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Monday, July 31, 2023

Autism and Special Education Data

InThe 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.

Katherine Schaeffer at Pew:

Students with autism made up 12% of the nation’s schoolchildren with disabilities in 2021-22, compared with 1.5% in 2000-01. During those two decades, the share of disabled students with a specific learning disability, such as dyslexia, declined from 45% to 32

Sunday, July 30, 2023

ADA Anniversary

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

 A July 25 proclamation from the White House:

Thirty-three years ago, the Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — one of the most important civil rights laws in our history. Its tireless champion, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, celebrated with a speech on the United States Senate floor in American Sign Language. His remarks were not only a tribute to his brother, who was deaf, but a message to the millions of Americans with disabilities that, in this country, everyone is equal and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I was proud to co-sponsor that landmark law back then, and I am proud to celebrate its lasting legacy with a renewed push for opportunity and justice today.

It is hard for younger generations to imagine a world without the ADA, but before it existed, if you were disabled, stores could turn you away and employers could refuse to hire you. Transit was largely inaccessible. America simply was not built for all Americans, but courageous activists pushed to change that. In 1973, the Congress passed the landmark Rehabilitation Act, banning discrimination by any federally funded entity. Then, 17 years later, a bipartisan group of legislators persevered in passing the ADA, banning discrimination against people with disabilities in most areas of public life, from the workplace and public schools to public transit and telecommunications.

The ADA has had a profound impact, but we still have much more work to do. Disabled Americans are still three times less likely to have a job; and when they do, they often earn less for doing the same work. Voting locations, transit, and public spaces are too often inaccessible. And we need to continue building a culture that not only protects disability rights but also celebrates disability pride.

My Administration has worked hard to build on the ADA’s foundation. Soon after I came into office, I signed an Executive Order advancing opportunities for people with disabilities in the Federal workforce; and we are helping State and local governments, employers, and nonprofits tap Federal funds to hire more Americans with disabilities as well. We ended the use of unjust sub-minimum wages in Federal contracts, and the Department of Labor is working around the clock to protect the rights of disabled workers. The Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services also developed guidance for emergency responders to better protect the rights of people with disabilities. And to ensure that every American has the opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote, I signed an Executive Order directing agencies to make voter registration and information about voting resources more accessible.

We are also rebuilding our Nation’s infrastructure and making transit and public spaces more accessible. Our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes our Nation’s biggest investment ever in accessible transit. This includes $1.75 billion to repair and improve accessibility in transit stations across America — including in some of our oldest and busiest railways. This historic investment also expands access to high-speed Internet, so millions of disabled Americans can work, study, and stay connected from home. The Department of Transportation is working to improve air travel for all, including for people who use wheelchairs. And the United States Access Board is developing new guidelines under the ADA that will improve the accessibility of sidewalks, streets, crosswalks, and other public rights of way.

We also know the isolation and loss of the pandemic hit the disability community especially hard. That is a big reason why we provided tens of billions of dollars to States to expand Medicaid — an essential lifeline for 21 million Americans, including many in the disability community. And last month, I worked with members of the Congress to reach a bipartisan budget deal that protects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I also signed an Executive Order to improve jobs and support for caregivers and provide more care options for people with disabilities and their families. I continue to urge States that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to at least cover residents who are currently locked out. And I call on the Congress to improve and expand home- and community-based services so more seniors and people with disabilities can live independently in their own homes.

The ADA is an essential foundation to this continued work -‑ a reminder that we can still do big things in America when we come together. For over 61 million disabled Americans, it is much more than a law — it is the key to equality, opportunity, and independence. And for our country, it is a testament to our character and commitment to keep pushing to finally realize the full promise of America for all Americans.

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 July 26, 2023, as the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I encourage Americans to celebrate the 33rd year of this defining moment in Civil Rights law and the essential contributions of individuals with disabilities to our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of July, 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-eighth.


Saturday, July 29, 2023

Detention Alternative for Autistic Youth

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between the justice system and autistic people.

Denise Rosch at KSNV:

It's another busy afternoon in Judge Sunny Bailey’s courtroom.

“The terms and conditions will be as follows, you need to stay out of trouble,” she tells a young defendant.

One by one teenagers arrive for a status check, but this is no ordinary juvenile delinquency caseload.

Everyone on the docket is autistic. Requiring something more from the justice system.

“The regular probation system doesn't account for the type of thinking and the type of needs that kids on the spectrum have,” explains Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Clarke. “So, by having DAAY court we have services and providers right there that we can plug in.”

DAAY court, or Detention Alternative for Autistic Youth aims to do exactly what the name implies.

Keep young offenders out of lockup, and the revolving door that can be the criminal justice system.


Friday, July 28, 2023

The Health of Parent Caregivers

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

Hamre, Kristin; Nord, Derek; and Andresen, John (2023) "Caregiver health: Having a child with ASD and the impact of child health insurance status," Developmental Disabilities Network Journal: Vol. 3: Iss. 2, Article 5. Available at: 

The abstract
This study aims to understand the health outcomes of parents with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the interactive effect of child health insurance status. The
study utilized 2014-2018 pooled National Health Interview Survey data to construct weighted national estimates and assess main and interaction effect logistic regression models. Findings show parents of children with ASD experienced significantly poorer health compared to parents of children without autism. Insurance status was found to significantly interact with child ASD status. Compared to parents of children without ASD who used private insurance, parents who had a child with ASD who used private insurance, public insurance, or were uninsured were found to have 1.5-, 3.2-, and 2.1-times higher odds of poorer health, respectively. Future research and implications on policy and practice are discussed.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Doreen Granpeesheh Gets CARD Back

Dietrich Knauth at Reuters:
The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, which operates 130 treatment centers in the U.S., received bankruptcy court approval on Wednesday to sell itself back to its founder for $48.5 million.

The Nevada-based company, which is majority-owned by private equity firm Blackstone (BX.N), filed for bankruptcy in June, saying its business had suffered from higher labor costs, unprofitable long-term contracts with government and commercial healthcare providers, and a long-term shift to telehealth services.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Jones approved the sale at a court hearing in Houston, Texas, saying he was "pleasantly surprised" the company's bankruptcy auction had managed to drive up the sale price from an initial $25 million bid.

"This is an important asset," Jones said. "Not only does it provide jobs and fill a spot in the market, it also provides a very valuable service to a segment of our population that needs help."

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

RFK Jr. and the 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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrongA leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the HolocaustRolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck at CNN:

Public campaign finance disclosures from Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign reveal numerous payments to individuals and groups whose ideologies differ significantly from traditional Democratic Party politics, a review by CNN’s KFile finds.

Among the expenditures was a payment for $13,550 to a consulting company called KFP Consulting which was registered in May 2023. The company’s managing member, according to incorporation records, is controversial anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree.

Bigtree, a film producer who also founded the anti-vaccination group Informed Consent Action Network, regularly speaks against vaccination and public health measures. He was condemned by Jewish groups for once comparing vaccination to the persecution of Jews by wearing a Holocaust-era Star of David badge to protest vaccinations. He also spoke against Covid-19 vaccinations at the rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.


The Kennedy campaign also paid at least two people employed by Moms Across America, an organization that spreads awareness about GMOs and pesticides in food, and which has promoted the claim that GMOs are linked to autism – a claim the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says is false. Anne Temple, a graphic designer, and the group’s founder Zen Honeycutt – who Kennedy called a “modern day Rachel Carson” – both received payments from the campaign. Carson, a marine biologist and nature writer, wrote the influential environmental conservationist book “Silent Spring” in 1962, which documented the harm of the pesticides on the environment.

Other individuals paid by Kennedy’s campaign include a film editor who worked on anti-vax films; a woman who works as a coach to help parents “unschool their children” from traditional in-person schools amidst the coronavirus pandemic; a self-declared autism advocate who has falsely linked vaccines to autism; and an artist and content creator who has a podcast that frequently discusses aliens and founded a Clubhouse channel where users ruminate on “aliens, demons, and witchcraft,” vaccine conspiracies, reptilian humanoids, and artificial intelligence.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Excess Republican Deaths

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 measles and 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. 

Jacob Wallace,; Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham; Jason L. Schwartz, "Excess Death Rates for Republican and Democratic Registered Voters in Florida and Ohio During the COVID-19 PandemicJAMA Internal Medicine

Key Points

Question Was political party affiliation a risk factor associated with excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida and Ohio?

Findings In this cohort study evaluating 538 159 deaths in individuals aged 25 years and older in Florida and Ohio between March 2020 and December 2021, excess mortality was significantly higher for Republican voters than Democratic voters after COVID-19 vaccines were available to all adults, but not before. These differences were concentrated in counties with lower vaccination rates, and primarily noted in voters residing in Ohio.

Meaning The differences in excess mortality by political party affiliation after COVID-19 vaccines were available to all adults suggest that differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republican and Democratic voters may have been a factor in the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the US.

Importance There is evidence that Republican-leaning counties have had higher COVID-19 death rates than Democratic-leaning counties and similar evidence of an association between political party affiliation and attitudes regarding COVID-19 vaccination; further data on these rates may be useful.

Objective To assess political party affiliation and mortality rates for individuals during the initial 22 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design, Setting, and Participants A cross-sectional comparison of excess mortality between registered Republican and Democratic voters between March 2020 and December 2021 adjusted for age and state of voter registration was conducted. Voter and mortality data from Florida and Ohio in 2017 linked to mortality records for January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2021, were used in data analysis.

Exposures Political party affiliation.

Main Outcomes and Measures Excess weekly deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic adjusted for age, county, party affiliation, and seasonality.

Results Between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2021, there were 538 159 individuals in Ohio and Florida who died at age 25 years or older in the study sample. The median age at death was 78 years (IQR, 71-89 years). Overall, the excess death rate for Republican voters was 2.8 percentage points, or 15%, higher than the excess death rate for Democratic voters (95% prediction interval [PI], 1.6-3.7 percentage points). After May 1, 2021, when vaccines were available to all adults, the excess death rate gap between Republican and Democratic voters widened from −0.9 percentage point (95% PI, −2.5 to 0.3 percentage points) to 7.7 percentage points (95% PI, 6.0-9.3 percentage points) in the adjusted analysis; the excess death rate among Republican voters was 43% higher than the excess death rate among Democratic voters. The gap in excess death rates between Republican and Democratic voters was larger in counties with lower vaccination rates and was primarily noted in voters residing in Ohio.

Conclusions and Relevance In this cross-sectional study, an association was observed between political party affiliation and excess deaths in Ohio and Florida after COVID-19 vaccines were available to all adults. These findings suggest that differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republican and Democratic voters may have been factors in the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the US.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Closures in Colorado and Pennsylvania

 The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of autism service providers.

Jennifer Brown at The Colorado Sun:
Colorado has lost at least nine agencies that provide therapy for children with autism in the past year and a half, leaving hundreds of families without care and filling up waitlists across the state.

Therapy providers say the reimbursement rates they receive from the Colorado Medicaid program are too low to keep their doors open, especially after many state residents became eligible for the federal-state insurance program during the pandemic.

At the same time, Colorado is facing a health worker shortage and autism therapy agencies say they are struggling to pay workers enough to keep them.
Gillian McGoldrick at The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Disability providers that run day programs, in-home care teams, and residential facilities say they need more state funding to stay open, increase wages, attract more workers, and offer services to the 60,000 Pennsylvania residents who need them.

About 34% of disability service agencies have closed since 2020, largely due to a shortage of workers, according to a survey by the organizations representing providers.

More than 12,000 people are waiting to be approved for state services in Pennsylvania, and about 4,000 more are approved for services but left them due to pandemic closures and have not yet returned — mostly due to the lack of available space.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

DeSantis and Preventable Deaths

 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. 

Sharon LaFraniere, Patricia Mazzei and Albert Sun at NYT:

[O]n the single factor that those experts say mattered most in fighting Covid — widespread vaccinations — Mr. DeSantis’s approach proved deeply flawed. While the governor personally crusaded for Floridians 65 and older to get shots, he laid off once younger age groups became eligible.

Tapping into suspicion of public health authorities, which the Republican right was fanning, he effectively stopped preaching the virtues of Covid vaccines. Instead, he emphasized his opposition to requiring anyone to get shots, from hospital workers to cruise ship guests.
While Florida was an early leader in the share of over-65 residents who were vaccinated, it had fallen to the middle of the pack by the end of July 2021. When it came to younger residents, Florida lagged behind the national average in every age group.

That left the state particularly vulnerable when the Delta variant hit that month. Floridians died at a higher rate, adjusted for age, than residents of almost any other state during the Delta wave, according to the Times analysis. With less than 7 percent of the nation’s population, Florida accounted for 14 percent of deaths between the start of July and the end of October.

Of the 23,000 Floridians who died, 9,000 were younger than 65. Despite the governor’s insistence at the time that “our entire vulnerable population has basically been vaccinated,” a vast majority of the 23,000 were either unvaccinated or had not yet completed the two-dose regimen.
A high vaccination rate was especially important in Florida, which trails only Maine in the share of residents 65 and older. By the end of July, Florida had vaccinated about 60 percent of adults, just shy of the national average. Had it reached a vaccination rate of 74 percent — the average for five New England states at the time — it could have prevented more than 16,000 deaths and more than 61,000 hospitalizations that summer, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

“These were preventable deaths,” Dr. [Scott] Rivkees, who resigned as Florida’s surgeon general in September 2021, said in a recent interview. “It breaks my heart thinking that things could have turned out differently if people embraced vaccines instead of this anti-vax stuff.”

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Antivaxxer Spews Falsehoods in Pennsylvania

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.

Saranac Hale Spencer at
It was recently repeated on a “medical freedom panel” hosted by Doug Mastriano — a Pennsylvania state senator who has made dubious claims about COVID-19 vaccines. Among those on his June 9 panel was Steve Kirsch, an entrepreneur who is not a doctor or medical expert.

Kirsch referenced the well-worn falsehood linking the MMR vaccine to autism, but broadened it to suggest that vaccines, generally, cause a host of ailments as well as gender dysphoria and homosexuality.

He told legislators, “The Amish are a perfect example of a large group of people who are largely unvaccinated and there’s no autism — we can’t find an autistic kid who was unvaccinated. It’s very, very rare. In the Amish community — very, very rare. You won’t find transsexuals. You won’t find homosexuals. You won’t find kids with ADD, with autoimmune disease, with PANDAS/PANS, with epilepsy. You just don’t find any of these chronic diseases in the Amish.”

Clips from this portion of the panel are now circulating on social media.

The broad claims are bogus, and so are the claims about the Amish

Friday, July 21, 2023

Autistic Language Patterns and a Problem with AI Detection

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

Richard Pollina The New York Post:
An assistant professor at Purdue University, who has been diagnosed with autism, said that they were accused by a fellow researcher of being an AI bot after sending an email that allegedly lacked “warmth.”

Rua Mea Williams, 37, warned that people with disabilities might be confused with artificial intelligence because fellow professors are not accounting for those who have neurological issues or are not native English speakers.

“Kids used to make fun of me for speaking robotically. That’s a really common complaint with Autistic children,” Williams told The Post on Thursday about the misconception.

“Chat GPT detectors are flagging non-native English speakers as using Chat GPT when really it’s just that they have an idiosyncratic way of pulling together words that’s based on translating their native language into English.”

Williams, who uses they/them pronouns, holds a Ph.D. in human-centered computing.y chose to share the interaction on Twitter to illustrate how the mistake could happen to anyone with disabilities.

“The AI design of your email is clever, but significantly lacks warmth,” the researcher replied to Williams’ email, followed by a request to speak with a “human being.”

“It’s not an AI. I’m just Autistic,” the professor replied, telling The Post it was “probably” not the first time they’ve been accused of “roboticness,” but is the first time they received the “bot implication.”


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Cutting Disability Programs?

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the congressional role in the issue.

I have an article at The Forum: "Disability Policy in the Contemporary Congress." Abstract:

The politics of disability policy in the contemporary Congress confirms the observation by James Curry and Frances Lee that lawmaking largely remains a process of bipartisan accommodation. Most major disability legislation since the 1970s has passed with bipartisan sponsorship and support. One reason is that the issue affects so many Americans, including members of Congress. There have been some exceptions to this bipartisan pattern, particularly when disability policy intersects with more contentious issues. And bipartisanship does not guarantee outcomes that are satisfactory to people with disabilities.

The current Congress might depart from this pattern.

Dear Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member DeLauro,

The undersigned organizational members of the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD) write to oppose the devastating cuts to the subcommittee allocations that were approved on June 15. We are deeply concerned about the significantly lower allocation levels compared to the caps set in the bipartisan budget agreement. The 302(b) numbers fall roughly $119 billion below the nondefense budget cap or FY 2022 levels agreed upon in the bipartisan agreement.

CCD is the largest coalition of national organizations working together to advocate for Federal public policy that ensures the self- determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society free from racism, ableism, sexism, and xenophobia, as well as LGBTQ+ based discrimination and religious intolerance. We are united in our stance against these detrimental cuts that will severely impact the lives of people with disabilities.

It is important to highlight that many federal departments including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Agriculture, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development fund crucial programs for individuals with disabilities. However, these programs are all at risk of facing over 25% in cuts.

Such drastic cuts will have grave consequences for housing assistance, education programs, healthcare, transportation, food assistance, employment opportunities, and other vital supports and services that are integral to the well-being of people with disabilities, many of whom already live with low incomes or in poverty. These needless reductions in funding will undoubtedly result in increased homelessness, children going without food, and a lack of transportation options for individuals seeking employment. Tragically, some individuals may even lose their lives due to the severity of these cuts.

Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that continued disagreements from the agreed upon allocations could result in a government shutdown that would greatly disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors with disabilities.

We implore you to recognize the immense harm that these cuts will inflict on individuals with disabilities and to take immediate action to rectify this situation. Our nation's commitment to inclusivity and compassion must not be compromised by short-sighted budgetary decisions.

We respectfully request that you agree to the funding levels for non-defense discretionary programs to at least the levels agreed to in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Investing in programs that directly benefit individuals with disabilities is not only morally right but also economically beneficial, as it fosters independence, productivity, and a stronger society as a whole. Please contact CCD Fiscal Policy Task Force Co-Chairs Kim Musheno at and Cindy Smith at with any questions.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


Undersigned organizations

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • Amputee Coalition
  • Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs
  • American Association on Health and Disability
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Autism Society of America
  • Autism Speaks
  • Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • CommunicationFIRST
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Division for Learning Disabilities - Council for Exceptional Children
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • Epilepsy Foundation
  • Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE)
  • Justice in Aging
  • Lakeshore Foundation
  • National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • National Respite Coalition
  • Pandemic Patients
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Special Needs Alliance
  • Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TED)
  • TASH
  • The Advocacy Institute
  • The Arc of the United States
  • The Kelsey

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Nevada to Establish Diversionary Court Program

Casey Harrison at The Las Vegas Sun:
Nevada is primed to become the first in the nation to establish a diversionary court program statewide for at-risk adolescent youths with autism, a move officials say will help children on the spectrum stay on a path of success.

Gov. Joe Lombardo held a ceremonial signing Monday in Las Vegas for Senate Bill 411, which allows family courts statewide to establish an “appropriate program” for children diagnosed with or suspected to have autism spectrum disorders. The bill passed unanimously through the Nevada Legislature.

“It shows you how much effort it takes to have successful legislation,” Lombardo told attendees at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, which included autism advocates, judges and public defenders. “The thing that surprised me with today’s bill is that it hasn’t happened before today. And that’s unfortunate, but now, fortunately, we’re moving forward as a community.”

A child assigned to the program must be made aware of the terms for successful completion of the program, including probation or other informal supervision, and the court must also provide benchmarks to “ensure that every child is making satisfactory progress” toward completing the program.
Clark County’s 8th Judicial District Court launched a similar diversionary program in 2018, spearheaded by juvenile court Judge Sunny Bailey, who is the mother of an autistic child, she told the Sun.

That program, which is called Detention Alternative for Autistic Youth, or DAAY Court, came about after Bailey was assigned a case involving a delinquent on the spectrum. She and others from the district attorney’s office volunteered on the side to develop a tailored supervision program to fit that child’s needs.

Monday, July 17, 2023

National Security and Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss military personnel and military families.  

Cortney Weinbaum at Military Times:

At conference of intelligence community professionals, I briefly stood up to describe a study my team was embarking on — the first ever conducted in the United States about neurodiversity and national security. Anyone who wanted to discuss it, I said, could find me later by the coffee table.

Two women introduced themselves as autistic senior intelligence officers. One was a leader at her agency; the other a highly seasoned intelligence officer. Both said their wish is for their autistic colleagues to be able to serve out of the closet, “like the LGBTQ community can.”

My team set out to examine whether neurodiversity — the diversity of all cognitive functions — would offer benefits to U.S. national security, as it has for Israel, the UK, and Australia. But we found that archaic U.S. military and federal policies, combined with decades-old understandings about autism spectrum disorder, create an environment where people hide their autism and other cognitive diagnoses.

The official Department of Defense policy is to exclude all autistic candidates from military service — with no exceptions. The reality is much more complicated.

The people we spoke to were often diagnosed after they joined the military. They described going outside of the military health system to pursue a diagnosis in secret during adulthood. A widely held perception among the service members we spoke to is that their 10 or 20 years of successful military promotions could be erased if an autism diagnosis becomes known — even though that condition would have existed since early childhood.
Cortney Weinbaum is a senior national security researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan, Rand Corp. She is the author of the study “Neurodiversity and National Security: How to Tackle National Security Challenges with a Wider Range of Cognitive Talents.” She is a former intelligence officer.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Antisemitism 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.

RFK Jr. has floated the lunatic theory that COVID is a bioweapon that somehow spares Ashkenazi Jews.

There are deep links between the antivax movement and antisemitism.  From previous posts:

Dr. Peter Hotez:

Antisemitism was always part of the far right, and here it manifested in two forms: One, there were direct antisemitic threats against Jewish doctors and Jewish scientists. More commonly, however, anti-vaxxers were invoking Nazi-era imagery and statements…kind of to mess with your head. These people would not only compare vaccines to the Holocaust but would claim that vaccines were a violation of agreements made at Nuremberg, along with requests to see doctors hanged or executed after Nuremberg-style trials. They would compare people like myself or Anthony Fauci to Josef Mengele. So, there were direct antisemitic threats, but it was more commonly the heavy use of Nazi imagery that I interpreted as a form of intimidation.
Media Matters:
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s group Children’s Health Defense sought support from users of the far-right social media platform Gab in 2021, including white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and an open neo-Nazi.

Anit-Defamation League:

In recent months, some anti-vaccine activists (known as anti-vaxxers) have appropriated the yellow Star of David badge, which some European Jews were required to wear during the Holocaust, to symbolize their “persecution” at the hands of government vaccine rules.
At least two protesters displayed Nazi symbols during an anti-vaccine protest outside a Jewish lawmaker’s office in the Bronx on Sunday.

One woman held a poster that included the image of a swastika and a man wore a yellow Star of David affixed to his jacket during the protest outside the Kingsbridge office of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, according to photos provided by the legislator.

Dinowitz blasted the symbols as “repugnant and offensive” in a statement posted to Twitter.

 Washington Post:  Andrew Jeong at WP:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. drew quick public criticism, including from his wife, on Monday after he compared the U.S. government’s vaccine mandates to the Holocaust actions of the Nazis, invoking Anne Frank to imply Jews then had more freedoms than unvaccinated Americans today.

... [H]is latest remarks drew especially strong condemnation for invoking Frank, a child who died in a Nazi concentration camp. “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did,” Kennedy said at a anti-vaccine rally in the District of Columbia on Sunday, speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial.


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Debunking Myths About Vaccines, Autism, and the Amish

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.

CLAIM: A new, comprehensive study has found zero cases of Amish children with cancer, diabetes, autism or other serious medical conditions and few deaths from COVID-19 because Amish people don’t get vaccinated.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There’s no new research supporting the claims. Experts who study Amish communities say most members have some level of vaccination and that research has shown significant deaths from COVID in the communities. They also say studies have documented cases of autism, diabetes and cancer among the Amish, albeit at lower rates in some cases than the broader population and for reasons that are unrelated to their vaccination status.

THE FACTS: Social media users are pointing to Amish communities as proof that vaccinations not only don’t work, but are harmful to our health.

Braxton Mitchell, an epidemiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has also studied Amish communities, said autism does occur among members, despite claims suggesting otherwise.

But he said it is a challenge to gather reliable data on the subject because autism and other related conditions require clinical assessments and expert diagnosis, which Amish families may not seek out.

Indeed a 2010 paper from the International Society for Autism Research found autism was less prevalent in Amish communities than the U.S. overall, but that further study was needed to determine how “cultural norms and customs” played a role in the numbers.

In 2021, Diane Boone reported on RFK Jr. at The Lancaster Patriot:

Kennedy mentioned that when he was involved in creating a film about mercury in vaccines, the film crew interviewed a doctor in Lancaster who ran a huge clinic, and the doctor stated that they did not see autism in the Amish community. The CDC, Kennedy said, has declared that the difference in autism rates among the Amish compared to the rest of Americans is because “the Amish are genetically different than the rest of us.” He argues that those in power will do everything they can to make the Amish vaccinate, since “it is a thorn in their side that there is a group of people in this country who are not chronically ill and who people like myself can point to them and say, ‘What about the Amish?"


Friday, July 14, 2023

Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities

Zablotsky B, Ng AE, Black LI, Blumberg SJ. Diagnosed developmental disabilities in children aged 3–17 years: United States, 2019–2021. NCHS Data Brief, no 473. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2023. DOI:
Data from the National Health Interview Survey:
  • During 2019–2021, the prevalence of any diagnosed developmental disability in children aged 3–17 years increased from 7.40% to 8.56%.
  • The prevalence of any developmental disability was lowest in non-Hispanic Asian children compared with other race and Hispanic-origin groups.
  • The prevalence of intellectual disability increased with age, while the prevalence of other developmental delay decreased with age.
  • Boys (4.66%) were more than three times as likely as girls (1.50%) to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Developmental disabilities are common in children in the United States, and the prevalence has increased in recent years (1). Timely estimates are necessary to assess the adequacy of services and interventions that children with developmental disabilities typically need (2). This report provides updated prevalence estimates for diagnosed autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and other developmental delay among children aged 3–17 years from the 2019–2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), with differences in prevalence examined between years and by sex, age group, and race and Hispanic origin. Estimates are also presented for any developmental disability, defined as having had one or more of these three diagnoses.


 Figure 3. Prevalence of children aged 3–17 years ever diagnosed with intellectual disability, by sex, age, and race and Hispanic origin: United States, 2019–2021