Tag Archives: Autism

You know, “Dr. Bob”, minority health disparities are HUGE in the autism community.

1 May

Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears is advertising himself again on the TacaNow blog. He’s telling us all about how he was an early adopter on biomed approaches to autism and how it’s all about listening to the parents. He tells us about how it all started with a parent asking for a prescription for an antifungal. No discussion of actually testing the kid for a fungal infection, just the standard story: parent asks, DAN doctor writes prescription story, DAN doctor takes credit for any gains, and no mention ever of any adverse reactions.

So, clearly, a case of same old/same old. So why write about it here? Because once again “Dr. Bob” shows how out of touch he is with the needs of the autism community. Oh, sure, he knows what parents at conventions like AutismOne want to hear (snarky remarks about vaccines and, you, the parents are always right). But what is one of the biggest problems in the autism communities right now? And has been for, well, ever? Disparities in diagnosis and access to treatment.

Here’s an example: racial and ethinic minorities are vastly under diagnosed and under served. In my state (same as “Dr. Bob’s”) if you are Hispanic, you are about 70% less likely to get special education services under the autism label as if you are white. I’ve plotted it out for my district that that ratio has remained basically constant for the past 14 years (as far back as the data are available).

I’m sure “Dr. Bob” can rattle off the latest CDC autism prevalence figures, or at least some of them. But if one actually reads the report, what does one find?

Non-Hispanic white children were approximately 30% more likely to be identified
with ASD than non-Hispanic black children and were almost 50% more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children.

Given that, take a look at what Dr. Bob wrote on the TacaNow blog:

Yet, there is a shadow over all this success: April was supposed to be Autism Awareness Month. Did anyone even know? I checked the CDC website, and they proclaim April to be National Minority Health Month, with the catch phrase “Learn about CDC and HHS efforts towards eliminating health disparities,” as if THAT is the most important health crisis facing America today.

If “Dr. Bob” really believes that biomedical approaches are so helpful, why discount the need for outreach to minorities? Really, we have a HUGE problem with under diagnosis of autism in California among minorities. But you seem unaware of this.

One does wonder how many minorities, especially those with low incomes are served by the Sears clinic. I grew up in “Dr. Bob’s” home, Orange County, going to school along side farmworker kids. There’s a huge population of underserved minority kids there.

As an aside, here’s how one does an internet search, “Dr. Bob”. Top hit is Announcement: Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Day — April 2015. But that’s an MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) from the CDC, and as a doctor you must follow those, right? Especially since the MMWR’s include, say, information about the recent California measles outbreak which you downplayed.

Here, while we are at it, let’s do another google search. The word “minority” on the “Dr. Bob’s” family website (askdrsears.com).

Gee, 5 hits. One on how only a minority of families skip the MMR vaccine. Only one on racial/ethinic minorities, an article on lice.

No hits for “Hispanic” on the Sears family website.

“Dr. Bob”, if you want to pretend to speak for the autism communities (you don’t), at least show us the respect of acknowledging one of the big issues in our community: under served and under diagnosed populations.

Of course, to acknowledge these points you have to also acknowledge that autism isn’t always diagnosed, and that we need awareness to get diagnoses and services to these communities.

Which is to say, you have acknowledge that autism “rates” are under counts. And that doesn’t fit with your ideas on vaccines causing autism, does it? Or did I misread you when you wrote that you were waiting to “proclaim from the rooftops” that the MMR causes autism? (odd how you edited the original version of that article to remove that comment, isn’t it.)

Seriously, “Dr. Bob”. Get out of the corner of the autism community you profit from and take a hard look at what we really need.


By Matt Carey

comment on: When an Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Resolves, What Remains?

1 May

Having just discussed a study on what happens after autism “recovery” it may be worth taking a look at another study that just came out this week. This study isn’t yet published but was presented at a conference:

When an Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Resolves, What Remains?

The abstract is below, but in this study group there were significant gains in a subgroup and a loss of ASD diagnosis. The subgroup had much less intellectual disability on follow up.

And they also had a number of other disabilities and support needs. Most still had some diagnosis, if not ASD. Most were still getting some level of extra support in school.

BACKGROUND: It has been documented that some children with early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) do not meet criteria for the diagnosis at a later age. It is unclear, however, if deficits remain after ASD symptomatology resolves.
OBJECTIVE: To characterize residual learning, cognitive, emotional/behavioral diagnoses and educational needs of a group of children with early ASD diagnosis that resolved.
DESIGN/METHODS: Review of 38 children diagnosed with ASD at a University-affiliated inner-city early intervention program 2003-2013 who had follow up evaluation indicating resolution of the original ASD diagnosis. The group represents 7% of the 569 children diagnosed with ASD by the program during this period. Original and follow up diagnoses were made by an experienced multidisciplinary team based on DSM-IV criteria, Childhood Autism Rating Scale(CARS) and/or the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule(ADOS). All children had re-evaluation an average of 4 years later. Initial cognitive level was based on the Bayley, and follow up on WPPSI, WISC, or Stanford Binet. Data collected included: demographics, cognitive level, CARS, diagnoses and services originally and at follow up.
RESULTS: Mean age at initial diagnosis 2.6±0.9y and at follow up 6.4±2.8y. 80% male; 44% Hispanic, 36% Caucasian, 10% African American; 46% had Medicaid. Mean initial CARS 32±3 and at follow up 25±4. The initial ADOS (21/38) categorized 29% as autism and 67% ASD and was negative at follow up when available (23/38). On initial cognitive testing (29/38): 33% with intellectual disability, 23% borderline, 44% average. At follow up (33/38): 6% borderline, the rest average. At follow up, 68% had language/learning disability, 49% externalizing problems (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Disruptive Behavior Disorder), 24% internalizing problems (mood, anxiety, OCD, selective mutism), 5% significant mental health diagnosis (psychosis.nos), and 8% warranted no diagnoses. 26% were in mainstream academic settings without support and 13% with support, 29% in integrated settings, and 21% in self-contained classes.
CONCLUSIONS: When an early ASD diagnosis resolves, at least in the early years, there are often learning and emotional/behavioral diagnoses that remain. Understanding the full range of possible outcomes is important for parents, clinicians, and the educational system.


By Matt Carey

Autism Speaks:  The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism…but doesn’t let that statement stand alone.

26 Mar

Autism Speaks has come out with some very strong statements about autism and vaccines.  And the back peddled. 

First, here is a statement by Robert Ring, Chief Science Officer:

Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.  The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.  We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.

Rob Ring
Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks

 
In the past Autism Speaks had been sympathetic towards the idea that vaccines cause autism.  More than sympathetic, some would say.  Such a clear statement as above would have been unthinkable from Autism Speaks only a few years ago.
I wish they had made these statements earlier, but I am glad they are making these statements now.  The vaccine hypothesis has been the most damaging idea in autism since the refrigerator mother theory.  With Autism Speaks position as a well known autism organization, perhaps even fewer families will get caught in the vaccines-cause-autism trap in the future.Here’s the way the Autism Speaks vaccines and autism page looked just last year.  It includes many problematic statements and concludes: “A list of publications that used VAERS information to study associations with autism can be found here“.  “Here” is a link to pubmed with the search terms “vaers” and “autism”.  No surprise, it’s a list that is padded out by works by Mark and David Geier.  The Geiers have been performing poor research for years and have been discussed here at Left Brain/Right Brain many times.


The above statement by Mr. Ring was picked up by the press in February as it was so clear.
Next, Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks:
 

Over the last two decades extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccines and autism. Scientific research has not directly connected autism to vaccines. Vaccines are very important. Parents must make the decision whether to vaccinate their children. Efforts must be continually  made to educate parents about vaccine safety. If parents decide not to vaccinate they must be aware of the consequences in their community and their local schools.

Bob Wright
Co-founder, Autism Speaks

It’s a fairly stilted paragraph in my read.  It comes across as though Mr. Wright is trying to appear to ride the fence while at the same time pulling back dramatically from the clear statement by Mr. Ring.  Scientific research has not directly connected autism to vaccines?

Even with that, I can’t imagine that admitting that vaccines are “important” will go over well in some circles.  Close circles.  Even “important” is to positive a word for some.  But, seriously, here we have an invention that has saved more lives that possibly any other in medical history and we get “important”?

Yes, Mr. Wright, efforts must be made to educate parents about vaccine safety.  That’s what your chief science officer did.  Sadly, you can’t let Autism Speaks be a science led organization.

By Matt Carey

Note: I accidentally published an early draft of this article yesterday.

Is Andrew Wakefield’s Strategic Autism Initiative failing?

3 Mar

When Andrew Wakefield left Thoughtful House he set up a charity, the Strategic Autism Initiative.  Interestingly even now, years after it was founded, it appears to have no website or Facebook page.  What it does have is tax forms because every charity must make those public.   Last year when I looked these tax forms, a few points became apparent.  Most of the money the SAI had taken in (58%) had gone to salaries, with the lion’s share of that going to Mr. Wakefield himself.  In 2012 more money was spent on salaries that was taken in.  SAI appears to have two employees, Andrew Wakefield and Terri Arranga.  Here are the contributions to the SAI, Mr. Wakefield’s salary and Ms. Arranga’s salary for the years 2010, 2011, 2012.

SAI contributions and salaries

And here are the tax forms:

Strategic Autism Initiative 2010 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2011 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2012 tax form

It is worth noting that the SAI was formed towards the end of 2010, hence the low salaries for that year.

Donations were down dramatically from 2011 to 2012 leaving one to wonder: what would 2013 bring?  Did the downward trend continue? Well, here’s the 2013 tax form:

Strategic Autism Initiative 2013 tax form.

Gross receipts: $50,498, down from $113,501 for tax year 2012.  A drop of over 50%.  The SAI ran a deficit of $97,514, nearly twice what they took in.  Mr. Wakefield took no salary, Teri Arranga only $5,000.  The SAI only had $21,396 in assets at the end of the year.

In short: the SAI appears to be failing. OK, in terms of benefit to the autism communities, the SAI has continually failed.

SAI 2013 form 990

Below are the “program service accomplishments” for the SAI in 2012 and 2013.  Program services are the heart of what a charity is doing.  Well, a standard charity.  That said, ignore the money amounts listed and tell me if you can see any difference in the text.  It looks to me like they copy and pasted the accomplishments from 2012 into 2013.  If I wrote the same accomplishments one year to the next, my management would likely let me go for accomplishing nothing in a year.

SAI 2012 program services SAI 2013 program services

This tax form–the most recent one available–is from 2013.  We will have to wait for the 2014 form but if this trend continued, the SAI is either failing or has failed as an organization.

By Matt Carey

National Geographic, “The War on Science”, includes discussion of vaccines and autism

19 Feb

I just got my copy of the March 2015 issue of National Geographic a couple of days ago. Imagine my reaction when I saw this cover (click to enlarge):

natgeo

In case you are having trouble imagining my reaction–it includes a big THANK YOU to National Geographic.

Yes, they put “vaccinations can lead to autism” up there with “evolution never happened” and “the moon landing was fake”.

This paragraph includes references to Jenny McCarthy (anti-vaccine activist and actress Jenny McCarthy) and Andrew Wakefield’s Lancet article.

Doubting science also has consequences. The people who believe vaccines cause autism—often well educated and affluent, by the way—are undermining “herd immunity” to such diseases as whooping cough and measles. The anti-vaccine movement has been going strong since the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet published a study in 1998 linking a common vaccine to autism. The journal later retracted the study, which was thoroughly discredited. But the notion of a vaccine-autism connection has been endorsed by celebrities and reinforced through the usual Internet filters. (Anti-vaccine activist and actress Jenny McCarthy famously said on the Oprah Winfrey Show, “The University of Google is where I got my degree from.”)


By Matt Carey

Dan Aykroyd, still autistic after all these years

5 Dec

With all the recent hullabaloo about how celebrities being autistic somehow harms the autism community (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check news sources for Jerry Seinfeld and autism), one counter example seems to be ignored: Dan Aykroyd.  Mr. Aykroyd is perhaps most famous for his movie Ghost Busters, but his credits are many (including my favorite, Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers).  He’s a successful entertainer, and a diagnosed autistic.

Begs the question, why no backlash against him?

One can only speculate, so speculate I will.  First, Mr. Aykroyd’s “coming out” didn’t make such a public splash.  In my mind, that’s the most likely explanation for a lack of backlash.  People could see his statement as more of a threat.  Also, with more publicity, people know that their responses will be more widely read.  A second reason for the difference in response is that Mr. Aykroyd handled the topic much better than did Mr. Seinfeld.   Consider these two news stories:

In 2013 he was interviewed by the Daily Mail.  In ‘I have Asperger’s – one of my symptoms included being obsessed with ghosts’, Mr. Aykroyd responded to the question of what is his “worst illness” thus:

I was diagnosed with Tourette’s at 12. I had physical tics, nervousness and made grunting noises and it affected how outgoing I was. I had therapy which really worked and by 14 my symptoms eased. I also have Asperger’s but I can manage it. It wasn’t diagnosed until the early Eighties when my wife persuaded me to see a doctor. One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement — I carry around a police badge with me, for example. I became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That’s when the idea of my film Ghostbusters was born.

Dan Aykroyd: ‘My Harley-Davidson is a form of psychiatric therapy. You get on that and you don’t need a shrink’

My very mild Asperger’s has helped me creatively. I sometimes hear a voice and think: “That could be a character I could do.” Of course there are many different grades, right up to the autism spectrum, and I am nowhere near that. But I sympathise with children who have it.

Let’s do the compare and contrast with Mr. Aykroyd and Mr. Seinfeld.

1) Mr. Aykroyd has a diagnosis.  About 3 decades ago he was diagnosed.  Of course, back then Asperger syndrome wasn’t an “official diagnosis”.  But, of course Asperger’s work on autism goes back as far as Hans Kanner’s work.  Mr. Seinfeld doesn’t have (nor did he claim to have) a diagnosis.

2) Mr. Aykroyd was also diagnosed with Tourette syndrome.  At age 12.  So, having a neurlogical diagnosis early on gives more credence to his later-in-life autism (Asperger) diagnosis.

3) Mr. Aykroyd has acknowledged that his challenges are much less than most autistics. This is a big point.  Temple Grandin does the same thing, by the way.  As do pretty much every self-advocate I’ve ever encountered in real life or online.

So, yeah, Mr. Aykroyd and Mr. Seinfeld approached their public discussions of autism very differently.  And, as a result have received very different responses.

Leaving aside the lack of any “rage spirals” involved in Mr. Aykroyd’s revelation, what about the basic fact that he’s been essentially ignored?  Here we have an autistic, with comorbid Tourette syndrome, who is successful.  Who credits his autism as contributing to his success.

Why is he ignored?  Perhaps that question is asked and answered.  He’s successful and he credits his autism with contributing to his success.  That doesn’t fit into the narrative.  While Mr. Aykroyd is NLMK (not like my kid), he could be a hero for some in the autism community.  Why can’t we have autistic heroes?  Autistic people whom autistics and non-autistics can look up to and say, “Dang, s/he did well”?

The answer is we can have autistic heroes.  We can acknowledge successful autistics.   Because there is no one face of autism.  Autism can be Dan Aykroyd and be people who need extraordinary support so they don’t end up sedated or restrained in an emergency room.  Sometimes we talk about those who meet a more standard definition of successful. Sometime we talk about those with more extraordinary challenges.  And sometimes we talk about the entire spectrum in a single conversation.  That’s what it means to be part of such a varied community.

By Matt Carey

ASAN Series: JRC Survivor Speaks Out

4 Dec

When this article first appeared here at Left Brain/Right Brain only the first three parts of the 4-part series were online at the ASAN website.  Part 4 is now up and I include it here.

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 4)

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is most infamous for it’s use of electric shocks as a behavior modification method.  But electric shocks are not the only aversive technique they use.  In a four part series, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network presents a rare insider’s view of life at the JRC.   So far three parts have been published.  But rather than wait for part 4, I’ve decided to post links to the articles now.

The series starts with this introduction:

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is a residential facility in Massachusetts where disabled residents are subject to electric shock, sensory assault, food deprivation, prolonged restraint and seclusion, and a host of other horrifying and aversive “treatments.” The United Nations has condemned the JRC’s treatment of its residents as torture, and disability rights advocates have been trying to get the facility shut down for over 30 years. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network has previously published an in-depth piece about the history and practices of the JRC, which you can read here.

This post is the first of a four-part series written by Jennifer, a survivor of the JRC. We are extremely grateful to have her permission to publish this brave account of her own experiences with the so-called “treatments” the JRC provides.

Here are links to the series so far:

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 1)

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 2)

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 3)

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 4)

By Matt Carey

Jerry Seinfeld, still not autistic after all these years

4 Dec

Jerry Seinfeld made a bit of a stir in the autism community recently by stating in an interview that, well, let’s use his own words:

I think, on a very drawn out scale, I think I’m on the spectrum.

This statement caused some excitement in some quarters and some vocal pushback in other quarters.  Well, that and this statement:

But, I don’t see it as dysfunctional. I see think of it as an alternate mindset.

My guess is that this second statement caused much if not most of the pushback that Mr. Seinfeld received.  Why?  Because it says that, say, Jerry Seinfeld can have autistic traits and those traits are not dysfunctional for him.  Much more, people expressed a fear that Jerry Seinfeld (or someone else with little or no disability) would become the face of autism and that the significant challenges faced by many on the spectrum would be ignored.

Looking back at the first statement above, note that we never get to hear what “it” is.  Is “it” autism in general?  Or, is “it” that part of Mr. Seinfeld’s experience that he identifies as being somewhat like autism?  It seemed very clear to me that Mr. Seinfeld was talking about his own experience, but I can see how others might not see it that way.  In which case we as a community should have said, “Hey Mr. Seinfeld, could you clarify that statement?”  Sadly there won’t be a clarification.  Likely because of the pushback, largely from a few vocal parents of autistic children who face extraordinary challenges due to autism (and intellectual disability and other disabilities), Mr. Seinfeld has made it clear that he’s not autistic and stopped the conversation there.  I never thought he was saying he was autistic, hence that whole “very drawn out scale” caveat he put in his initial statement.

In a newer interview, on Access Hollywood,  here (my apologies but the embed code doesn’t seem to be working or I’d have that video embedded here) we hear Mr. Seinfeld put the brakes on the entire Seinfeld/autism discussion.  The “money” quotes from that interview?  From Time Magazine’s article:

“I don’t have autism, I’m not on the spectrum,” theComedians in Cars Getting Coffee star said Wednesday. “I was just watching a play about it, and … I related to it on some level”

To this observer, the interview comes across as though Mr. Seinfeld asked, “Hey, I got myself into some difficulty.  Could you interview me and help me get out of it?”.  Whatever the background, Mr. Seinfeld put a stop to the discussion.

In the end, we as a community lost a potential ally by using his celebrity to air our own dirty laundry.   We are certainly a divided community on a few issues.  The one in particular here is the way in which some people don’t want to accept the fact that autism is a spectrum.  Autistics have varying degrees of challenges, both due to autism and to other conditions (e.g. epilepsy, intellectual disability, anxiety, etc.) that are common within the autistic population.  One reason I don’t particularly like the term “spectrum” is that implies a one-dimensional distribution, a line with those requiring constant support on one side and those who can manage independently on another.  Well that’s not really accurate.  By that model, the students in my kid’s classroom are all in one narrow band of the spectrum.  But they aren’t.  They are each unique in their strengths and weaknesses.  Autism for one is not the same as autism for another.

But let’s get back to that division.  Some people spoke out about a “war” between “autistic self advocates and parents of severely autistic children” and that the autism spectrum should be split.  Others said that were Mr. Seinfeld to become one of the public faces of autism, he (like Temple Grandin, somehow) would be used by officials to downplay the significant needs of those with great challenges and, again, the spectrum should be split.

We are so divided that we need some sort of civil war to divide the spectrum.  Really?  Here’s the thing, we don’t.  There is a large, growing and vibrant community I in invite those who want division to join it.  The founder of this blog, Kev Leitch, understood that.  He understood it when he made Left Brain/Right Brain a group blog with parents, professionals and autistics as contributors.  He understood it when he built a discussion forum which was inclusive.  The people at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism understood that when they built a community with voices from all over the community.  Their Facebook page has over 108,000 likes at this point.

There is a place for advocates who have a very narrow focus.  Say, only autistics with intellectual disability or only self-advocates.  But when you take that to the level of claiming that we should split the community over some “war”, you are doing harm.  The strongest advocates are those who see beyond their own self interests, who advocate for those in the community whose needs differ from one’s own self-interest (even if that “self” interest is in supporting a loved one).

Or, to put it simply, I expect that self-advocates will support advocacy that directly benefits kids and adults who require 24 hour support, like my kid. Just as I think self advocates deserve advocacy support from parents like myself.

In this whole hullabaloo about Seinfeld and autism I’ve seen some reasonable voices.  I’ve saved them for now.

First, from Jerry Seinfeld and Autism, an article by John Elder Robison (autistic adult) at Psychology Today:

Someone like Mr. Seinfeld – by virtue of his public persona – could easily be seen as a “face of autism,” when in fact we are a very diverse community and many of us want or need far more services and supports than Mr. Seinfeld has so far requested publically. The uninformed public could look at him and say, “autistic people are millionaire comedians,” which is far from accurate. Sure, there are some autistic comedians and some rich ones but most of us are somewhere in the middle. We are all individuals.

Then, from Amy Daniels at Autism Speaks in Celebrate Seinfeld, But Don’t Forget Those Whose Needs Are Great:

So while we celebrate the unique abilities that autism can bring, we must not forget that no one “face” represents autism. We need to remember that around a third of those with autism have co-occurring intellectual disability. A similar number are nonverbal and have tremendous difficulty communicating their thoughts and needs. Thanks to research, we also know that most children and adults with autism have related physical and mental health conditions. These conditions include epilepsy, extreme and chronic anxiety, painful gastrointestinal disorders and disturbed sleep.

We don’t need to fear that the one face of autism will not represent our interests.  We need to make sure that there is no “one face” of autism.  It would have been great if Jerry Seinfeld had been one of those faces.  A face of success (isn’t that what we parents want for our kids?) to serve as a hero for some.  That would not have taken away anything from my kid, as long as we had other faces of autism to represent the whole spectrum.

By Matt Carey

Disneyland and the Disability Access Service Card

2 Dec

When Disney announced that they were going to change how they handled services for disabled guests, I and many others were concerned. The old system was very informal and worked well, in my opinion.  It was just a piece of paper and you showed it to people at the line and they would help you by either putting you in a separate disability line or let you go to the exit and get in line there.  It made it possible to enjoy the park without waiting in long lines where the disabled person and, possibly, others in the line would have a much less than optimal experience.  While it didn’t guarantee short lines, in practice that’s they way it often worked.  So people who just can’t take Disneyland for long periods of time could get a “full day” in a few hours.  With Disney costing $90 for kids, $96 for those 10 and older, it’s a big deal if you can only be there for a few hours and most of that time is spent in line.  I could seriously see getting on one, maybe two major rides and that’s it.

But, sadly, informal systems can be gamed easily.  And that’s what happened.  See Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World for an example.  Or just read the title.

Shannon Rosa wrote about the new system over at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism as One Autistic Teen’s Disneyland Success Story.   She and Leo visited Disneyland a few weeks ago (Nov. 2014).  Also, there’s Disney DAS from a diary of a mom describing their trip in May to Walt Disney World.

Shannon mentioned in her article that they were about to change the disability access service again.  And by the time I went with my family, changes had taken place.

I’ll go into more detail below, but the main point in how the disability pass works is this: for rides where they have a fast-pass entrance, the ticket for the disabled person is the disability pass.  That ticket works much like a fast-pass.

So, here’s the “more detail” part:

Step 1: go to City Hall on Main Street (it’s too your left as you enter the park).  Bring your entire party and all the tickets.  I stood in line and called my family when I got to the front (that whole, not doing well with lines, thing).

Step 2: At City Hall they will take the picture(s) of the disabled person(s).  They will scan all the tickets.  You need to specify which ticket(s) belong to the disabled person(s).  They ask you to write that person’s name on the ticket. That ticket has to be used for most rides where he/she wants disability access.

You will also be given a white piece of paper with the terms and conditions for disability access.  You will be asked to sign a copy of these terms and conditions.  Keep your copy–it’s your disability pass for rides without the fastpass like access.

Step 3: They will explain the process to you while they scan your tickets so you can get more accurate and up-to-date information than I’m giving here.

Step 4: The Disney cast member who is helping you will ask which ride you want to go on first.  Tell them that and they will scan your tickets and tell you when you can go on that ride.  For example, we said, “It’s a small world”. It was 10:30am.  We were told that any time after 11am we could go to the disability line.

Step 5: Enjoy the park, other rides, shopping, music, resting, etc. until your time.  Any time after your appointed time, you can go to the disability access line for that ride.  Tickets are scanned and you are allowed in line. For It’s a Small World, there is a separate disability access line.  For other rides, say, Star Tours, one goes to the fastpass person.  That person will scan your ticket and then you are in the regular line.  The Star Tours person gave us a plastic laminated pass that we took with us to the next person in line.  I’m not sure what purpose that serves.

Step 6: Once done with a ride, you can get in another “virtual” line with your pass.  There are three kiosks in Disneyland for this.  One in the Main Street central plaza.  One is in Fantasy Land between Dumbo and the Storybook Land ride.  The third is in Tomorrow Land between Star Tours and the gift shop at the exit of Star Tours.  The person at the kiosk will scan your tickets and tell you what time you can get in the disability access line.

Alternatively, one can go to the fastpass person at the line for the ride you want to get on and ask to be put on the virtual line for that ride (and that ride only).  When I went to some rides I was asked “do you want to get in line or are you already registered”.  So, you don’t have to go to one of the three disability kiosks each time.  I got some mixed messages about that, though.  One person told me that I couldn’t be added.

Not all rides have disability access lines or fastpass.  For example, the train. At the train we asked a cast member what to do and were told to just wait at the exit.  When the train came to the station, we showed another cast member our white pass (remember those terms and conditions discussed above?) and got on the train.  Basically, this is how the old disability access pass worked.

Disney has a web page on disability access and strategies: Services for Guests with Disabilities.  There’s a pdf on the Disability Access Service (DAS) there, and I’ve copied it here: dlr-disability-access-service_2014-11-19.

I bring this up because here’s a key paragraph in that document:

DAS, with its virtual wait, will accommodate many of our Guests with disabilities. We recognize, however, that our Guests with disabilities have varying needs, and we will continue to work individually with our Guests to provide assistance.
In unique situations, our Guest Relations staff will discuss special accommodations for persons who are concerned DAS doesn’t meet their needs (e.g., those whose disability limits the duration of their visit to the park or limits their choice of attractions).

All accommodations will be made in person, on site at Guest Relations. We are unable to provide accommodations in advance of a Guest visit.

This tells me they’ve been paying attention to people like myself who have complained that it isn’t just the lines for each ride that matter.  For some of us, our time in the park is very limited.  And at $100/ticket ($90/kids under 10), it’s a big deal to go to Disneyland.  Even with accommodations, my kid was melting down in the last line and we were not at the park for very long.

Next time I’m printing out that pdf (or whatever they have at the time) and bringing it along.

By Matt Carey

ASAN Series: JRC Survivor Speaks Out

23 Nov

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is most infamous for it’s use of electric shocks as a behavior modification method.  But electric shocks are not the only aversive technique they use.  In a four part series, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network presents a rare insider’s view of life at the JRC.   So far three parts have been published.  But rather than wait for part 4, I’ve decided to post links to the articles now.

The series starts with this introduction:

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is a residential facility in Massachusetts where disabled residents are subject to electric shock, sensory assault, food deprivation, prolonged restraint and seclusion, and a host of other horrifying and aversive “treatments.” The United Nations has condemned the JRC’s treatment of its residents as torture, and disability rights advocates have been trying to get the facility shut down for over 30 years. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network has previously published an in-depth piece about the history and practices of the JRC, which you can read here.

This post is the first of a four-part series written by Jennifer, a survivor of the JRC. We are extremely grateful to have her permission to publish this brave account of her own experiences with the so-called “treatments” the JRC provides.

Here are links to the series so far:

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 1)

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 2)

JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 3)

By Matt Carey