Writing the Wrongs
Vaxxed Viewer Remains Staunch

Mark Blaxill on Massachusetts Special Education

Freedom-trail-map-of-historic-boston-massachusetts
By Anne Dachel

I recently wrote about the Aug 17, 2016 coverage from NPR Boston which focused on special needs students in Massachusetts.

Mass SPED chart

It was really hard to ignore the data, yet officials and educators in that state don't seem worried.

Additional reporting from NPR Boston included this interview of a special education expert from Lesley University about the soaring increase in autism.

WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes recently spoke with Elizabeth Keefe, an assistant professor at Lesley University who focuses on special education and autism spectrum disorders. We asked her if the number of special education students in the state is growing.

Keefe:

"The number of students that require special education services in the commonwealth has remained largely static over the last 10 years. There's no question that there have been specific groups, such as students with autism, who have experienced a significant number of students with particular disabilities in our schools. So I would say, the need for programming for students with very complex disabilities is certainly an issue in the commonwealth."

It seems that this expert sees things both ways. Yes, there are "a significant number of students with particular disabilities," like autism with a 300 percent increase, but at the same time, the numbers have "remained largely static." Unfortunately, the host didn't expand on this and ask Keefe specifically about the data on autism. Missing were questions on the reason behind the autism explosion that shows no signs of levelling off, or what the future holds for Massachusetts schools if things get even worse.

I asked our Editor At Large Mark Blaxill, a leading advocate in the autism community and himself a resident in Cambridge, about the lack of concern on the part of educators in Massachusetts. Here was his response.

Mark: “There are a number of things that are unique about Massachusetts, and I’m living it with my daughter right now. One of the things that I think that might contribute to complacency among some of the bureaucrats is that for a long time, Massachusetts was what they call a ‘non-categorical state’ and that the IEP’s were not categorized. They deliberately didn’t put people into categories like autism. Then there was a bill passed maybe over ten years ago that forced the state’s special education services to enter in categorical data, and that’s when the autism numbers were first visible in Massachusetts.

"In fact, they got re-categorized. While I don’t think the diagnosis was ever not given, there was this perception of diagnostic substitution. So as the autism numbers have risen—one of the times they rose the sharpest, was when they were first entered because they weren’t entered [at all previously]. So some of these folks can probably talk themselves into believing that there is diagnostic substitution, when that’s not in fact true. In fact,  if you look at the numbers since that shift, the mental retardation rates have drifted down a little, but autism rates have exploded, at least that NPR data shows.

"So that’s a background fact for Massachusetts that matters. The one thing that I’ve learned, kind of close up and personal, is, [if] you talk to special education teachers, they all know, they take it as a given that the autism rates are going up. They don’t know why. They don’t consider it their responsibility to ask why, but they just take that as a given in their environment.

"The other thing that I guess is most dramatic, that I’ve learned—I guess the third thing, is that we’re now seeing the aging out.  And Massachusetts ages out a little later…They’re generous in terms of when they age people out of the education system, so my daughter will age out on her twenty-second birthday. That’s when her educational services will stop, and she’ll enter the adult services population. And the thing that I’ve learned is that really just two years ago—my daughter was born in 1995, and she’s about a year and a half away from aging out—the children born as of 2014, so two years ago, the adult services group reorganized themselves and they set up an autism adult services group, which runs differently from the mental retardation or intellectual disability group. They recognize that those populations are different in terms of what they need from the adult services system. So clearly, Massachusetts, in its services infrastructure, it has recognized that they are now seeing a new population. My perception of it right now, is that they’re doing a pretty good job, and they’re pretty well organized to deal with my daughter’s concerns. I’m hopeful that it will go well, and we’ve been working with some very conscientious people that are doing a good job.

"Obviously, if the epidemic, the tsunami of adults, continues unchecked for five years, ten years, twenty years, forty years—imagine the population of adults that is going to be facing this emergent services program. It’s going to be under huge stress.

"For whatever reason, I think the school system has absorbed the challenge, but—and it’s absorbed it at the expense of other things, other services. There’s probably been rationing of services to some degree, but I think the adult services is likely to be where we hit a tipping point. At some point there’s a straw that will break the camel’s back. When that happens? I wish I could predict."

I absolutely agree with Mark on the idea of a "tipping point" being reached when hundreds of thousands of young adults with autism age out of our schools and overwhelm adult services in the coming decade in America. Worse still will be the eventual cost to the taxpayers when parents are no longer able to care for these individuals. The adult burden will be added to the already present cost of all these special needs students who keep coming and coming.

For years at Age of Autism we've reported on autistic children who were abused by an educational system that was never designed to deal with them. Stories about seclusion rooms, restraint devices, and negligent teachers, bus drivers, and aides are overwhelming evidence that autism has not always been here. Lots of coverage has focused on autism training for educators, police, doctors, nurses, librarians, EMTs, firefighters, and airport personnel. Add to that the stories about making all kinds of places "autism-friendly": story time at the public library, movies, "sensitive Santas" at Christmas, restaurants, plays, summer camps. We're living in a world forced to accommodate an ever-increasing disabled population that we refuse to see as  a real concern. Yes, somehow we've managed to hold things together as autism has disabled a generation of children, but the clock is ticking. Imagine what it's going to be like when two percent of adults are also autistic. Our society will have to make dramatic changes. And maybe when the COST OF AUTISM becomes too much, we'll finally honestly address the CAUSE OF AUTISM.
Footnote:

I recently read a piece in NewsMax called, "Natural Remedies for High Blood Sugar," by Trent Nichols. (Sorry, but the story isn't available online.)

What caught my eye was the expert cited in the story, Dr. David Brownstein, someone who is an outspoken and courageous critic of childhood vaccines. I was stunned by the opening paragraph:

"It's a staggering statistic that suggests the United States is facing a ticking public-health time bomb: Nearly half of Americans have blood sugar levels high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes..." 

..."'Type 1 diabetes is increasing at epidemic rates,' [Brownstein] explains. 'Two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

'Either we learn to properly treat adult-onset diabetes or our healthcare system will collapse due to the cost of treating so many people.'"

If we think beyond just the children with autism and consider all the other exploding health problems out there, like the epidemic number of people with diabetes, asthma, life-threatening allergies, seizure and sleep disorders--the future looks particularly bleak. I just finished with "Welcome Back Wednesday" at our local high school, and I collected all the behavior meds, Epipens, and inhalers we'll need for the new school year. Things aren't getting better health-wise for Americans. We expect people, especially our children, to be sick. We know doctors won't be able to tell us why we're like this, but they'll have pills, medications, or devices so we can adjust to our health problems. 

So while many of us see autism as the epidemic that will eventually break the system, there are plenty of other things to worry about. And through it all, doctors, health officials, and politicians act like nothing is wrong. Actually for our candidates this election season, the health of Americans should be a major topic right along with terrorism, immigration, and the economy.

I also asked MIT senior research scientist Dr. Stephanie Seneff about the special education trend in her state. This was her response:

"As a Massachusetts resident, it is alarming to me that the autism rate has increased more than four-fold in just 12 years in Massachusetts. It's even more alarming that the Massachusetts government doesn't seem to see this as a major problem. If this increase continues unabated, clearly the school system will eventually become overburdened to the degree that regular educational needs are left unmet. It's probably already happening. How can we continue to shrug our shoulders and claim that we don't understand what's causing this epidemic, when the answer is staring us in the face?"

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.

Comments

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Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

When my son was 5 in 1967, he was not allowed to go to kindergarten in Arlington MA, because he could not speak. I was told the public schools could not handle children who could not speak. In 1968 he was admitted to the children's unit at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, where thankfully with the help of the highly professional staff, he began to speak just before his 6th birthday.

Massachusetts had the first special education law, I believe, because of the tireless efforts of Barbara Cutler, to whom I am eternally grateful. My son made phenomenal progress at the Gaebler School (Metropolitan State Hospital), then Pine Point in Camden Maine, and onto Riverview on Cape Cod. Riverview students are now mostly autistic, though back in the 1970s most had reading problems. Riverview has a highly active online parent network for discussion of housing and employment possibilities.

When special education ended for my son, the Department of Mental Retardation estimated his IQ to be 110, thus his case was transferred to the Department of Mental Health (DMH). His best years were at Westborough State Hospital, again because of the highly professional staff. The Boston Globe has just published a 3rd Spotlight article on how inadequate DMH programs are, now shifted to privatized group homes.

Under new regulations, my son should be eligible for Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), but the waiting lists are too long. It is very discouraging. Why can't the "professionals" see that autism (rare 30 years ago) has become epidemic?

Just the facts in MA

MA Autism Commission meeting minutes reveals the autism numbers are being intentionally underreported:

"Marty Mittnacht presented on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Ms. Mittnacht stated that as reflected on the slides, autism is a growing population, and that the different disability categories may include additional students with autism but who have categorized by a different disability by their District."

"Chris Supple asked where PDD-NOS falls on the number and percentage of disability categories. Ms. Mittnacht replied that it tends to fall under the development delay category until age 9."

"
Dania Jekel asked how multiple disabilities are identified. Ms. Mittnacht stated that it is when there is one or more disability that has a primary impact on the student."

"Todd Garvin asked how the definition of Autism impacts people who fall under the older definition or people with Asperger’s. Ms. Mittnacht replied that their definition does not have the term Asperger’s and that they would just fall under the general definition. She added that some children are identified under the general definition of communication, and that it doesn’t have to necessarily be “autism.”

Http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/eohhs/autism/autism-commission-5-17-16-meeting-minutes.docx

Ted Kuntz

It makes me wonder just how big the elephant in the room has to get before it is finally acknowledged.

Angus Files

The epistemology relating to autism is always thin specifically when politicians are involved and arrive club class,on a different planet from my budget, planet autism/earth life.I would love to know where they garner this rose-tinted knowledge from, especially as I am going to bed right now and I could do with having a sweet dream rather than living and reading of constant nightmare scenarios involving autism(we all don't make it up for enjoyment right) . Mark wake up,it could be denial and wishful thinking which I am a sufferer of from time to time if not lets all move to MA.

MMR RIP

Birgit Calhoun

My son teaches art at a Mass. community college. He often has handicapped students in his classes. Some are obviously autistic, others have unidentified learning disabilities. But for him as a teacher it is a real problem because he doesn't have the full support of the administration. Often rules that require perfect attendance cause conflicts and the rules also dictate for him to give grades that reflect performance.

He could be much more effective if he had greater job security. Right now in his job he wonders if he gets enough classes each semester to be able to survive. He is a great teacher, but instead of giving him a fulltime job, they hire more people so they won't have to pay benefits. I would say his ability to serve autistic students is greatly impaired by the school's lack of understanding of the magnitude of the problem. It's imperative to have consistency for relatively high-functioning autistic adults as well as any other type of handicap.

Birgit Calhoun

Eindeker! My son lives in Mass. He has friends with kids who needed vaccines in ~ 2006. He asked them if they would check regarding Thimerosal. He was told that at that time their doctors still had vaccines where the insert stated that the vaccines contained Thimerosal. Thimerosal was never recalled. Doctors kept using their supply far beyond the often claimed date that it was supposedly taken off the market. MMR does not need Thimerosal to cause autism. Since the MMR vaccine has live disease-causing agents, whether adjuvants or the viruses themselves is not relevant. In my opinion there is too little information to really know which adjuvant or which virus caused autism. Certain is that Measles, Mumps and Rubella all can cause encephalopathy of some kind or another. The very idea of using three different disease agents in the same shot is abhorrent. Also it would be wise to stop using WSJ as a reliable authority on that subject.

Ellie

@Laura, I agree with you completely. Mark is going to be in for a rude awakening when his daughter gets into the adult system. Mass sucks.

"I was surprised by Mark's statement that, "My perception of it right now, is that they're doing a pretty good job, and they're pretty well organized to deal with my daughter's concerns."

I have yet to hear a parent in any state say that about the lack of appropriate services, programs, and help that greet them when their child ages out of the school system (not that what many/most received during school years was appropriate, either)."

Tim Lundeen

@Benedetta I've been reading a lot about EMFs and they are a real, major problem (as first noted by Ronald Kostoff).

Have you looked at reducing EMFs? There are some resources at Peter Sullivan's site, http://www.clearlightventures.com/#/autismemf/ -- they have a relatively easy protocol to reduce EMFs during sleep, if that helps then you can work on full remediation.

There is an excellent talk by Dr Pall at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yydZZanRJ50

You can follow along with the slides from https://www.dropbox.com/s/5e617kju8v9pkh1/MartinPall.pdf?dl=0

Quite compelling -- it's very clear from his research that both EMFs and chemical toxins are major contributors to the autism epidemic.

Tim Kasemodel

Eindecker, you say the graph rules out MMR and Thimerosal based on 2006 and 2013 data?

You should be smart enough to realize that "enrollment" means from early childhood through age 21. It is impossible to sort out one age group (5 and 6 year olds born in 2006) and say anything specific. Including 3 year olds is even more nonsensical.

Also, limiting the conversation to mercury sourced from vaccines or one individual vaccine, the MMR, does not rule out vaccines or mercury in the environment at all. Adding that mercury IS in fact still in vaccines is commendable by hypocritical to your point.

Joe

Excellent article. The government bureaucrats, politicians, nurse practitioners, pediatricians, and other doctors are in such an incredible state of denial, that only BANKRUPTCY might get someone's attention.

But even then I'm not sure. Remember, the denial is there in order to deny RESPONSIBILITY.

When the problem becomes too big to ignore, be assured that NO ONE will take responsibility and everyone will point fingers at everyone else.

Also recall that most vaccines to children in this country are given by nurse practitioners (usually females). They will kick the can up to their supervising physican, who will then kick it up to the CDC. The CDC will call the whole 25 year disaster "genetic" in origin, or maybe due to SSRIs in pregnancy.

That's all you're gonna get, folks, as this vaccine nuclear holocaust steadily unfolds.

Joe

Benedetta

Oh, and it should be noted that the special education classes did increase in Nelson county, but a new trend in education happened then too. Not just in that county but in the county I was raised in - further southeast. That was the development of behavioral classes.

The last thing you want is your kid with mild to moderate autism in a behavioral class. Those types of classes began as a trickle. Hyper active, to psycho path. These classes then began to refine themselves filled up with irritable - deifying authority students. I am not sure they were wrong, except they were totally dyslogical too.

I got to get that belly off of my son -- we are on a special diet - but he just overeats. What to do? I got to do something or he will be one of those that Dr. Brownstein was discussing.

Laura Hayes

Excellent and important article, Anne.

I was surprised by Mark's statement that, "My perception of it right now, is that they're doing a pretty good job, and they're pretty well organized to deal with my daughter's concerns."

I have yet to hear a parent in any state say that about the lack of appropriate services, programs, and help that greet them when their child ages out of the school system (not that what many/most received during school years was appropriate, either).

The same goes for the lack of any appropriate healing treatments covered by insurance. All insurance will cover is Rx drugs...can't have enough of those, apparently...but can't have anything that will actually help heal your child versus cause them further harm...unless it's on your own dime...and even then, it can be hard to access.

For Mark's and his daughter's sake, I hope his perception is right. However, I sure wouldn't count on it, and I'd be busy working on a backup plan starting now.

Benedetta

10 years ago; hump! 20 years ago in Nelson county, Kentucky when I was trying to get physically therapy for a kid going into the 8th grade for cursive writing - the special ed director didn't say static.
She was whinning about the 10 percent increase each year and getting occupational therapy just was -- hard. Poor , poor woman.

Bob Moffit

"We know doctors won't be able to tell us why we're like this, but they'll have pills, medications, or devices so we can adjust to our health problems."

I don't know who said it .. but .. whoever it was .. is right on target:

"Pharmaceutical industry does not create cures .. they create customers"

One could call them "Problem profiteers" .. knowing for certain if they cure the "problem" .. they end the "profits". What kind of a successful business model would that be?

Hey .. paraphrasing what the Godfather said: It's not personal .. it's how we do our business"

Eindeker

OK Mark so your graph pretty much rules out MMR & thiomersal as causes of autism: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/02/04/state-by-state-how-vaccination-rates-have-changed/ 2006
Massachusetts MMR coverage 2006 96.6% 18-35 month old children had MMR vaccine, in 2013 95.8% vaccine coverage, ie zero correlation with autism stats.
Thiomersal gone from all but some multidose vaccine formulations in 2004 so that's not responsible for increasing autism diagnosis

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