Tag Archive for 'Autism'

Yikes! A presidential commission on vaccines?

In 10 January 2017’s Washington (DC, US) Post, Abby Phillip, Lena H. Sun, and Lenny Bernstein reported that US President-elect Donald J. Trump is apparently considering creating a commission on autism. The sensational headline is “Vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. says Trump asked him to lead commission on ‘vaccine safety’.”

There are multiple other versions of this item,

  1. Dan Merica of CNN (with video): “Trump team denies skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was asked to head vaccine commission“;
  2. CBS News: “ Robert Kennedy Jr. says he will chair “vaccination safety” committee for Trump“; and
  3. Domenico Montenaro of NPR with “Despite The Facts, Trump Once Again Embraces Vaccine Skeptics.”

And, for an opinion piece on the “news” event, see Brandy Zadrozny’s take from The Daily Beast, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Compared Vaccines to a Holocaust—and Now Trump Wants Him to Investigate Their ‘Safety’Notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks pediatricians are like Nazi concentration camp guards—and Trump just gave him the power to promote the disproven vaccine-autism link.”

Students with EBD Hit Hardest by Texas Cap in Special Ed Enrollment

According to reports Brian M. Rosenthal published in the Houston (TX, US) Chronicle, since the early 2000s when the Texas Education Agency (TEA) essentially limited enrollment in special education to 8.5% of the school population, the category of students with disabilities that saw the largest decline in enrollment was emotional disturbance.

Mr. Rosenthal published a series of articles reporting his investigation of systematic denial of services to students with disabilities in Texas beginning in September 2016. The TEA created a system for rating local education agencies’ special education programs that included a benchmark for how many students should be be enrolled. In an installment published 19 November 2016 and entitled “Mentally ill lose out as special ed declines,” he begins the report with the story of Alston Jeffus, an adolescent who is on his way home after spending months in a state hospital. Here are a few paragraphs from Mr. Rosenthal’s article:

The Texas Education Agency’s decision to set an 8.5 percent target for special education enrollment has led schools to cut services for children with all types of disabilities, but mentally ill students like Alston have been disproportionately affected, the Houston Chronicle has found.

Federal law requires schools to provide counseling, therapy, protection from discipline and other support to children with “emotional disturbances,” including severe anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, however, Texas schools serve 42 percent fewer of those students, relative to overall enrollment, than when the TEA set the benchmark in 2004.

It is a bigger drop than has occurred in almost any other disability category.

In all, an estimated 500,000 school-age children in Texas have a serious mental illness that interferes with their functioning in family, school or community activities, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.

Only 30,034 receive special education services.

There is a lot more to this story (subscription may be required). I recommend it to readers. Also, I encourage readers haven’t been following Mr. Rosenthal’s excellent reporting on this matter to catch up; the Chronicle published a guide to the series.

Annual ASAT auction for autism ends son

The annual fund-raising auction for the fabulous Association for Science in Autism Treatment ends soon. It’s a great way to support ASAT, the organization that brings “real science, real hope.”

Mr. Kinsey was not the target: Better or worse?

According to John Rivera, the head of Police Benevolent Association of Dade County (FL, US), the bullet that struck Mr. Charles Kinsey on Monday 18 July 2016 (while Mr. Kinsey was working to return a young man with Autism to the young man’s nearby group living facility) was not aimed at Mr. Kinsey. The officer was firing at the young man with Autism.

According to reporters for the Miami (FL, US) Herald, Mr Rivera apparently was concerned that people in the public were contextualizing the shooting as an exemplar of police conflict with African-Americans. Mr. Kinsey is Black. The Herald reporters, Alex Harris, David Ovalle, and Charles Rabin, reported that people protested the shooting at a Miami police station.

The shooting of Kinsey and the video that accompanied the stories caused an uproar. Thursday night about 40 Black Lives Matter protestors stormed into the North Miami police department demanding that the officer who shot Kinsey be fired.

For his part, Mr. Rivera expressed concern about misinformation fueling the community protest.

“I couldn’t allow this to continue for the community’s sake,” Rivera said Thursday during a hastily called press conference at the union’s Doral office. “Folks, this is not what the rest of the nation is going through.”

So, we have an apparent conflict between two communities that are concerned about the use of force against members of their respective communities. I agree with them both. Fewer shots. More calm talk. Understand Autism.

U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens visited North Miami Thursday and made a brief statement saying, “We’re all in shock today,” and calling for officers to be trained in dealing with autism and mental-health issues.

Rivera said it wasn’t clear Thursday if the officer who fired his weapon had undergone Crisis Intervention Training. The session is required in many departments when an officer joins and is urged as a refresher in ensuing years. It is not required in North Miami.

Thank you, Representative Wilson!

Sources:

Police encounters with Individuals with Autism of the bad kind

In South Florida (US) on 18 July 2016 a caregiver for a young man with Autism was shot by police while he was working to protect the young man from harm. Parts of the scene were recorded on bystander video.

As faithful readers will recall, on EBD Blog, I have repeatedly expressed concern about what happens when police officers, some of whom are accustomed to demanding immediate compliance with commands, would encounter an individual with Autism who might seem not to hear the commands and, thus, would not comply. The situation could easily escalate with the individual with Autism engaging in idiosyncratic behaviors that could confuse officers. The officers could shout commands more loudly. The individual with Autism might even flee (i.e., resist arrest).

Near North Miami on 18 July 2016 a twist on this situation occurred. A 23-year-old man with Autism had wandered away from a group facility; he was sitting in a roadway, holding a toy truck, and blocking traffic. An anonymous caller to emergency services reported that the individual was suicidal. Police arrived.

According to bystander video, Charles Kinsey, who identified himself as “a behavior therapist at a group home,” was then on the scene, coaxing the young man to lie on his stomach with his hands up. In the video, you can hear the young man say “Shut up” to Mr. Kinsey. You can also see two officers behind poles with rifles trained on Mr. Kinsey and the young man.

Yes, you guessed it. Pow!

Here is Michael E. Miller’s report from the Washington (DC, US) Post:

In cell phone footage of the incident that emerged [two days later], Kinsey can be seen lying on the ground with his hands in the air, trying to calm the autistic man and defuse the situation seconds before he is shot.

“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” Kinsey can be heard saying in the video as police officers with assault rifles hide behind telephone poles approximately 30 feet away.

“That’s all it is,” the caretaker says. “There is no need for guns.”

Seconds later, off camera, one of the officers fired his weapon three times.

A bullet tore through Kinsey’s right leg.

Fortunately, Mr. Kinsey was only injured in his leg, nowhere else. He is recovering. The man with autism was not injured.

Both mental health and law enforcement organizations recognize the dangers inherent in encounters between officers and individuals with mental health needs. They are collaborated to develop training programs (see, e.g., NAMI’s Law Enforcement and Mental Health or the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s statement to get a start). Officers need to be the good guys in these situations.

Folks with EBD need to be protected and served.

And so do those who work with individuals with EBD. Mr. Kinsey, thank you for the work you have done, and I wish you a speedy and full recovery.

Sources:

  • Miller’s report for the Post from which I quoted.
  • Charles Rabin’s report for the Miami (FL, US) Herald.
  • Marissa Bagg’s report for NBCMiami.
  • The report by Amanda Batchelor, Todd Tongen, and Carlos Suarez for ABC affiliate Local10.
  • One of the videos.

Selected earlier posts about this topic:

More Syracuse U. and FC

In “Syracuse, Apple, and Autism Pseudoscience” (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, 28 April 2016), Stuart Vyse (a) updated the long-standing concerns about facilitated communication (FC) with notes about events at Syracuse (the student newspaper questioned the recommended recognizing the support for FC as an error in judgment and more), (b) provided a history of the rapid prompting method (RPM) and explains how it compares to FC, and (c) expressed concern that Apple’s iPad is closely connected with RPM via an advertisement celebrating a young man who uses RPM and with an organization (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) that expressly touts FC.

Professor Vyse noted that the paucity of research about whether individuals using RPM are communicating independently is concerning. He’s exactly right about this. I shall not tell all his conclusions here. Readers should read his essay themselves. It’s worth it.

A parent’s perspective on autism

Katherine Osnos Sanford, who blogs at KatherineSanford.com, published an article in the Washington Post 26 April 2016 under the headline, “Want to know what it’s really like to have a child with autism?” that provides an insightful glimpse into some of the thoughts of parents of young children with autism. In just over 1100 words, Ms. Sanford captures a lot. There’s Saturday morning errands, education issues, considerations about the future, and family visits with neighbors.

There’re also challenges. Dressing an eight-year old who uses diapers. Contending with a meltdown in a public place.

My husband and I are at our local garden store, running errands on a typical Saturday, when Mae, our 8-year-old, becomes agitated. She quickly goes from bunny-hopping down the Azalea aisle — smile on her face, dimples on display — to growing fidgety and vaguely cranky to screaming and hitting herself. The sound is horrifying. Heads turn toward us.

Mae is wearing a bathing suit under her leggings, not because we have plans to go to the pool but because she still wears diapers and recently developed a habit of removing them — spandex and complicated straps slow her down. In this moment, she’s got rock-star hair: What’s usually a neat black pageboy is sticking up four inches, thanks to the way she compulsively rotates her head back and forth in bed as she falls asleep. Her beautiful long eyelashes now are plastered together with inconsolable tears — trying to intervene only ever makes it worse.

I don’t want to foist this on other people, and I want to protect my daughter. So I scoop her up — for now, at 48 pounds, she’s still light enough to carry — and take her back to the car, where I can strap her into her car seat, keep her from hurting herself and limit the sensory assault on her brain.

It occurs to me that it’s Autism Awareness month, and we’ve just hosted our own autism awareness event at the store.

Go read the entire article.

Matt Brodhead on halting the spread of FC

While we’re on the topic of facilitated communication (FC or “supported typing” or “rapid prompting”), readers might want to watch a TEDx presentation by Professor Matt Brodhead. As though familiar with TED talks know, this is brief presentation and in it Professor Brodhead focuses squarely on a clear presentation about FC: “We must stop this now.”