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Autism News

January 30, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Book about Braille Honored for Disability Storyline

A new children’s book about Braille, the raised-dot system that allows people with visual impairment to “read” with their fingertips, is being honored this year by the American Library Association (ALA) for focusing on the experiences of people with special needs.

The ALA’s annual awards ceremony hands out the legendary Caldecott and Newbery Medals to the best in general children’s literature each year. 

This year, the ceremony is also including the Schneider Family Book Awards, which are designed to spotlight authors or illustrators for addressing the disability experience.

This year’s pick for young children is “Six Dots” by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Boris Kulikov.  “Six Dots” tells the story of Louis Braille, the blind French inventor of the Braille alphabet system for people with visual impairment.

Study Incidentally Confirms No MMR-Autism Link

A recent study on autism suggests that, among children who have higher odds of autism because an older sibling has autism, changes in the brain in early infancy may predict diagnosis at age two.

The study, published in Nature, may not be much in the way of big autism news.  However, Forbes reported on the study, it does incidentally confirm that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has nothing to do with autism.

In the course of the lengthy and detailed study, researchers performed high-tech MRI brain scans on the several hundred participating infants and toddlers at several points in their early lives: at age six months, 12 months, and finally at 24 months.

The study compared a number of key brain measurements among the little children at each stage among those who ultimately got autism diagnoses and those who did not. 

Researchers found several changes in the brains of kids eventually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that were not found in the non-diagnosed controls.

However, and in a critical finding, those changes were found to at least begin as early as six months of age.  The MMR vaccine, however, is administered to babies at age 12 months.

A critical staple of the vaccine-autism theory is that the MMR vaccine causes ASD.  However, the study demonstrates that brain changes indicative of later autism diagnoses are present well before the MMR vaccine is given.

New Disability Hiring Quota Set By/For Federal Government

In January 2017, the federal U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finalized a rule that will set a hiring goal for all federal agencies.

Under the new goal, the federal government plans to use affirmative action to grow the number of people with disabilities, including people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), on its payroll.

Under the newly-finalized plan, 12 percent of the workforce that is the U.S. federal government and its hundreds of divisions and subdivisions—collectively constituting America’s largest single employer—should be people with disabilities.

With that, two percent should be those with “targeted” conditions including intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the new final rule.

What’s more, the new rule requires all federal agencies to provide personal assistance services to employees who need help with eating and other basic activities during the workday.

“Increasing employment rates for individuals with disabilities is a national priority for the federal government,” said EEOC Chair Jenny Yang.  “These new regulations provide concrete steps and accountability mechanisms to promote employment and advancement opportunities for people with disabilities across the government.”

The new hiring goals apply to all levels of federal employment.  If agencies fail to meet the quotas, the EEOC said it would work with them to make improvements to their hiring and retention of those with disabilities.

Federal agencies are already required under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act to have affirmative action plans for hiring people with disabilities, which are subject to approval by the EEOC.

However, the new regulations will only take effect come January 2018.