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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Autistic Youths, Healthcare Providers, and Driving

Myers, R.K., Labows, C., McDonald, C.C. et al. Preparing to “Live a Life of Possibilities”: Experiences of Healthcare Providers Readying Autistic Adolescents and Their Families for Independent Driving. J Autism Dev Disord (2024).
Autistic adolescents and their families may experience barriers to transportation, including independent driving, which is critical to supporting quality of life and engagement in social, educational, and employment opportunities. Healthcare providers may feel unprepared to provide guidance to autistic adolescents, although they are among the professionals families turn to for guidance. This study describes providers’ experiences supporting autistic adolescents and families in the decision to pursue licensure and identifies barriers experienced in providing support. We conducted interviews with 15 healthcare providers focused on how they support autistic adolescents and their families in navigating topics related to independence, driving, and transportation. Key themes identified included: importance of understanding adolescents’ perspectives and motivations, approaches to readying caregivers for children to pursue driving, and role of providers in fostering agreement between adolescents and caregivers. Results reflect healthcare providers as intermediaries between autistic adolescents and caregivers making the decision to pursue licensure and bring families to consensus. Our findings emphasize the importance of healthcare providers, in collaboration with community-based providers, in supporting autistic adolescents and their families considering licensure. Improving conversations between providers and families provides opportunity to better support quality of life among autistic adolescents and their caregivers navigating the transition to independence.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Knowledge of RFK

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 Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

Ariel Edwards-Levy at CNN:

Kennedy, who carries a storied surname, enjoys the sort of name recognition that most presidential challengers would envy. In the March Quinnipiac poll, 31% of registered voters said they hadn’t heard enough about him to form an opinion, compared to 71% for West, and 69% for Stein. But other polling suggests a significant gap between awareness of his existence and deeper knowledge of his positions: In a December Monmouth poll, roughly half of registered voters said they hadn’t heard anything about Kennedy’s positions on public health issues such as Covid-19 and vaccines, with a similar share saying they weren’t aware of Kennedy’s support for unsupported “claims that autism is linked to vaccines.”

From Monmouth:

The Monmouth University Poll finds just half (50%) of the voting public is aware Kennedy supports claims that autism is linked to vaccines and has said that Covid is “targeted to attack” people of certain races. This information however does not seem to have any meaningful impact on his support among American voters. The number who will definitely or probably vote for Kennedy after hearing this information moves a statistically insignificant one point upwards to 22% while the number who probably or definitely will not vote for him goes up by just two points to 76%.

“Kennedy’s name may be well-known, but his policy positions are not. However, it’s not clear that knowing those positions will move his support levels either up or down. At the current time, he appears to be more of a placeholder for expressing some generalized dissatisfaction with the likely trajectory of the 2024 nomination process,” said [Patrick] Murray.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

AI and IEPs

These meetings can turn nasty, and many autism parents have “IEP horror stories.”  One parent told me that she tried to ease tensions by bringing cookies to the meeting.  The principal then shouted to his staff, “Nobody touch those cookies!”  Another parent writes of asking for a sensory diet, a personalized activity plan that helps the student stay focused (e.g., low noise levels for those with a sensitivity to sound).  “After just proclaiming she is extremely knowledgeable about Asperger’s Syndrome, from the mouth of a school psychologist after we suggested our son needed a sensory diet. `Our cafeteria does not have the ability to provide this.’” 
Maybe AI can help.

Rakap, S., Balikci, S. Enhancing IEP Goal Development for Preschoolers with Autism: A Preliminary Study on ChatGPT Integration. J Autism Dev Disord (2024).  Abstract:

The impact of well-crafted IEP goals on student outcomes is well-documented, but creating high-quality goals can be a challenging task for many special education teachers. This study aims to investigate potential effectiveness of using ChatGPT, an AI technology, in supporting development of high-quality, individualized IEP goals for preschool children with autism.

Thirty special education teachers working with preschool children with autism were randomly assigned to either the ChatGPT or control groups. Both groups received written guidelines on how to write SMART IEP goals, but only the ChatGPT group was given handout on how to use ChatGPT during IEP goal writing process. Quality of IEP goals written by the two groups was compared using a two-sample t-test, and categorization of goals by developmental domains was reported using frequency counts.

Results indicate that using ChatGPT significantly improved the quality of IEP goals developed by special education teachers compared to those who did not use the technology. Teachers in the ChatGPT group had a higher proportion of goals targeting communication, social skills, motor/sensory, and self-care skills, while teachers in the control group had a higher proportion of goals targeting preacademic skills and behaviors.

The potential of ChatGPT as an effective tool for supporting special education teachers in developing high-quality IEP goals suggests promising implications for improving outcomes for preschool children with autism. Its integration may offer valuable assistance in tailoring individualized goals to meet the diverse needs of students in special education settings.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Blue Envelopes in Maine

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Some jurisdictions allow autistic drivers to ask for a blue envelope to disclose the driver's diagnosis in case of an accident or traffic stop.
Police in Cape Elizabeth are working to improve interactions between officers and drivers who may have autism, anxiety or other ailments.

The "blue envelope program" was started in 2020 in Connecticut and has since spread to other states.

Cape Elizabeth was the first community in Maine to launch the program last year.

Police say if they pull over a driver who exhibits nonverbal behaviors, the driver can present their information in a blue envelope containing photocopies of their driver's license, registration and insurance.
“My experiences is they are nonverbal, they are very anxious, they’re jittery,” Cape Elizabeth Police Sgt. Kevin Kennedy said. “And we just did not want to confuse that with someone that was under the influence or maybe not being cooperative. It’s just their diagnosis.”

Drivers with a blue envelope still need to follow officers’ directions in the event of a traffic stop or accident, but this program aims to make those interactions a little bit easier.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Another Risk Factor: Parental Psychiatric Disorders

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the conditionStudies have ruled out vaccines as a cause of autism, but there is a very long and growing list of other correlatesrisk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies This blog has identified at least 41 such items.  Here is yet another:

Weiyao Yin et al., "Association between parental psychiatric disorders and risk of offspring autism spectrum disorder: a Swedish and Finnish population-based cohort study," Lancet Regional Health, Open AccessPublished:April 23, 2024DOI:  Summary:

Roughly more than one in six adults worldwide suffer from psychiatric conditions. Sporadic studies have associated parental psychiatric disorders with autism spectrum disorder in offspring. Comprehensively examining the association between parental psychiatric disorders and offspring autism spectrum disorder is needed to guide health policies, and to inform etiologic studies.
We included all children born in Sweden and Finland 1997–2016. Diagnoses were clinically ascertained from National Registers through 2017. We calculated adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for autism spectrum disorder in offspring of fathers and mothers with psychiatric disorders, in both parents jointly and across co-occurring conditions.
Among 2,505,842 children, 33,612 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, of which 20% had a parent with psychiatric disorders. The risk of autism spectrum disorder was increased across all psychiatric disorders in fathers (Sweden: aHR = 2.02, 95% CI = 1.92–2.12; Finland: aHR = 1.63, 95% CI = 1.50–1.77), mothers (Sweden: aHR = 2.34, 95% CI = 2.24–2.43; Finland aHR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.92–2.28), or both parents (Sweden: aHR = 3.76, 95% CI = 3.48–4.07; Finland aHR = 3.61, 95% CI = 3.20–4.07), compared to neither parents. Co-occurrence of parental psychiatric disorders further increased risk (e.g., Sweden: for one, two or ≥three different diagnostic categories compared to no diagnosis, in fathers aHR = 1.81, 2.07, 2.52; in mothers aHR = 2.05, 2.63, 3.57).
Psychiatric disorders in both parents conveyed the highest risk of offspring autism spectrum disorder, followed by mothers and then fathers. The risk increased with number of co-occurring disorders. All parental psychiatric disorders were associated with increased the risk of autism spectrum disorder. To reliably assess the risk of autism spectrum disorder in children, a comprehensive history incorporating the full range of parental psychiatric disorders is needed beyond solely focusing on familial autism spectrum disorders.

The very long. growing, and probably incomplete list of other correlatesrisk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies: 

  1. Inflammatory bowel disease;
  2. Pesticides;
  3. Air pollution and proximity to freeways;
  4. Maternal thyroid issues;
  5. Autoimmune disorders;
  6. Induced labor;
  7. Preterm birth;
  8. Fever;  
  9. Birth by cesarean section;
  10. Anesthesia during cesarean sections;
  11. Maternal and paternal obesity;
  12. Maternal diabetes;
  13. Maternal and paternal age;
  14. Grandparental age;
  15. Maternal post-traumatic stress disorder;
  16. Maternal anorexia;
  17. Smoking during pregnancy;
  18. Cannabis use during pregnancy;
  19. Antidepressant use during pregnancy;
  20. Polycystic ovary syndrome;
  21. Infant opioid withdrawal;
  22. Zinc deficiency;
  23. Sulfate deficiency;
  24. Processed foods;
  25. Maternal occupational exposure to solvents;
  26. Congenital heart disease;
  27. Insufficient placental allopregnanolone.
  28. Estrogen in the womb;
  29. Morning sickness;
  30. Paternal family history;
  31. Parental preterm birth;
  32. Antiseizure meds
  33. Location of forebears
  34. Lithium
  35. Aspartame
  36. BPA
  37. Brain inflammation
  38. Maternal asthma
  39. Infertility
  40. Ultraprocessed foods
  41. Household chemicals


Thursday, April 25, 2024

Access to Home and Community-Based Services

From HHS:
“Ensuring Access to Medicaid Services” (“Access Rule”) creates historic national standards that will allow people enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to better access care when they need it and also strengthens home and community-based services (HCBS), which millions of older adults and people with disabilities rely upon to live in the community. This landmark final rule will set minimum threshold standards for payments to the direct care workforce, create meaningful engagement with Medicaid consumers, and advance provider rate transparency.

The Access Rule strengthens HCBS by requiring that at least 80 percent of Medicaid HCBS payments directly compensate direct care workers rather than cover “administrative overhead.” The rule also requires states to report how they establish and maintain HCBS wait lists, assess wait times, and report on quality measures. This policy would allow states to take into account small providers and providers in rural areas, promote training and quality, and ensure smooth implementation with additional data collection prior to full phase-in.

It protects the health and safety of people who receive HCBS by improving states’ incident management systems and requires states to have a grievance process for all HCBS participants.

See here for a full description of the final rule and a link to the rule text. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Autism Cards in Suffolk County, New York

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.  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.”

Jennifer McLogan at WCBS-TV in New York:
Suffolk County law enforcement officers are now equipped with a tool to help people on the autism spectrum during potentially stressful encounters. It was designed by a young man from Long Island, who is on the spectrum himself.

Christopher Cortale, a receptionist at the Winters Center for Autism in West Babylon, helped design an emergency card to foster communication in stressful situations.

At the top, the card reads, "Please be patient. I have autism. Please point to the pictures to help me understand what you want." Underneath are photos of a driver's license, registration, insurance and weapons.

The card also includes photos and captions violations for officers to indicate if the individual with autism is being warned, ticketed or arrested, and reasons, such as license plate, tail light, speed limit, stop sign or several others.

The bottom of the card has a section titled "I need help" with photos indicating low fuel, flat tire, hospital, emergency contact, tow truck and lost.


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

RFK Jr. Might Be Hurting Trump

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 Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

He is now running for president as an independent.  A big question in the campaign is whether he will draw Democratic votes from Biden (because his name is Kennedy) or draw Republican votes from Trump (because he is an antivaxxer).

Lisa Kashinsky et al. at Politico:
Republicans are waking up to the reality that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could sink their standard-bearer just as easily as he could hurt President Joe Biden, after a pair of new polls showed the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot might not necessarily benefit former President Donald Trump.

In two polls released so far this week, from NBC News and Marist College, Biden actually gained relative to Trump in matchups featuring Kennedy and other third-party candidates, though the differences were well within the margins of error in each survey and represented a break from previous polling.

In the NBC News poll, a negligible 2-point Trump lead in a head-to-head matchup became a 2-point Biden advantage when Kennedy, Cornel West and Jill Stein were added as options. That’s because 15 percent of respondents who picked Trump against Biden defected to Kennedy in the five-way matchup, compared to 7 percent of those who chose Biden initially.

The Marist poll showed Kennedy winning equal shares of respondents who reported voting for Biden (12 percent) and Trump (12 percent) in 2020, and roughly the same percentages of self-identified Democrats (8 percent) and Republicans (10 percent) — mostly in line with other polls that show Kennedy drawing evenly from both major-party candidates.

The overlap in potential support for Trump and Kennedy is evident in more than just policy. Of the $22.7 million that Kennedy’s campaign has reported raising from donors giving at least $200 — the threshold at which the Federal Election Committee requires campaigns to itemize donations — since his launch last summer, nearly $1.6 million comes from more than 1,700 donors who gave to Trump’s campaign during the 2020 cycle, according to a POLITICO analysis.

By contrast, Kennedy has raised only $850,000 from about 980 donors with a record of giving to Biden’s 2020 campaign. Both totals represent a small overall share of Kennedy’s fundraising. But they are one data point suggesting his appeal may be stronger among those once interested in Trump.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Colorado Closures

Nick Coltrain, The Denver Post:
Since 2021, at least 13 companies—operating about 35 clinics of different sizes—have closed or left the state over reimbursement rates that haven't kept up with rising costs, according to research by the Colorado Association for Behavior Analysis. Those closures have affected treatment for some 1,380 patients, and an estimated 1,000 Coloradans lost their jobs, according to the group.

"Colorado is relatively unique in the Medicaid landscape right now because of the number of programs that have closed and/or exited the state," said Mariel Cremonie-Fernandez, the vice president of government affairs for the national Council of Autism Service Providers.


Rebecca Urbano Powell, executive director of Seven Dimensions Behavioral Health, said she watched her waitlist balloon from two months to six months as the industry contracted in recent years. And with low reimbursement rates, she's lost entry-level staff to Starbucks and Walmart, she said, effectively cutting off entry into the behavioral health workforce before workers can get their feet under them.

"They could choose to work with kids with very severe, dangerous behaviors, or go work at Starbucks as a barista, and make the same—if not more—as a barista," said Urbano Powell, who also is board president of the Colorado Association for Behavior Analysis.


The growing role of private equity investment firms also complicates matters, HCPF warned, as firms buy up providers and close down autism services when they don't hit profit goals.

HCPF cited a national report from the Center for Economic Policy and Research that found private equity firms "move in and skim funds to pay high salaries to executives and outsized returns to private equity partners." The study did not cite any Colorado-specific impacts but noted that many of the firms it looked at operate in dozens of states.

While some budget committee members were "agnostic" to ownership structures of autism providers, as one put it, Sen. Jeff Bridges was more skeptical. While the Arapahoe County Democrat ultimately voted to increase funding, he worried it would set a precedent that investment firms could demand money to pad profits to their liking—and hold autism services hostage to do so.

"To me, it feels like a monopoly," Bridges said. "There's a real problem here if private equity is coming in here and doing what they did to other markets to autism providers. If those folks are getting in the way, then we absolutely have to take the fight to them."

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Independence and Interdependence

 In The Politics of Autism, I write:

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

Moser, C., Smith DaWalt, L., Burke, M. M., & Taylor, J. L. (2024). Emerging adulthood in autism: Striving for independence or interdependence? Autism, 0(0).
While some autistic youth have attitudes consistent with Arnett’s conceptualization of emerging adulthood, feeling as though they need more time to gradually move toward adulthood (Cribb et al., 2019), others consider themselves to be adults immediately after adolescence (e.g. 18 years of age; Anderson et al., 2016). This belief may lead to unattainable expectations, as most people achieve more traditional milestones of adulthood later in life (e.g. 29 years of age; Arnett, 2014). Like their non-autistic peers, it is also unclear to what extent independence should be considered a marker of adulthood in this group—particularly given the varied opinions autistic emerging adults have about the importance of self-sufficiency. For instance, although some autistic youth hope to live on their own, others report no desire to move out of the parental home (Anderson et al., 2016). Moreover, autistic emerging adults who desire greater independence can find it challenging to achieve this goal without support (Cribb et al., 2019; Sosnowy et al., 2018).

Thus, to support autistic youth in reaching their maximum potential and achieving their goals during emerging adulthood and beyond, it may be helpful to widen our focus from promoting independence, to promoting independence and interdependence. While the term interdependence has been used in various contexts, here we conceptualize interdependence as a mutual dependency between two or more people and is underscored by the notion that support should not stifle autonomy (Condeluci, 1995). Drawing from other scholars (e.g. Settersten et al., 2015), we argue that no one acts entirely independently, and thus, independence and interdependence co-occur within all people (autistic or not). Furthermore, individuals demonstrate varying degrees of independence and interdependence across domains of life and stages of development. For instance, while some emerging adults may prefer a high degree of interdependence throughout their lifespan, others may desire some degree of interdependence to gain more self-sufficiency in later adulthood (e.g. living independently).

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Pro-Polio Legislation in NH

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.

New Hampshire could soon beat Florida—known for its anti-vaccine Surgeon General—when it comes to loosening vaccine requirements. A first-in-the-nation bill that’s already passed New Hampshire’s state House, sponsored only by Republican legislators, would end the requirement for parents enrolling kids in childcare to provide documentation of polio and measles vaccination. New Hampshire would be the only state in the US to have such a law, although many states allow religious exemptions to vaccine requirements.

Currently, Republicans control New Hampshire’s state House, Senate and governor’s office—but that isn’t a guarantee that the bill will be signed into law, with GOP Gov. Chris Sununu seemingly flip-flopping when it comes to disease control. Sununu did sign a bill in 2021 allowing people to use public places and services even if they did not receive the Covid-19 vaccine. But the next year, the governor vetoed a bill that would bar schools from implementing mask mandates.

Rises in anti-vaccine sentiments have largely been linked to concerns that vaccines cause health issues, like the debunked claim that the MMR vaccine leads to kids being autistic. What parents may want to keep in mind is that polio and measles themselves are disabling conditions: according to the World Health Organization, 1 in 200 polio infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Children who get measles can experience symptoms including swelling of the brain. Death is always a possibility, too.


The bill would strike language requiring that immunization records be submitted to childcare agencies, but would keep those requirements for students enrolling in kindergarten through 12th grade. As of 2022, according to the nonprofit ChildCare Aware of America, there are some 700 licensed childcare centers and homes in New Hampshire (which doesn’t require the Covid-19 vaccine for enrollment in childcare, either, despite its efficiency in reducing both death rates and acute symptoms).

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Need for Autism-Specific Programs in School

In The Politics of Autism, I write:

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

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

Jamie Mihoiko Doyle at Newsweek:
Frustratingly, autism programs are being emaciated under the veil of equity and efficiency: That by combining kids with autism who were receiving the support they needed with other children with various learning disabilities with less specialized support means that all needs will be met.

Why have all these children drink from specialized cups of autism support when they can drink from a special education trough instead?

Diluting support for these kids under the veil of equity and efficiency is dishonest. These actions are ableist.

"Equity" would be expanding these autism-specific programs across the county and the nation. Every child with my son's autism phenotype deserves the program that my son is enrolled in today.

Touting autism awareness while silently pulling the rug of support from under them are incongruous acts.

The assassination of autism-specific programs is a national issue. Just last year, schools in Houston, Texas eliminated their "autism services team", which was described by an educator as a "lifeline" for teachers.

Instead, the school district generalized the support into a "special education unit." Buffalo Public Schools in New York eliminated classes with the lowest student-to-teacher ratios for elementary school students with autism to "maximize resources."


 There is both a current and future demand for autism-specific services, suggesting a need to expand specialized programs and enhance the recruitment and retention of autism-trained paraeducators. Diluting autism support is short-sighted and jeopardizes their chances of achieving independence as adults.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Blue Envelopes in Arizona

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Some jurisdictions allow autistic drivers to ask for a blue envelope to disclose the driver's diagnosis in case of an accident or traffic stop .

From Arizona DOT:

Arizona is launching a program through which drivers on the autism spectrum can place their credentials in special blue envelopes to enhance communication with law enforcement officers during traffic stops.

This voluntary program, which includes education for law enforcement officers, follows a model used successfully in Connecticut. The envelope will have instructions for the driver and law enforcement officer to follow and advise the officer that the driver may respond differently to instructions in situations that can increase anxiety.

To provide the necessary groundwork and training, the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division is partnering with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) and the University of Arizona’s Police Department, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (ArizonaLEND) training program.

“When I heard about this program in Connecticut, I was extremely fascinated and intrigued to see if we could incorporate it here in Arizona,“ ADOT MVD Director Eric Jorgensen said. “MVD is thrilled to be partnering with DPS and the University of Arizona Police Department to help calm what can otherwise be potentially stressful situations.”

This program will function similarly to the one Connecticut established in 2020. The blue envelope is a voluntary way to hold important vehicle documents such as insurance and registration, while also being a communication tool between the driver and law enforcement during an interaction.

"This program provides explicit support for drivers who choose to participate," said Jennifer Casteix, UArizona Clinical Professor and ArizonaLEND faculty member. "Better understanding of communication differences should positively impact these interactions."

After his interim appointment at the University of Arizona in May 2023, Police Chief Chris Olson shared his desire to bring the Blue Envelope Program to the university. Creating partnerships with University of Arizona units that specialize in autism research and caring for the community have been key in laying the groundwork for this program at the University of Arizona.

According to Chief Olson, “The Blue Envelope program is an outstanding public safety initiative that seeks to improve communication between police officers and autistic drivers during traffic stops.”

Director Jeffrey Glover of the Arizona Department of Public Safety said, “The AZDPS is proud to support and be a part of the Blue Envelope Program. A program like this, seeking to enhance safety for both members of the public as well as all law enforcement officers in the State of Arizona, is absolutely invaluable.”

"We are implementing this program with an evidence-based approach to better support law enforcement and autistic drivers to improve safety outcomes," said Dr. Nell Maltman, UArizona Assistant Professor with the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

Training with officers and volunteer drivers to simulate a traffic stop with the blue envelopes will be happening next week at the University of Arizona’s Tucson campus.

The envelopes are expected to be available through ADOT MVD offices, various law enforcement locations as well as other locations across the state starting in May.

For additional information about this program, please visit

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Antivax Bucks

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 Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

 Rob Lever, Anuj Chopra and Marisha Goldhamer at AFP:

An anti-vaccine group founded by US presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr raised millions of dollars during the coronavirus pandemic, tax records show, boosting its coffers as it ramped up what experts call dangerous health misinformation.

Children's Health Defense (CHD), repeatedly called out for promoting vaccine falsehoods, collected about $46 million between 2020 and 2022, roughly 10 times its revenue in the three years preceding the pandemic.

CHD and four other non-profit organizations collectively raked in more than $100 million during that period, public tax records compiled by investigative news site ProPublica show.


CHD, which raked in $23.5 million in 2022 alone, has risen to become one of the world's top "alternative and natural medicine" websites, according to digital intelligence company Similarweb.


Kennedy, a longtime vaccine skeptic, received about $510,000 in compensation for serving as CHD's chairman in 2022 -- more than double his pre-pandemic salary, records show.

The 70-year-old Kennedy is on leave from that role as he pursues his third-party presidential bid.


 Other well-funded anti-vaccine groups include Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), which pulled in $13.4 million in 2022, compared to just $1.4 million in 2017, public records show.

The group's founder Del Bigtree, who was hired by Kennedy to be his presidential campaign's communications director, was a vocal critic of masking during the pandemic and touted unproven Covid-19 treatments on his podcast.