Children with Autism in public businesses: A mother’s wishes.

Lauren Swick Jordan blogs at “Lauren-I Don’t Have a Job” about her stay-at-home life (job?) raising two sons, one of whom has Autism. Drawing on news about an airline flight being diverted to remove a family with a child with who has Autism, Ms. Jordan reworked one of her posts into an article that appeared in the Washington (DC, US) Post:

There has been a big story in the news recently about a family being kicked off of a United Airlines plane due to a fear that the daughter with autism mom would disrupt the flight. According to reports, the non-verbal daughter was in the early stages of feeling hungry, and her mom knew she needed to eat to avoid a meltdown. But the only warm food on the plane was for the first class passengers. The mom pleaded with the flight attendant, explained her daughter had special needs, and offered to pay extra for the food. Finally the flight attendant accommodated the family only after the mother explained that if she didn’t eat, “she’ll be crying and trying to scratch in frustration. I don’t want her to get to that point.” The family received the food and the mom and daughter settled in for their flight. All was well.

Here is where that story should have ended.

Instead, the flight attendant told the plane captain, who decided to make an emergency landing and have police escort the family, complete with a calm daughter, off of the plane.

Please read Ms. Jordan’s full story, Here’s the right way to treat a kid with autism (United Airlines, take note) from the Post. See her original post here.

Wondering about vaccines?

If you’re on the fence about using vaccines, Ana Swanson of the Washington (DC, US) Post provided a history reminder for you. In A horrifying reminder of what life without vaccines was really like you’ll see some photos of treatment for polio before vaccination against it became routine. Ms. Swanson tips her cap to Lindsey Fitzharris

In a bigger perspective and in contrast to our squabbles about vaccination against MMR, humanity stands at the threshold of essentially eradicating polio from the Earth. In a story entitled “Polio eradicators hail historic progress, aim to ‘finish the job’” from Reuters, for example, news sources recently reported that there are very few areas where polio still occurs and it is possible that health officials can vaccinate children in those places to prevent spread of the disease. If the health officials can surround those final areas and prevent the spread of polio within them, polio will no longer survive.

Continue reading ‘Wondering about vaccines?’

Is jail the right placement for Aaron?

In “The Nightmare Outcome of a Son’s Mental Illness,” Abby Sewell recounted the story of Aaron Hernandez’s history of temporary, involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations that culminated in him being incarcerated for brutally attacking his parents. For the first time in his 19 years, Aaron began taking medication regularly while in jail and, Ms. Sewell wrote, writing more coherent letters and feeling remorse. Aaron’s parents hope that he will get psychiatric help, not a prison sentence.

Ms. Sewell’s account documented the gaps in mental health treatment available to the Hernandez family in their part of California. The problems are not unique to that community, however. The wrenching case of Gus Deeds’s attack on his father, Creigh, and Gus’s subsequent suicide in 2013 in rural Virginia illustrate similar issues (e.g., concerns about a lack of adequate facilities, periods of care that are too brief).

Aaron’s school experiences are not featured in Ms. Sewell’s account. She does not report whether he was identified for and received special education services, only that “in middle school, he began using marijuana and, later, hallucinogens,” and his parents later attributed his drug use to an underlying mental health problem. We can only guess that it might have been helpful for Aaron to have received some services.

Read Ms. Sewell’s The Nightmare Outcome of a Son’s Mental Illness from the Los Angeles (CA, US) Times.

Autism encounters with law enforcement

Have you ever fretted about what would happen if someone who has not learned to comply with commands encounters someone who expects immediate compliance? Suppose further that the person who relies on immediate compliance might escalate his or her demands for compliance when the other person, say a child who has behavior problems, does not immediately comply.

In a family or a classroom we might call this a “power struggle.” In the language of Patterson and his colleagues (Patterson, 1982; Patterson & Reid, 1970; Patterson, Reid, & Dishon, 1992), it’s the reciprocal escalation that forms the coercion cycle. When it occurs between an officer of the law and a child with Autism, I’d call it a recipe for disaster, even a nightmare scenario. It’s one about which I’ve written previously, more than once.

Here’s an example of that nightmare come true, as reported by Susan Ferriss of the Center for Public Integrity:

Diagnosed as autistic, the sixth-grader was being scolded for misbehavior one day and kicked a trash can at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A police officer assigned to the school witnessed the tantrum, and filed a disorderly conduct charge against the sixth grader in juvenile court.

Just weeks later, in November, Kayleb, who is African-American, disobeyed a new rule — this one just for him — that he wait while other kids left class. The principal sent the same school officer to get him.

“He grabbed me and tried to take me to the office,” said Kayleb, a small, bespectacled boy who enjoys science. “I started pushing him away. He slammed me down, and then he handcuffed me.”

Continue reading ‘Autism encounters with law enforcement’

Editors helping each other?

Journal editors come and go, but the changes rarely make the news. This is not the case with the change in editorship at Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (RASD) and Research in Developmental Disabilities (RIDD), which drew coverage in Times Higher Education (THE). It’s not exactly the change in the editorship that is the news, but some the activities of the editor that have resulted in headlines. First, let’s do the news and get that out of the way. Then we can delve into the details.

On 26 February 2015 in THE, Paul Jump reported that Johnny Matson, former editor of RASD and RIDD denied doing anything wrong:

A senior psychology professor has strongly denied any wrongdoing after a blog highlighted what it claimed was his high self-citation rate in papers published in journals he edited.

Johnny Matson, a professor at Louisiana State University and an expert in autism, was the founding editor in chief of the Elsevier journals Research in Developmental Disabilities (RIDD) and Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (RASD).
Continue reading ‘Editors helping each other?’

The rights of the unvaccinated child by Professor D. R. Reiss

Over on Shot of Prevention, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss—she’s a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law—has a series of articles examining “The Rights of the Unvaccinated Child.” As of my posting here, the first two of the five-part series are available. These make highly recommended reading.

  1. The Rights of the Unvaccinated Child: The Legal Framework
  2. The Rights of the Unvaccinated Child: Tort Liability

Learn more about Professor Reiss from her faculty biography at Hastings.

Plait on Kouric’s mea culpa

In Katie Couric Apologizes for Anti-Vax Episode, but It’s Not Enough, Phil Plait (DBA “Bad Astronomer”) explains why Ms. Couric’s mea culpa for her giving excessive credibility to the incredible, post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc stories of parents claiming vaccinations caused problems for their children. Mr. Plait, who branches out beyond astronomy to cover scientific matters in general from time to time, comes to essentially the same conclusion as Michael Hiltzik: No matter how strong her disclaimer, and Ms. Couric’s falls a bit short of being an abject retraction, she can’t take back the effect of having provided the highly visible stage for the anti-vaccination advocates.

It’s coverage like this, the embrace of facilitated communication, and even the pervasive endorsement of learning styles that makes it hard for reason and evidence to make headway in providing services for individuals with disabilities. Those of us who champion evidence-based approaches sometimes feel like were swimming upstream in sewer.

Analyzing K. Couric’s mea culpa

In “Katie Couric backs off from her anti-vaccine show–but not enough,” Michael Hiltzik provided a sensible and nuanced analysis of Ms. Couric’s recant of her recent mistaken grant of airtime to anti-vaccination advocates. Mr. Hiltzik gives Ms. Couric credit for “fessing up” to many of the mistakes in the show but he very simply noted, “You should read [her entire Huffington Post article]. But you should know that Couric didn’t go far enough.”

After cataloging the many appropriate retractions in Ms. Couric’s mea culpa, Mr. Hiltzik explains the basic problem: People are going to remember the heart-wrenching scenes from the original broadcast, not the cool, rational explanation of the print retraction. I recommend readers review his well-reasoned and -written column.