Tag Archive for 'current issues'

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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.

Insurance woes ahead?

Will changes in California’s insurance system cause children to lose their access to therapies based on applied behavior analysis? According to a story by Chris Megerian in the Los Angeles Times, families could no longer have insurance to help pay costs as the state transitions from its Children in Healthy Families insurance program to one using Medi-Cal. Earlier, Ryder Diaz of KQED had reported similar findings in “Despite Promises, Key Autism Therapy Cut from Medi-Cal.” The children who are served by the Children in Healthy Families program and are therefore at risk for losing their insurance come primarily from families who can least afford the cost of intensive behavioral therapy.

These news reports are supported by documents from the Web site of the Autism Health Insurance Project. On the page MediCal & Healthy Families, the Autism Health Insurance site reported that MediCal was excluded from California’s SB 946, legislation that and California’s Mental Health Parity Act.

Vaccination “free-riders”

Over on Scientific American, Janet D. Stemwedel reprised a blog post she ran in 2009 about how people who refuse to vaccinate their children against major diseases are taking advantage of the efforts by others to protect their children and their neighbors. She refers to people who adopt this strategy as “free-riders” (and I’ll leave it up to readers to review the full discussion of the term), while making the important arguments about people considering staying out of the herd, if they’re not willing to do their part for the herd.

Read the newer version entitled “The ethics of opting out of vaccination” and the original entitled Trust and accountability in the vaccine-autism wars as well as the follow-up piece with her discussion of comments “Vaccine refuseniks are free-riders” (beware: the link to the second post that appears in the last post goes 404).

US report: Up to 1 in 5 children experience a mental disorder

In a report released 16 May 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2013) indicated that as many as 13-20% of US children experience a mental disorder annually. The CDC based it’s estimate on the familiar report of the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2009) as well as other data gathered more recently. These are broad-scope data that incorporate a wide array of mental disorders, but they help to capture the range of issues that confront mental health services.

According to the CDC estimates,

Data collected from a variety of data sources between the years 2005-2011 show:
Children aged 3-17 years currently had:

  • ADHD (6.8%)
  • Behavioral or conduct problems (3.5%)
  • Anxiety (3.0%)
  • Depression (2.1%)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (1.1%)
  • Tourette syndrome (0.2%) (among children aged 6–17 years)

Adolescents aged 12–17 years had:

  • Illicit drug use disorder in the past year (4.7%)
  • Alcohol use disorder in the past year (4.2%)
  • Cigarette dependence in the past month (2.8%)

There is much that can be done to help. It can’t be done without the help of concerned adults who lobby, vote, and work hard otherwise on behalf of our children.

References

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities. Washington, DC: The National Academic Press; 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Mental health surveillance among children – United States, 2005—2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(Suppl; May 16, 2013), 1-35.

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.

Can a child recover from Autism?

Yesterday I wrote about how, when people consider individual cases, the possibility of improvement for children with Autism might make otherwise inert therapies appear to be beneficial. In yesterday’s post I referred to research by Molly Helt and colleagues (2008) about recovery among individuals with Autism, and I hinted about an important recent study by Deborah Fein and her colleagues (2013) related to that phenomenon. Today I discuss that second study.

The more recent study is just another among many by Professor Fein, who was a principal author on the Helt et al. (2008) study, and who has been doing exemplary work about Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) for many years. In this one she provides new data about “recovery,” a word they rarely use in the course of their article.

Continue reading ‘Can a child recover from Autism?’

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.

Continue reading ‘Autism, recovery, CAM, placebo, and research’

Mothers agree on helping children with mental illness and their families

Liza Long is the author of the post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” that has gone viral in the few days following the mass murder that Mr. Lanza apparently committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School 14 December 2012. In it, Ms. Long—who obviously is not the deceased mother of Mr. Lanza—makes an important, impassioned, and strong case for focusing on mental health issues among children and youth. Here’s the beginning of that post.

In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
Continue reading ‘Mothers agree on helping children with mental illness and their families’