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Archive for the ‘autism’ Category

Georgia settles ADA suit over confinement of people with disabilities

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

From the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AP/New York Times:

In a decision that is being hailed as a historic step toward enforcing the rights of people with disabilities, the state of Georgia has reached an agreement with the Justice Department to move many people with mental illness or developmental disabilities out of state psychiatric hospitals and into their communities.

The agreement, which settles a lawsuit alleging that the state was engaging in illegal segregation of people with disabilities, follows a federal investigation that found an “alarming frequency” of preventable deaths, suicides and assaults in the hospitals. From the LA Times:

As part of the agreement, Georgia will stop admitting people with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism, into its state hospitals by July 1, 2011. The state will move all developmentally disabled patients from state hospitals to “community settings” by July 1, 2015.

The state must also expand community-based services for about 9,000 mentally ill patients.

“This is a monumental step forward for people with mental illness,” said C. Talley Wells, an attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, one of a number of advocacy groups that worked with the Justice Department under friend-of-the-court status. “No longer will people be confined in a state hospital who could be living much fuller lives in the community.”

Government crackdown on autism ‘therapies’

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

From the Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Washington Post

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned eight companies to stop marketing unproven over-the-counter chelation”therapies” as treatments for autism, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. The products’ distributors have claimed they cure a range of diseases by removing heavy metals from the body.

“These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options,” said Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief.”

A series of articles in the Chicago Tribune found widespread evidence that parents of children with autism were using chelation on their children, even though it has not been found to be safe and effective.

Autism debate goes to high court

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today about whether vaccine manufacturers should be protected from virtually all product liability lawsuits. At the heart of the case, says the New York Times, is the safety of the vaccines themselves. The case could have implications for hundreds of lawsuits alleging a connection between vaccines and autism. See also the Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of vaccines, Forbes says California is seeing the worst epidemic of whooping cough in almost 60 years, with more than 5,200 people infected and 9 children dead. Some of those deaths almost certainly could have been prevented if autism fears hadn’t kept people from getting vaccinated, says Forbes blogger Steven Salzberg.

Says Salzberg:

It’s not a coincidence that California is the center of the new pertussis epidemic. Vaccination rates among adults in California have been dropping in recent years, large due to the influence of anti-vaccination zealots such as Jenny McCarthy and groups such as Age of Autism.

… Everyone should have their children vaccinated. On top of that, in order to maintain herd immunity, most of us should get the pertussis booster shot if we haven’t had one in the last ten years. That’s what vaccine expert Paul Offit recommends, and I’m planning to follow his advice myself. It won’t take long, and it might save a life.

‘Temple Grandin’ a big Emmy winner

Monday, August 30th, 2010

From Yahoo.com (with video), Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Entertainment Weekly:

The HBO biopic ‘Temple Grandin’ was among the big winners in this year’s Emmy awards contest, sweeping 7 awards including best actress for Claire Danes, best directing for Mick Jackson, and best made-for-television movie or miniseries. The project portrayed the early life of the agricultural scientist and best-selling author who, with the help of her mother, struggled to live a satisfying life with autism before the condition was widely recognized or understood.

Wearing the rodeo gear that has become her uniform, Grandin was seen onscreen frequently during the Sunday Emmy ceremony and at one point rose from her seat in the audience to excitedly swing an imaginary lasso.

From the LA Times:

And while standing on stage after the movie had won its top award, she warmly embraced a sobbing executive producer Emily Gerson Saines, who said she found inspiration in Grandin’s life story as her own child had been diagnosed with autism.

“I hope this movie is going to educate a lot of people about autism because there’s a lot of people who don’t understand it,” Grandin said backstage. “Somebody [with autism] might be a Silicon Valley genius, and somebody might be handicapped and non-verbal.”

In addition to the five awards announced Sunday evening, ‘Temple Grandin’ captured Emmys for picture editing and musical composition that were announced at a ceremony last week.

Earlier posts here.

Psychologist did pioneering work in autism

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

From the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times:

Ole Ivar Lovaas, a UCLA psychologist who developed one of the most widely used therapies for children with autism, has died at the age of 83.  Dr. Lovaas was the first researcher to suggest that autism can be treated. He is credited with helping to change the treatment and public perception of people with the condition.

“His work first of all showed that the kids were teachable,” said Tristram Smith, a psychologist at the University of Rochester. “It was also very important in deinstitutionalization, showing that you could teach the kinds of skills that the kids needed to succeed at home and in the community.”

Dr. Lovaas proposed that the symptoms of autism could be addressed through a rigorous program of behavior modification, centered around a system of rewards and punishments. His early work was criticized as abusive because it involved researchers slapping children and using electric shocks, sometimes delivered with a cattle prod. These practices were later eliminated. The Lovaas model today relies on positive reinforcements.

See also: 1965 Life Magazine article about Lovaas’s work at UCLA. “Screams, Slaps & Love; A surprising, shocking treatment helps far-gone mental cripples”

State shuts care center after autistic man dies in sweltering van

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Pennsylvania officials have ordered a care center to close a program where an autistic man died July 24 in an overheated parked van, and said they would remove eight other residents and bar the program from accepting new clients pending an investigation.

Woods Services Inc., which serves about 1,400 people with disabilities, denied wrongdoing.

The state’s deputy welfare secretary called the death of 20-year-old Bryan Nevins  a “totally avoidable tragedy” and cited “gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct” as the reasons the unit’s license was being revoked. A counselor has been charged with felony neglect and other counts.

A 20-year-old with the mental ability of a toddler, Nevins was missing for nearly five hours when staffers found his body in the back of the parked van on one of the hottest afternoons of the summer.

See also:

Caregiver charged in death of autistic man — NBC Philadelphia

Felony charges filed in death of autistic man — Philadelphia Inquirer

State investigates more facilities related to man’s death in van– WHYY, public radio

Clara Claiborne Park, 86; Author raised awareness of autism

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

From the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Berkshire [MA] Eagle:

Clara Claiborne Park, a college English instructor who wrote deeply personal and poetic books about her quest to understand her daughter’s autism, has died at the age of 86. She was regarded as an international leader in advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and in changing the prevailing wisdom about autism.

Published in 1968, Park’s first book, “The Siege,” chronicled the life of her young daughter, Jessica Park. At the time, autism was barely understood and professionals defined it as a symptom of family pathology or a “refrigerator mother.” Park’s second book about her daughter, “Exiting Nirvana”  in 2001, documented Jessica’s progress.

Jessica Park is now 51 and has worked in the mailroom of Williams College in Williamstown, MA, for 30 years. She is an accomplished artist. Clara Park was a lecturer in English studies at Williams from 1975 to 1994.

From the New York Times account:

["The Siege"] was credited with assuaging the guilt that so many parents of autistic children had assumed, and came to be regarded as an important source of insight for psychiatrists, psychologists, educators and advocates.

“She was one of the first parents who had the courage to share their story at a time when autism was poorly understood,” Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale University Child Study Center, said of Mrs. Park. “Since she first published her book, wider recognition of autism and early diagnosis have led to new treatments and improved outcomes.”

Bridget A. Taylor, co-founder and director of the Alpine Learning Group in Paramus, N.J., a school for autistic children, agreed. “The book really set the stage for families to search for answers; to no longer accept ‘no’ from the establishment, to have higher expectations for their children,” she said. “In many ways it decreased the isolation that families felt, and for many young professionals in the field, the book was an invaluable reading assignment to learn what the experience is like.”

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