While there is limited research in this area, especially among minority caregivers, population-based research indicates that the burden and stress on caregivers have a greater physical impact (i.e., more chronic illnesses and functional limitations) for Black mothers (Lee et al., 2022). Future research in this area is needed to investigate the long-term physical and mental impacts of structural inequities on parenting a child with autism at the intersection of race, class, and gender.


Monday, March 20, 2023

It Takes a Neighborhood

 In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday experiences of autistic youths and their families -- including safety on the streets.

Michelle Menezes, Jim Soland & Micah O. Mazurek have an article at The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled "Association Between Neighborhood Support and Family Resilience in Households with Autistic Children." The abstract:

The capacity of families with autistic children to demonstrate resilience is a notable strength that has received little attention in the literature. A potential predictor of family resilience in households with autistic youth is neighborhood support. This study examined the relationship between neighborhood support and family resilience in households with autistic youth utilizing data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. A structural equation model was constructed as neighborhood support and family resilience were latent variables. Findings demonstrated that neighborhood support significantly predicts family resilience. This study contributes to the literature as the first quantitative investigation of predictors of family resilience with this group. Strengths of autistic youth, their families, and their communities can be and should be leveraged to address challenges.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Vigil for Disabled Murder Victims

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
People with disabilities are victims of violent crime three times as often as people without disabilities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics does not report separately on autistic victims, but it does note that the victimization rate is especially high among those whose disabilities are cognitive. A small-sample study of Americans and Canadians found that adults with autism face a greater risk of sexual victimization than their peers. Autistic respondents were more than twice as likely to say that had been the victim of rape and over three times as likely to report unwanted sexual contact.
Previous posts have discussed parents who have killed or tried to kill their ASD children

Emily Alpert Reyes at LAT:
In the Burbank chapel, as attendees braced to hear the names of the dead, Pastor Ryan Chaddick welcomed the sparse crowd with familiarity.

“I’m here tonight, and we’re doing this,” said Chaddick, dressed simply in black, “because for some reason in 2023 we have to say to the world that killing disabled people is wrong.”

It seemed ridiculous, he said, to even have to announce that.

“But as long as disabled people are killed for being disabled,” he said, “I will rage against the night and we will light candles as protest and we will cuss and we will pray.”

Roughly a dozen people had trickled into the Burbank church on that frigid evening at the beginning of March to mark Disability Day of Mourning. To hear the names of people killed by parents and other relatives or caregivers. To listen to poems, songs, and readings about the outrage of disabled people losing their lives to those who were supposed to safeguard them.

For the Lutheran pastor, like many others in the chapel, the horror of those killings hits home. He is an autistic man, diagnosed in adulthood. He is also the father of autistic children, one of whose diagnosis set in motion his own. And his own path to understanding his daughters and himself led him to rethinking things in his life and his church.

“All of us — um, pretty sure, because I know you, or I’ve talked to you — everyone here is disabled or crazy,” Chaddick, 38, told the attendees with a slight smile and a nod before the readings began. “Welcome.”

In the United States, people with disabilities are nearly four times as likely to be a victim of a violent crime as those without disabilities, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics analysis. And when they are victimized, people with disabilities are twice as likely as other people to suffer violence at the hands of a family member — including their parents.

More than a decade ago, Zoe Gross helped launch the annual, now-international event in reaction to the framing of news stories about one such killing. Gross, director of advocacy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, was appalled by news coverage after the killing of 22-year-old Sunnyvale resident George Hodgins, who was shot by his mother, who then shot herself.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Autistic Filmmaker

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.
Joshua Pitney (aka "JP"), a sophomore at Pepperdine University, made Infinite, a  7-minute narrative film.  It depicts an autistic student who come to accept his identity. It won several awards at the Christian Online Film Festival.

 Samantha Bravo at The Malibu Times:

‘Infinite’ just became an official selection of the International Christian Film & Music Festival
“Infinite,” a short film produced by Pepperdine University sophomore Joshua Pitney and senior Autumn Johnson, has won several awards at the 65th Christian Online Film Festival.

Pitney wrote and directed the film, which depicts an autistic student who comes to accept his identity. Originally developed for a Screen Arts Production 2 class, the project is inspired by Pitney’s own experiences.

“I am on the autism spectrum, and I strive to tell authentic neurodiverse stories,” said Pitney. “So, this assignment was an opportunity for me to showcase correct autism representation. I was also able to pull in my own experiences of struggling with my identity and realizing I was made just the way God intended for me to be.”

The 7-minute film garnered accolades for Best Student Film (Joshua Pitney, Autumn Johnson), Best Actor (Kyle Burnett – Charlie The Student), Best Actor Supporting (Jack Pitney – The Teacher), Best Music & Sound (Kyle Simpson, Nolan Ause), and Best Villain (Carlos Gomez – Casey The Bully).

A screen arts major, Pitney selected a crew of nearly all Pepperdine students to create “Infinite,” and he credits the university for supporting his cinematic and personal journeys.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Ivermectin is the Latest "Miracle Cure"

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss autism quackery.  There have been lots of bogus "cures" over the years: chelation, camel milk, "magic dirt," and products containing bleach. They do not work and some are dangerous.  Over the past three  years, COVID has boosted quackery.

David Gilbert at Vice:
In a private group on Telegram, parents whose children are living with a range of disabilities including autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Down Syndrome cheer each other on and provide support when discussing daily struggles.

But the channel’s main function isn’t actually support: It’s to promote the use of veterinary ivermectin as a treatment—and in some cases a cure—for these disabilities.

Hundreds of parents have turned to this conspiracy network, and are recommending a drug to each other that experts have repeatedly said is designed only for large animals and is so concentrated that it can be toxic when ingested by humans. In the channel, parents even share stories about their children experiencing horrific side effects from the drug, including brain fog, severe headaches, nausea, muscle pain, and seizures—and are routinely dismissed by those running the channel, who claim it’s a normal part of the ‘healing’ process.

The Telegram channel was established in July 2022 as an offshoot of the much larger pro-ivermectin group “Dirt Road Discussions,” which was set up in October 2021 by Danny Lemoi, who took veterinary ivermectin for almost a decade to, he said, treat Lyme disease. When ivermectin became hugely popular among anti-vaxxers as a treatment for COVID-19, Lemoi leveraged his experience with the drug. (There is no evidence to back up the claims that ivermectin formulated for humans or for animals is an effective treatment for COVID-19.) Lemoi died suddenly earlier this month at the age of 50 with what the admins of his channel described as a heart that had “nearly doubled in size.”

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Oklahoma Bill on Corporal Punishment

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

María Luisa Paúl at WP:
Oklahoma state Rep. John Talley thought his bill to bar schools from spanking children with disabilities would find little to no opposition at the state’s legislature. After all, the Republican lawmaker said he had fielded calls with dozens of families and educational groups, drawn inspiration from his personal experience and received support from colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Yet on Tuesday, what seemed like a rare bipartisan moment quickly came crashing down as other Republican lawmakers invoked the Bible to argue against Talley’s House Bill 1028, claiming in some instances that “God’s word is higher than all the so-called experts,” as Rep. Jim Olsen posited during the proposed legislation’s debate. The bill wound up with 45 votes in favor and 43 against — six short of the 51 it needed to pass.

“Several scriptures could be read here. Let me read just one, Proverbs 29: ‘The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame,’” Olsen said. “So that would seem to endorse the use of corporal punishment.”

The problem with that assessment, Talley told The Washington Post, was that it conflated his bill with an overall ban on corporal punishment. House Bill 1028 would specifically prohibit schools from using that measure on “any student identified with a disability in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” The current state law bars the punishment — which includes slapping, spanking or paddling — for children with “the most significant cognitive disabilities,” unless the student’s parents allow it through a waiver.

A minister himself, Talley also disagreed with Olsen’s religious interpretation.

“Why don’t we follow all the other Old Testament laws?” Talley said. “There’s about 4,000 of them, and one of them is to not allow wives to wear jewelry, or stone your child if they’re disobedient. Why don’t we do that? Because we pick and choose what we want to follow.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Vicious Beating of Autistic Teen

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
People with disabilities are victims of violent crime three times as often as people without disabilities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics does not report separately on autistic victims, but it does note that the victimization rate is especially high among those whose disabilities are cognitive. A small-sample study of Americans and Canadians found that adults with autism face a greater risk of sexual victimization than their peers. Autistic respondents were more than twice as likely to say that had been the victim of rape and over three times as likely to report unwanted sexual contact.
 Emma Seiwell and Thomas Tracy at NY Daily News:
Detectives have identified the three teens who allegedly beat a 15-year-old autistic boy in an upper Manhattan subway station as others yelled the n-word at him in an attack that police are investigating as a possible hate crime.

The three teens hadn’t been arrested by Tuesday, as community activist groups decried the sheer viciousness and flippant racism seen in the video.

The boy, sporting glasses and a blue hooded sweatshirt, was pulled off a northbound A train at the 181st St. station near Fort Washington Ave. in Washington Heights around 5:30 p.m. Friday, cops said.

Video taken of the attack shows one teen handing the victim off to a teenage girl who grabs him by his sweatshirt and forces him to walk down the crowded platform.

“Walk!” the girl screams as her frightened victim tries to get back on the train. Commuters stare as she force-marches the boy down the platform..

After being shoved down the platform, the teen tries to break free, but the girl grabs his sweatshirt tighter.

“You runnin’!” she screams. “Why you runnin’!”

As a crowd gathers, several onlookers start screaming “N----- alert!” as the victim, who is Black, tries to break free one more time and jumps back on the train.