Archive for the 'Musings' Category

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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).
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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.

Bad Astronomy on bad TV programming

Phil Plait, who is known for his “Bad Astronomy” Web presence (and let’s not confuse that with astrology, which is bad, forsooth!), hit the Internet with a critique of Jennifer “Jenny” McCarthy’s appointment to host a television show. Over on his Slate blog, Mr. Plait (he has a Ph.D. from the university where I teach, so I could say “Dr.” but we refer to each other as “Ms.” or “Mr.” in this neighborhood) provides what I might describe as something close to a blistering indictment of the appointment:

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this post, but here we are: The daytime talk show The View has indeed hired Jenny McCarthy as a co-host. I wrote about this last week, alerting people to the possibility, and now it’s now been confirmed. She’ll find her spot on the program this fall.

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Famous folks in historical diagnoses

Are you familiar with the hypothesis that people such as Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein actually had Asperger’s Syndrome? How about Bill Gates? Type these people’s names and “Asperger’s Syndrome” into your favorite search engine (Bing or Yahoo them) to see what you’ll get.

Then go and read Jonathan Mitchell’s “Undiagnosing Gates, Jefferson and Einstein.” Mr. Mitchell, who has some insider scoop, does a fine job of debunking these historical diagnoses. He identifies the diagnosticians, shows the holes in their work, and cites sources.

This is another one of the reasons that we should be wary of those role models people propose for children with disabilities.

Are famous role models helpful?

Do you ever wonder whether those references to famous people with disabilities really are helpful? Do they actually inspire people with disabilities to achieve more? As I’ve often noted on LD Blog, it’s really common in the world of learning disabilities to tell children about the high-flying people with dyslexia for example. It also happens in the world of EBD.

Well, Mark Brown, who knows a thing or two about mental health issues, published a provocative question in the BBC Website’s Ouch blog 13 May 2013: “Do famous role models help or hinder?” Here are his first paragraphs to whet your appetite:

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – cue the annual round of lists of “inspirational” public figures. But do famous role models actually make a difference?

If you’re a person who experiences mental health difficulties, as I do, you’ll be familiar with an oft-quoted list of inspirational fellow travellers, such as Winston Churchill and his famous “black dog” or national treasure Stephen Fry and his bipolar disorder.
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Autism, recovery, CAM, placebo, and research

Thought experiment: Suppose that scientists want to compare a new therapy for children with Autism. They’ll need to compare the New Therapy to a control condition and evaluate it over time using multiple different outcome measures. I’m going to describe this because I want to talk about the effects of “recovery” in Autism in the control group, the perception of the effectiveness of complimentary and alternative therapies, and the placebo effect.

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Virginia mental health needs

In a statement entitled “A proposal that would assist troubled youths in Virginia” the Washington Post editorial board lent its support to efforts to fund mental health services for children and youth. The editorial, published 11 January 2012, recounted a history of rueful cost cutting and encouraging advocacy in my commonwealth.

A YEAR AGO, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) proposed slashing millions of dollars from the state’s already badly fragmented and underfunded programs for at-risk children and teenagers. The cuts targeted funding for specially trained foster families and other services for children, including some who posed a danger of violence to themselves and others. The cuts were rejected, and funding restored, thanks to a bipartisan group of lawmakers responding to an outcry from advocacy groups and local governments, which would have borne the brunt of the governor’s proposal. In the end, the debate turned a useful spotlight on a critical hole in the state’s social services safety net.

The Post editorial team explained that the current budget does not contain such cost-cutting measures, but that difficulties for mental health services persist because of other problems (e.g., local government fiscal shortages). In the end, the need for services is great and, as the editorial shows, the need for serious discussion about funding of them is clear. Read the full editorial on the Post’s Web site.

If you’re in Virginia and you can make it to Richmond, join Voices for Virginia’s Campaign for Children’s Mental Health for “Advocacy Day at the General Assembly” Thursday 26 January 2012. If you live somewhere else, scout about for ways you can help support mental health services in your local or regional government.

EBD historical foundations yet again

Readers of EBD Blog who have been following along will recognize this post as the third of three reporting on a three-part series about the history of behavior disorders that has been appearing in the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Thanks to the stewardship of the Donald D. Hammill Foundation and Sage Publishers, readers may download free copies of this third installment in the series. The articles are based on interviews conducted in association with the Janus Oral History Project and the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders.

Kaff, M. S., Zabel, R. H., & Teagarden, J. M. (2011). An oral history of first-generation leaders in education of children with emotional/behavioral disorders, part 3: The future. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 19(4).