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.
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.
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.
Continue reading ‘Bad Astronomy on bad TV programming’
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.
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).
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.
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.
Are some insurance companies slow in providing coverage for behavioral therapies that families deserve for their children with Autism? According to a report by Alan Zarembo in the Los Angeles (CA, US) Times, the problem is great enough in California that a government agency is considering emergency regulations to force insurers to comply with their obligation to provide coverage.
Insurers have been skirting their obligation under recently enacted state law to provide costly behavioral therapies for autism, according to the Department of Insurance, which is proposing emergency regulations aimed at enforcing the law.
Continue reading ‘Are insurers dragging their feet?’
The story of Robert Ethan Saylor, an adult with Down Syndrome, may seem a bit afield for EBD Blog, but long-time readers will recognize the theme. It’s about the importance of having police officers prepared to recognize and respond to individuals with disabilities in ways that are different than the modal manner for handling usual law enforcement situations.
According to news reports, in January of 2013, Mr. Saylor saw a movie at a theater. As Washington Post reporter Theresa Vargas described it, when the movie ended Mr. Saylor “wanted to watch it again. When he refused to leave, a theater employee called three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were working a security job at the Westview Promenade shopping center and told them that Saylor either needed to buy another ticket or be removed.”
Continue reading ‘How not to treat people with disabilities: They may die in custody’