Autism

RFK Jr And Donald Trump Might Team Up To Undermine Vaccinations

By William B. Miller, Jr, M.D.

Only a few weeks into a new administration and with it comes unwelcome medical news.

The age-old debate about the safety and appropriateness of vaccination has been renewed and a vocal stage has been delivered to a small group of anti-vaccination zealots.

Reports have circulated that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, a highly visible critic of vaccination, has been invited to chair a commission on vaccination safety by the new administration.

If it comes to pass, one result can be accurately predicted.

It will become a confused platform of ideological rhetoric that will diminish trust in those scientific bodies charged with making sound judgments for the public welfare.

This inevitable outcome is particularly unfortunate since there has never been any advance in medical history that has had a more positive impact on our lives than vaccination.

Humanity has been in eternal conflict with infectious disease throughout history.

Perhaps no disease better illustrates the vast range of impacts of epidemic disease than smallpox, which resulted in the deaths of more than 7 million people.

Similar horrific mortality was experienced with smallpox.

In 18th Century Europe, at least 400,000 people died annually from smallpox.

One-third of the survivors went blind.

Mortality rates were as high as 60% in some communities.

Infant mortality was even more frightening, approaching 80%.

The ultimate success of smallpox vaccination is credited to Sir Edward Jenner in England.

In 1796, he successfully introduced the technique of cowpox vaccination demonstrating its subsequent protective effect against smallpox.

Today, due to the effectiveness of worldwide smallpox vaccination programs, that disease has been effectively eradicated from the planet.

However, this is not the case for other consequential infectious diseases.

Two years ago, a whooping cough epidemic swept through California where vaccination rates are steadily lagging.

Contrary to any ordinary expectation, it is often the most affluent parents who are shunning immunization.

Some of these anti-vaccine proponents are highly educated people being misled by social media.

The trend appears to have originated with a fraudulent report in a British medical journal linking vaccination with autism.

This report was subsequently revealed to have been based on fraudulent research and was retracted by that scientific journal.

Similar rumors that vaccine stabilizers, such as thimerosol, contribute to autism have also been refuted.

Nonetheless, damage has been done by ill-informed repetition.

There is no doubt that those parents that refuse to vaccinate their children are well meaning.

However, their actions are ill advised on two levels.

The first is that refusing to appropriately vaccinate themselves or their child exposes both of them to the risks of deadly infections that can be entirely avoided.

Yet, although vaccination is safe and highly effective it does have its limits.

This links to the other critical factor that makes universal vaccination so crucial.

No vaccination ever devised provides 100% protection and some individuals in any population cannot be vaccinated.

This includes very young infants whose immune systems are not yet mature enough for vaccination and members of our community that are immunosuppressed due to diseases that weaken their immune system from a variety of illnesses including cancer.

Their protection is through our actions.

When there are high levels of vaccination within any community, the infectious agent is unable to find enough hosts to reproduce and sustain itself within that population.

This level of community-wide protection is termed herd immunity.

It is our joint responsibility, all of us together, to be part of the process of achieving this level of immunity both in our own interests and for the protection of the other members of our community.

The next outbreak of a preventable infectious disease with its incumbent tragedies is always lurking.

A political committee to examine the evidence based on ideological biases is not needed.

Instead, our policies should rely on the expertise of already existing scientific organizations such as the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS), an independent expert clinical and scientific advisory body, as well as our own Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

The critical ingredient to the success of vaccination programs is education.

Therefore, there needs to be a concerted program to recover our eroded memories of the consequences of now distant epidemic diseases that have been conquered or reduced through vaccination.

The success of vaccination programs depends on being familiar with the bitter lessons of our continuous struggle with epidemic disease. Such an educational process must be ever ongoing.

Dr. Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. For more information on him you can visit, www.themicrocosmwithin.com.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Johnny Silvercloud/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Unclear Whether Cop Who Shot Charles Kinsey, And Almost Shot Autistic Man Was Properly Trained

The personnel jacket of North Miami police officer Jonathan Aledda does not include information regarding whether he was properly trained to interact with people with developmental disabilities like Autism, a RISE NEWS investigation found.

Aledda has come to national attention after he shot unarmed therapist Charles Kinsey three times in the leg last week in a North Miami street.

The Miami-Dade police union president said that Aledda was not trying to shoot Kinsey, but rather his autistic patient named Arnaldo Eliud Rios.

The jacket, which was released by the police department last week details Aledda’s history as a police officer in the city of North Miami.

It also shows some of the trainings Aledda received.

Notably missing from the document is any indication that Aledda received Crisis Intervention Team Policing training (CIT) from the Eleventh Circuit Court.

CIT is often cited by police departments as a top local training method for officers to learn how to deal with people with mental illnesses.

The training also includes a small section (one page) about Autism and other developmental disabilities.

North Miami police spokeswoman Natalie Buissereth said that roughly 85% to 95% of North Miami officers have received CIT training.

“If you don’t see it, it’s not there,” Buissereth said of Aledda’s missing CIT training certificate in his personnel jacket.

READ: Personnel Jacket Of The Cop Who Shot Charles Kinsey

However, Buissereth also said in a phone interview with RISE NEWS, that she would follow up to double check whether Aledda was CIT trained.

Calls to the CIT office have not been returned.

According to information found on the Eleventh Circuit website, CIT officers are pretty important.

“CIT officers respond to crisis calls involving possible mental health issues,” a frequently asked question page about the program says. “They evaluate and de-escalate potentially volatile situations and as necessary transport individuals suffering from a mental illness to community-based facilities for evaluation, treatment, and referrals, instead of subjecting them to immediate arrest when appropriate.”

WATCH: RISE NEWS report from the scene of the Charles Kinsey shooting

Aledda’s personnel jacket paints him as an ambitious and talented young officer who is always volunteering for extra responsibilities.

“Officer Aledda reports to work with a clean and pressed uniform,” A performance evaluation from June of 2016 reads. “He represents a good image for his peers and employees to follow.”

While it is not clear whether Aledda was trained in how to deescalate stations with people who have developmental disabilities, his personnel jacket does show that he is trained in a number of other areas, including as a member of the SWAT team and as a volunteer member of the Strategic Action for Enhanced Enforcement and High Intense Visibility and Enforcement teams.

According to a performance review from August 2014, Aledda “productivity” is “consistently substantially above his peers.”

For example, in July of 2014, Aledda conducted 26 arrests, answered 82 calls for service and issued 138 traffic citations.

For comparions sake, 1 out of every 68 people are autistic.

 

Autistic Lives Matter Too

I’ve been pulled over before in North Miami with my autistic brother in the car.

My family grew up in North Miami.

I now live only about five minutes from North Miami.

But North Miami is not the place I thought it was.

North Miami is a dangerous place for black people and a dangerous place for people with disabilities.

Some will say that the shooting of Charles Kinsey was an isolated incident.

I think it is all we need to know.

The story, which is now an international news item goes like this.

Police are called by someone claiming that a man is carrying a gun, threatening to kill himself. The man is walking in the middle of a street in North Miami. The man is autistic and it is clear to see on the videotape.

A man named Charles Kinsey comes over to help the autistic man. Kinsey quickly realizes that the autistic man is just holding a toy truck- not a gun.

He is no threat to anybody and just needs to get back to his group home from which he has escaped from.

The rest of the details are still a bit fuzzy.

Police show up, pull out high-powered rifles and order the two men to lie down.

Kinsey complies, lies on his back and puts his hands high up in the sky.

The autistic man sits down next to Kinsey.

The rest of the story is well-known by now.

“All he has is a toy truck, a toy truck,” Kinsey is heard yelling at police in cellphone video. “I am a behavior therapist at a group home.”

The police then proceed to shoot Kinsey three times in the leg as he is lying down mere feet from the autistic man.

I became enraged when I first heard the news of the incident last night.

Then I became scared.

Terrified.

This could happen to my brother.

While I’ve always supported the Black Lives Matters movement, today is the first day that I really understand the totality of its importance.

Our police are the only people in the world that have the power to kill an American citizen if  force is justified. They have the legal writ to use violence. And we need them to have that right. But it also means that we need to hold them to an incredibly high standard.

We have to pay them better, we have to recruit better people into the force and we have to train the great people already in the force on how to identity people with developmental disabilities.

It is never ok to shoot an unarmed man who poises no direct threat to an officer, himself or another person.

And it is never ok to shoot an unarmed man who is mere feet away from a person with autism.

North Miami is not the place I thought it was and I’m scared to death for my brother, for my family, for potential aides that my brother may have and for myself.

This makes it plain as day that some officers in the North Miami Police Department do not have the training or the empathy needed to do their jobs.

But North Miami is also not unique.

Ethan Saylor was a 26-year-old man from Maryland. He also had down syndrome. And he was white.

Ethan was choked to death by off duty police officers after he refused to leave a movie theatre. He wasn’t violent. Have you ever met someone with down syndrome? He wasn’t a threat.

Saylor was described by people who knew him as a sweet, loving man with an innocent spirit.

He also loved the police more than just about anything.

He was so fascinated by cop shows and the idea of helping people that he once called 911 innocently just to ask them about their work.

Ethan Saylor believed that police officers were good people who had devoted his life to protect people like him.

And they killed him on the ground in a dirty movie theatre like an animal.

He cried out for his mother as his life was ripped from him.

“Ouch Mom, that hurts, don’t touch me, get off!” he said.

Then he died of asphyxiation. The cartilage in his throat was fractured, and he had bruises and abrasions all over his face and body. The cause of death was homicide.

I’ve always said I supported Black Lives Matter because of my “empathy.”

But fuck empathy.

This is about survival.

If we can’t protect black lives, then we sure as hell won’t be able to protect autistic ones.

America has a problem folks. And its worse than we thought.

Do you have a news tip about excessive police force involving people with disabilities? Send us a news tip to editor@risenews.net. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Autistic Boy Saves Classmate From Choking After Learning Heimlich Maneuver From Spongebob Squarepants

This is a nice story to round off your week.

The Staten Island Advance reports that a 13-year-old Autistic boy saved the life of a classmate after he performed the Heimlich maneuver on the girl who was choking on an apple piece.

The boy, Brandon Williams said that he learned the life saving technique from watching  Spongebob Squarepants.

“He picks up on things that most of us would miss, and files it all away in his head, and he can recall it all in an instant,” Williams’ dad told the Staten Island Advance“That’s how he knew instantly what to do. And we’re glad he did. We’re proud of him.”

Believe it or not, this is not the first time that Spongebob has saved the life of a 7th grader.

Back in 2010, a 12 year old named Miriam Starobin saved the life of her best friend in a seventh-grade choir class. Starobin’s friend Allyson Golden, had been choking on a piece of bubblegum before the Spongebob inspired action saved the day.

WATCH: Hero Brandon Williams (Via Staten Island Advance)

Cover Photo Credit: Ben W/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Criminalizing Disability: This Autistic Man Arrested For Watching Child Porn Should Not Be Tried

In Miami, a magistrate judge will soon be making an important decision that will have wide implications regarding the character of the United States.

Alberto Rodriguez, a 24-year-old North Miami man admits to viewing a large amount of child pornography. The feds raided his parents home last year and took computers full of the disgusting images of men raping children.

A terrific piece by Jay Weaver in the Miami Herald lays out the situation.

Federal prosecutors are pushing for Rodriguez to be put on trial where, if found guilty, he could serve 20 years in prison. It is up to the magistrate judge to decide whether Rodriguez can stand trial.

I do not believe that Rodriguez should be put on trial or spend another night behind bars for his actions. He had no way of knowing that his actions were wrong, let-alone “illegal” and it is a moral failing of our nation that he has spent months behind bars already.

Rodriguez is autistic and while being “high functioning” when compared to other people on the spectrum, he has the “emotional and intellectual maturity of a 10 to 12 year old child” according to the Herald.

Our society would not stand for a 10-year-old child to be tried for a crime of this magnitude. And we should not stand for this either.

I understand that it is difficult to get past the alleged wrongdoings in this case. Surely interacting with child pornography in any way is shameful and bad for society. We have a duty to protect those that are most vulnerable, and must crack down on those that harm our innocents.

We can not pretend to protect the most vulnerable in our society when we prosecute and criminalize the even more vulnerable.

But Rodriguez is another innocent in this situation and not a criminal.

The hard truth is that our criminal justice system is not equipped to render judgement on the cruel mysteries of the human mind.

Rodriguez has an IQ of 73- which places him in the range of “borderline impaired” according to the Herald.

Of course stupid people can commit crimes. But Rodriguez is not stupid. He is disabled and therefore should be protected by the gross incompetence of a system that can’t even offer equal justice to normally functioning people because of something as simple as their skin color.

From the Herald story:

“[Dr. Jacqueline] Valdes [a neuropsychologist] said his only interests are watching cartoons for young children, playing video games and looking up child pornography-though he does not have a “deep understanding” as to why he got in trouble.”

Let me be clear. Very few autistic adults are searching the web for child porn. This is a very isolated innocent and an uncomfortable situation to be sure. But reality is uncomfortable as anyone that has ever had to face adversity in their lives can attest to. And disabled reality does not play by the same set of rules that we do in the so called “functioning” world.

I have serious doubts about the “education” that Rodriguez received at North Miami Senior High School and as such, his graduation is no indication of intelligence.

The impulse to prosecute Rodriguez is clear and easily understood. He graduated from high school and is able enough to find child porn on the Internet after all, clearly he is competent to stand trial. Not so fast. Put the lynch mob away.

Rodriguez was pushed up the grades at North Miami Senior High School, a school where the night principle was recently arrested for accepting bribes, and the day principle rushed to social media to defend a cop who slammed a black Texas teenager to the ground at a swim party.

And most disgustingly and interesting for this conversation, this is the same high school where four students allegedly gang raped a mentally disabled girl in a darkened janitors closet. The victim had the vocabulary of a toddler and yet the school was so negligent to misplace her for a long enough period of time for her to be orally, anally and vaginally raped by four fellow students. Other than that, I’m sure she was learning a great deal in a safe environment.

According to the Herald, Rodriguez didn’t have to take the FCAT (Florida’s mandated testing battery) and was given a “special” diploma after graduating with a 2.0 flat GPA (how convenient).

I have serious doubts about the “education” that Rodriguez received at North Miami Senior High School and as such, his graduation is no indication of intelligence. This is especially accented because the Herald report indicated that Miami-Dade Public Schools psychologists and Rodriguez’s parents misdiagnosed his autism for ADHD.

It is not clear if he has ever received any treatment or therapy designed for autistic people at any point in his development.

America doesn’t care about autistic adults. They are scary and burdensome. Sometimes they are big and can cause harm. And yes sometimes, one may look at child porn.

But he has received four months of training in a federal jail in North Carolina on how to defend himself in a criminal proceeding. Only in America do we give you the best education you’ve ever had in order to prove that you are a criminal.

The truth is that Rodriguez’s situation is unique only in the extent of what he is being accused of. Millions of disabled people in this country are basically left to fend for themselves.

Our Social Security system deducts entitlement payments from severely autistic adults who live at home because they don’t contribute to the monthly rent, even if they could never hold a job. Police officers are often not trained to deal with disabled people and sometimes kill them. Our public education system does the bare minimum it needs to do under law- and that’s not very much at all.

America doesn’t care about autistic adults. They are scary and burdensome. Sometimes they are big and can cause harm. And yes sometimes, one may look at child porn.

But that is not their failure. It is all of ours. And we should be ashamed of ourselves.

We can not pretend to protect the most vulnerable in our society when we prosecute and criminalize the even more vulnerable, especially when we don’t even care to understand them.

Free Alberto Rodriguez.

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- editor@risenews.net. 

Cover Photo Credit: Aapo Haapanen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Autism, GamerGate And How The Left Dropped The Ball

The following is an opinion piece penned after multiple bomb threats shut down a Miami based discussion on ethics in video game journalism, also known by the shorthand- GamerGate. The following piece does not necessarily reflect the views of Rise News.  

By Thomas Fairfield 

@BahmoFairfield

Describing the values shared by much of the GamerGate movement, and detailing those points on which they do and don’t disagree with the opposition, is a worthy but daunting process; and within a short opinion piece, perhaps an impossible one.

So many people have brought in so many axes to grind (on both sides), that arriving at a list of “core” tenets in one document would at least require peer review and survey. However, I can detail a large personal stake here.

I am a nerd. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome. It is classified as a “mild” or “high-functioning” branch of the Autism Spectrum, but at a glance it’s often mistaken for more debilitating disorders.

It led to immense bullying at school, where I was called things like “retard” and “faggot” (Bigots saw homosexuality as a disorder); among other sorts of insults. I was derided as babyish because I still loved Nintendo while others were “growing out of it”, and seen as frighteningly psychotic because I laughed at certain shows that others didn’t.

Even faculty who wanted to help me often didn’t understand me, and I got stuck in Special Education classes with the genuinely mentally-challenged or even insane; such as in third grade, where I got stuck with a child who gleefully talked about killing.

Even as an adult, I have suffered; my voice and mannerisms unnerve people who don’t understand Asperger’s, my wallet ails from the horrendous personality bias entailed in the hiring processes of many major companies, and I am humiliated by the continued inability of even caring persons to assume by default I’m a functional being.

After so much discomfort and ignorance, I figured that the political left would offer me a way out; who better to fight business corruption and add one more unprivileged minority to their liberation record? I was wrong. Almost a year ago now, leftist journalists collectively smeared nerds, and GamerGate roared to life.

While I would not become aware of this until a few months later, many others, such as Mytheos Holt and Liz Finnegan, immediately noticed familiar anti-autistic/anti-introvert misassumptions in these zealous calls ironically against perceived bigotry, and when I finally looked into GamerGate I found plenty of common ground.

Mind you- GamerGate is not simply an autistic issue, and as stated, journalists are just the latest tip of a larger prejudiced iceberg, but GamerGate’s fight is my fight, because a new intolerance has seized mainstream society; an intolerance not of inherited outward features, but of mindsets, which drives activists to mass-shame people who’ve said—or sometimes, worn-trivial things that even debatably smack of discredited old ideas.

With egalitarianism and tolerance reconfigured as the new social axiom, they have also become the new excuse to condemn the socially-inept, who can get labelled reactionaries or even potential criminals for as little as their desires to ogle beautiful fictional women, cosplay as game characters or play war-games with mock-aggressive buddies.

As has happened for literally centuries, the as-yet unproven suggestion that pleasure-centric culture makes people sinful has been dredged up once more, and this time it is aimed at those of us who by nature are introverted and prefer activities set in The Great Indoors.

Still, maybe it’s not just this time that Autism and the like were involved; I can’t help but wonder how many past victims who got labeled as “witches”, “demons” and the like might’ve just had mental conditions unrecognized as such at the time. The point is that, when it is socially-acceptable, or even desirable, to shame thoughts in the name of social harmony (and adjusted for different values, it has been at many points in throughout history), people whose thought-patterns are obviously “off”, and whose desires unique and pronounced, become tempting targets; much as they have been many times before.

For myself and many others, all of this “gamer”-bashing is just the same “Ew; you like X terrible thing?! You must be Y terrible thing!” dreck of the sort we’ve suffered at many points in our lives. That it is painted in the trendy new language of progressivism matters little, and I’ve yet to hear GamerGate’s feminist opponents remark on the irony that their supposed war against the patriarchy is in practice attacking the sorts of men who’ve suffered themselves for not living up to the macho ideal.

Yet what is different now (besides that this time it’s the Left leading the old “pleasure is sinful” charge), and for the first time, is we’re fighting back and hard. We no longer have no response when any given situation’s de-facto bullies ask “You and what army?” We now have an army, and it is GamerGate.

It is not composed solely of autistic people, and left-wing and right-wing people rub shoulders in it; their actual thoughts may differ drastically, but they all (mostly) work together because almost anyone who has been thought-shamed for any reason can now fall in and march alongside others who at least agree with them that rampant thought-shaming stinks, at a time when many in the mainstream press, including some self-proclaimed tolerance advocates, remain in favor of it on some level.

If such people are to continue this sort of knee-jerk-driven character assassinations, without allowing the characters in question a chance to represent or debate their ideals on neutral territory (not to mention stifling said representation and debate with bomb threats), they’re just proving correct GamerGate’s perception of them as a new breed of moral authoritarians, which is already becoming bad PR.

Meanwhile, GamerGate’s momentum just keeps building. While contrary to the accusations, there is no canonized GamerGate ideology that justifies the use of intimidation tactics, we don’t shy away from signal boosting vile behavior on the record, and it is having an effect.

The diversity and tolerance progressives already won are here to stay, and good for them, but for the first time in decades, it looks like autism-bashing is on its way out, and if things keep going the way they are, progressives will look back and bemoan that, even while they demonized it, GamerGate stole this tolerance victory from them.

Have an opinion about GamerGate? Would you like to write about it? Then read this

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news.

Photo Credit: Luke Hayfield/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Scroll to top