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ASAN Letter Expressing Concern re: House Subcommittee Hearing on Autism

18 May

A hearing has been scheduled for next week with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for it’s Subcommittee on Government Operations.

The hearing, Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has issued a letter expressing concern over the apparent lack of autistic input to the hearing. That letter is quoted below.

ASAN Letter Expressing Concern re: House Subcommittee Hearing on Autism

May 17, 2014
Dear Chairman Mica and Ranking Member Connolly:

On behalf of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the nation’s leading advocacy organization run by and for autistic people, I write to express concern about the upcoming May 20th, 2014 Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing entitled “Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders.” To our knowledge, no autistic witnesses or representatives from organizations run by Autistic people have been invited to testify. ASAN is profoundly concerned by the apparent absence of representatives from organizations run by autistic people and urges that the hearing not go forward without representation by those most directly impacted by federal autism policy.

Autistic individuals are uniquely suited to testify about which federal activities are most needed in order to improve our own lives. Accordingly, when the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform proposed a hearing on autism in November 2012, ASAN and other disability rights organizations voiced strong opposition to the planned absence of witnesses from organizations run by autistic people at that hearing and was pleased when the organizers of that hearing responded by inviting two autistic witnesses representing organizations run by autistic people to testify. The presence of autistic voices at the November 2012 hearing helped to enrich the conversation about the federal government’s response to autism.

We are disappointed by the prospect that, to our knowledge, the Committee has not invited Autistic witnesses from organizations run by autistic people to the upcoming hearing. It would truly be unfortunate if the progress Congress made in 2012 were reversed in 2014. ASAN appreciates the Subcommittee’s interest in federal autism policy and urges it to ensure the inclusion of witnesses from organizations run by and for autistic adults in its witness list. We stand ready to assist the Subcommittee in its efforts. If we can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact us via ASAN’s Director of Public Policy, Samantha Crane, at


Ari Ne’eman
Autistic Self Advocacy Network

cc: Chairman Darrell E. Issa
cc: Ranking Member Elijah Cummings

ASAN Statement Opposing House CAA Re-authorization Legislation H.R. 4631

15 May

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has issued a statement on the re-authorization of the Combating Autism Act:

ASAN Statement Opposing House CAA Re-authorization Legislation H.R. 4631

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is deeply concerned by the recently introduced Combating Autism Re-authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4631). H.R. 4631 fails to address many of the longstanding problems in the CAA, including the lack of funding and attention to research on services and the needs of adults, failure to include adequate self-advocate representation on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and the use of language offensive to and stigmatizing of Autistic Americans. Currently, only a small fraction of federal research funding focuses on effective delivery of services or on the needs of autistic adults, both of which are issues of pressing concern to autistic people and their families. Of NIH’s $217 million investment in autism research, only 2.4% has gone towards improving services and only 1.5% toward research on the needs of adults.

H.R. 4631 would exacerbate these problems by extending the existing structure of CAA to 2019. In addition, the legislation would create four IACC members appointed by Congress, risking the further politicization of federal autism policy. The addition of four IACC membership positions to be awarded by politicians is particularly troubling in light of H.R. 4631’s continued neglect of a critical group that is currently dramatically underrepresented on the IACC: autistic people themselves. The IACC is only currently required to have one of its members be an individual with an autism spectrum diagnosis, a status quo that H.R. 4631 would perpetrate. Finally, CAA’s use of the language of “combating autism” shows a profound disrespect and lack of concern for the preferences of autistic people and our families who find such language offensive and hurtful. H.R. 4631 maintains that language.

Last month, ASAN was joined by eighteen other disability rights organizations calling for reforms to CAA to address these problems. Regrettably, H.R. 4631 has undertaken no such changes, preferring to deepen commitment in a status quo that actively works against the interests of autistic people and our families. Support for legislation that perpetrates dangerous and hurtful trends in the lives of Autistic Americans is incompatible with friendship with the self-advocate community. Until such time as these issues are addressed, ASAN strongly urges opposition to H.R. 4631.

What Can I Do?

1) Contact Your Member of Congress and Urge Them To Oppose H.R. 4631. You can reach your Representative by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or by using this phone tool from the Arc of Maryland.

2) Tweet to your Representative why you oppose H.R. 4631 – use the hashtag #StopCombatingMe to help build momentum for our campaign.

3) If you belong to an advocacy organization, contact ASAN about signing on to our joint letter opposing H.R. 4631 by e-mailing Samantha Crane, ASAN’s Director of Public Policy, at

ASAN Releases Policy Brief on Organ Transplant Discrimination; Meets with Senior HHS Leaders

10 Apr

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issed a policy brief last month on the subject of organ transplant discrimination. Over the past year a few cases of denial of organ transplants on the basis of disability made the news. Many more did not.

ASAN met with people in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to present their brief and urge an end to discrimination in organ transplants based on disability.

The brief is:

Organ Transplantation and People with I/DD: A Review of Research, Policy and Next StepsAri Ne’eman, Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Steven Kapp, University of California, Los Angeles
Caroline Narby, Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Here is the ASAN statement:

This week, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) released a new policy brief on discrimination against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in organ transplantation. In the twenty-three years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities have achieved much progress in securing our rights in a wide variety of settings. Unfortunately, the field of medical decision-making remains too often immune from civil rights law. In few places is this as evident as in the context of organ transplants, where our policy brief outlines widespread discriminatory practice. Many people with I/DD fail to even make it to the evaluation process, and those who do are frequently denied access to transplants on the basis of their disability. Eighteen years after the landmark Sandra Jensen case in California, it is long past time for action on this issue.

On Tuesday, ASAN, the National Disability Rights Network and Not Dead Yet met with senior leadership in the Department of Health and Human Services to urge the federal government to issue new guidance addressing discriminatory practices in organ transplantation. Our brief provides comprehensive documentation on this issue and offers next steps for regulators, legislators, funders and activists. Produced with the generous support of the Special Hope Foundation, this will be the first of several policy briefs produced by ASAN this year examining the issue of access to health care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We invite you to download a copy of Organ Transplantation and People with I/DD: A Review of Research, Policy and Next Steps on our website by clicking here. Help us spread the word about discrimination in organ transplants – together, we can achieve equal access for all of us.

Produced with support from the Special Hope Foundation

By Matt Carey

ASAN Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting

15 Dec

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has issued a statement on the school shooting in Connecticut yesterday:


Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting

December 14, 2012
In response to recent media reports that the perpetrator of today’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut may have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with a psychiatric disability, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issued the following statement today:

“Our hearts go out to the victims of today’s shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and their families. Recent media reports have suggested that the perpetrator of this violence, Adam Lanza, may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, or with another psychiatric disability. In either event, it is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence. Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are vastly more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. Should the shooter in today’s shooting prove to in fact be diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with another disability, the millions of Americans with disabilities should be no more implicated in his actions than the non-disabled population is responsible for those of non-disabled shooters.

Today’s violence was the act of an individual. We urge media, government and community leaders to speak out against any effort to spuriously link the Autistic or broader disability community with violent crime. Autistic Americans and other groups of people with disabilities persist in facing discrimination and segregation in school, the workplace and the general community. In this terrible time, our society should not further stigmatize our community. As our great nation has so many times in the past, let us come together to both mourn those killed by acts of heinous murder and defend all parts of our country from the scourge of stigma and prejudice.”

Media inquiries regarding this shooting may be directed to ASAN at

By Matt Carey

Comparison of Healthcare Experiences in Autistic and Non-Autistic Adults: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey Facilitated by an Academic-Community Partnership

13 Dec

A recent paper addresses an issue I personally have considered very important and understudied: health care delivery for autistics. The current paper is: Comparison of Healthcare Experiences in Autistic and Non-Autistic Adults: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey Facilitated by an Academic-Community Partnership (pubmed link, full paper at AASPIRE).

From the AASPIRE press release:

AASPIRE Co-Director and principle investigator of the study, Dr. Christina Nicolaidis, said, “As a primary care provider, I know that our healthcare system is not always set up to offer high quality care to adults on the autism spectrum. However, I was saddened to see how large the disparities were. We really need to find better ways to serve them.”

While it is not surprising, it is sad that the healthcare system is not adequately serving autistic adults. Most of the survey respondents (68%) identified as having Asperger syndrome. Also, half (50%) identified as having disability in the areas of learning/remembering.

One side point, but an important one of this study: the involvement of AASPIRE and of autistic adults in the study. AASPIRE stands for the “Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership In Research and Education (AASPIRE)”.

Autistic adult and AASPIRE Co-Director Dora Raymaker is also quoted in the press release:

AASPIRE’s community Co-Director, Dora Raymaker, noted “While I am discouraged by the findings, I am also encouraged by the direct involvement of the Autistic community in all parts of this project. In order to ensure research that is truly useful to autistic adults, it is critical to involve us directly in the process.”

I’ve already discussed the participation of AASPIRE, but it is worth noting the author list and affiliations:

Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH1, Dora Raymaker, MS1,2, Katherine McDonald, PhD3, Sebastian Dern4, W. Cody Boisclair, PhD4, Elesia Ashkenazy2, and Amanda Baggs4

1Departments of Medicine and Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA; 2Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Washington, DC, USA; 3Department of Public Health, Food Studies & Nutrition and the Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA; 4AASPIRE Community Partner at Large, Portland, USA.

The names that jumped out at me right away were Dora Raymaker and Amanda Baggs. Autistic adults and some of the best people I know discussing rights and ethics of autism.

Here is a press release from Syracuse:

Katherine McDonald, Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics associate professor and BBI faculty fellow, and other researchers with the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE) have found that autistic adults report significantly worse health care experiences than their non-autistic peers.

The article, Comparison of Healthcare Experiences in Autistic and Non-Autistic Adults: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey Facilitated by an Academic-Community Partnership, is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

AASPIRE is an academic-community partnership where academic researchers, autistic adults, and other community members work together throughout the project. AASPIRE is based at Oregon Health and Science University and partners with community organizations including the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and the Autism Society of Oregon, as well as academic institutions including Syracuse University, Portland State University, and University of Indiana.

Read AASPIRE’s news release about the study

The AASPIRE press release is also available on the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.

Here is the abstract:

BACKGROUND: Little is known about the healthcare experiences of adults on the autism spectrum. Moreover, autistic adults have rarely been included as partners in autism research.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the healthcare experiences of autistic and non-autistic adults via an online survey. METHODS: We used a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to adapt survey instruments to be accessible to autistic adults and to conduct an online cross-sectional survey. We assessed preliminary psychometric data on the adapted scales. We used multivariate analyses to compare healthcare experiences of autistic and non-autistic participants.

RESULTS: Four hundred and thirty-seven participants completed the survey (209 autistic, 228 non-autistic). All adapted scales had good to excellent internal consistency reliability (alpha 0.82–0.92) and strong construct validity. In multivariate analyses, after adjustment for demographic characteristics, health insurance, and overall health status, autistic adults reported lower satisfaction with patient-provider communication (beta coefficient −1.9, CI −2.9 to −0.9), general healthcare self-efficacy (beta coefficient −11.9, CI −14.0 to −8.6), and chronic condition self-efficacy (beta coefficient −4.5, CI −7.5 to −1.6); higher odds of unmet healthcare needs related to physical health (OR 1.9 CI 1.1–3.4), mental health (OR 2.2, CI 1.3–3.7), and prescription medications (OR 2.8, CI 2.2–7.5); lower self-reported rates of tetanus vaccination (OR 0.5, CI 0.3–0.9) and Papanicolaou smears (OR 0.5, CI 0.2–0.9); and greater odds of using the emergency department (OR 2.1, CI 1.8–3.8).

CONCLUSION: A CBPR approach may facilitate the inclusion of people with disabilities in research by increasing researchers’ ability to create accessible data collection instruments. Autistic adults who use the Internet report experiencing significant healthcare disparities. Efforts are needed to improve the healthcare of autistic individuals, including individuals who may be potentially perceived as having fewer disability-related needs.

I would love to see more work on this, and solutions to these issues. I would love to see more work on how the medical system as it stands disincentivises doctors from taking on developmentally disabled patients. I would love to see work on how best to serve the medical needs of individuals with communication and sensory issues which make it much more difficult to perform a standard office visit. I would love to see solutions to problems that almost certainly exist.

By Matt Carey

Ari Ne’eman on CSPAN’s Washington Journal

1 Dec

Ari Ne’eman of the Autsitic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) participated in a call-in show, Washington Journal, on C-Span today. Here is that video.

As of now, this seem to work only on “desktop/laptop” computers, not mobile devices. Also, I can not get the video to embed in this article.

By Matt Carey

ASAN President Ari Ne’eman on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Tomorrow (Saturday) at 9:15 AM

30 Nov

CSPAN will be hosting a program discussing autism with Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) president Ari Ne’eman tomorrow. Below is the email I received from ASAN:

ASAN President Ari Ne’eman on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal
Tomorrow at 9:15 AM

Yesterday was a historic day for the Autistic self-advocacy movement. For the first time, we had representation at a congressional hearing on autism. Although much of yesterday’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs hearing focused on the same tired old questions on causation and cure, but thanks to your efforts, we had a seat at the table to offer another perspective for the first time.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a chance to continue having our voices heard. C-SPAN’s influential morning call-in program Washington Journal has invited ASAN President Ari Ne’eman to come on the show tomorrow morning from 9:15-10 AM to discuss federal disability policy, autism acceptance and the neurodiversity movement. And we want you to be a part of it.

To participate, you can call-in, email or tweet. C-SPAN has specifically urged Autistic people to participate, and has provided a dedicated call in line to help make sure we get on the air.

Call-In Numbers:
Democrats: (202) 585-3880
Republicans: (202) 585-3881
Independents: (202) 585-3882
Autistic People: (202) 585-3883

Please follow us as we also livetweet from @autselfadvocacy with hashtag #AutismOnCSPAN.

I assume that times are Eastern Standard.


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