Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ASAN Amicus Statement Helps Free Nate Tseglin

Nate Tseglin, an autistic teenager in California who was taken from his family over a year ago by local authorities and put into an institution, was freed Tuesday after a court hearing at which the Autistic Self Advocacy Network submitted an amicus (friend of the court) statement. To learn more about Nate's case, visit for the details.

Here is the statement provided to the court by ASAN regarding Nate Tseglin:

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is an international organization of adults and youth on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's Syndrome, working to promote the interests of the autistic self-advocate community through public policy and social change advocacy. We are writing as friends of the court to express our concern about the treatment of Nate Tseglin, a young adult with a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome who has been taken away from his family and placed in an institution under heavy psychotropic medication.

The right of individuals with disabilities to live in the community has been well established by the United States Supreme Court under the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision. The ruling requires states to shift funding from institutional placements to community living supports. Given the clear evidence that institutional settings and the indiscriminate use of psychotropic medication negatively impact the quality of life of autistic adults and youth, we are concerned by Nate's continued placement under restraint in a residential facility where he is isolated from his family, his community, and any meaningful educational or social opportunities. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community indicates that such a placement is inappropriate, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

Scientific studies have not found that autistic persons are more likely to commit violent acts or violent crimes than non-autistic persons despite some media sensationalism of isolated cases of violence (Murrie, Warren, Kristiansson, & Dietz, 2002; Barry-Walsh & Mullen, 2004). Autistic persons are, however, more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, for which cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and one-on-one talk counseling are the recommended interventions (Stewart, Barnard, Pearson, Hasan, & O'Brien, 2006; Sofronoff, Attwood, & Hinton, 2005). Autistic persons also require positive support systems, frequent encouragement and praise, and living and learning environments that are compatible with their cognitive strengths, challenges, and preferences in order to achieve success in their life pursuits and gain a high quality of life (Renty & Roeyers, 2006; Plimley, 2007). Psychotropic medications should always be used with extreme caution with autistic persons as typically these medications are not specifically tested on this population in clinical studies, and psychotropic medications may cause substantial harm if used in an indiscriminate fashion.

Nate's current placement does not meet his needs and is likely to result in long-term physical and emotional damage. We urge the Court to recommend that Nate be removed from the Fairview Developmental Center and returned to the community.


Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network,President
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 1212
Washington, DC 20005
(732) 763-5530

Scott Michael Robertson
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network,Vice President
(973) 464-6315


Barry-Walsh, J. B., & Mullen, P. E. (2004). Forensic Aspects of Asperger's Syndrome. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 15(1), 96-107.

Murrie, D. C., Warren, J. I., Kristiansson, M., & Dietz, P. E. (2002). Asperger's Syndrome in Forensic Settings. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 1(1), 59-70.

Plimley, L. A. (2007). A Review of Quality of Life Issues and People with Autism Spectrum Disorders. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(4), 205-213.

Renty, J. O., & Roeyers, H. (2006). Quality of life in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder: The predictive value of disability and support characteristics. Autism, 10(5), 511-524.

Sofronoff, K., Attwood, T., & Hinton, S. (2005) A randomised controlled trial of a CBT intervention for anxiety in children with Asperger syndrome, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 46 (11) , 1152–1160

Stewart, M. E., Barnard, L., Pearson, J., Hasan R., & O'Brien, G. (2006) Presentation of depression in autism and Asperger syndrome: A review, Autism, 10 (1), 103-116

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Schools and Behavior

ASAN Southwest Ohio recently received an inquiry from a Cincinnati educator who wanted to discuss school policies regarding special needs children and behavioral issues. She wrote that she was recently assigned to work with two autistic children and that she has been doing her own research to gain a better understanding of their needs. Although she loves her job, she says, it frustrates her that the school does not seem to have an effective policy for dealing with behavioral incidents. The children she teaches have been placed in a room with five non-autistic children identified as having severe behavioral handicaps, and she feels that this placement is not helping her students. When she reports behavioral incidents, nothing is done to address the problems.

We responded by discussing the federal requirement that as to special needs children, responses to behavioral issues must be determined on an individual basis, according to each student's needs as identified in the IEP. Of course, this does not mean that teachers should deal with behavioral problems on an ad hoc basis, just making things up as they go along. Children need consistency from their teachers in addressing behavioral issues, and such consistency can be especially important for autistic children. It is therefore advisable for each special needs student to have an individual plan that identifies problematic behaviors (if any) and the appropriate responses by teachers and staff to those behaviors. When a behavioral incident is reported, the plan should be reviewed, in consultation with the parents, to determine what classroom changes and accommodations could be helpful to the child's development. Teachers who work with special needs children should receive regular continuing education to improve their understanding of behavioral differences.

We also agreed that the placement she described was not helpful for her autistic students. ASAN advocates for inclusive settings for children with developmental differences, rather than segregated placements. Inclusive education recognizes that all children have the potential to contribute to society, that their differences should be respected, and that they should receive reasonable accommodations when necessary. All children benefit from a greater understanding of the diverse ways in which humans learn and adapt to our surroundings.

ASAN Southwest Ohio welcomes inquiries from educators and others who seek to learn more about the characteristics and needs of the autistic population.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Autistic Student Abused in St. Lucie County Schools

ASAN has issued the following call to action for the autistic community regarding the abuse of an autistic kindergarten student, Alex Barton, by his teacher, Wendy Portillo.


As some of you may already be aware from news articles and blog posts on the topic, last week a Morningside Elementary Kindergarten teacher had students "vote out" of the class a 5-year old autistic student named Alex Barton. According to the news article, the teacher had each of Alex's classmates, including his sole friend in the class, state publicly what they disliked about him and then announced that they would take a vote to remove him from the class. Alex has not been back to school since and has suffered significant emotional trauma as a result of this incident. Regardless of who you are or what your connection to the autistic and autism communities might be, I think we can all agree that this is unacceptable.

We need to band together to prevent future such abuses from occurring, to ensure that this teacher is properly disciplined and to encourage this school to adopt both a strong bullying prevention policy and training on respect for all forms of diversity aimed at both teachers and students. As such, we've provided contact information below for you to write to communicate your outrage. Please be polite yet firm in your comments, pointing out the unacceptability of such actions when aimed at any student, as well as the need for this school to adopt policies to prevent this from happening in the future. This is an opportunity to drive home the message that we will not stand by while one of our own is abused. We ask that you please cc: in your e-mails to the school district so we can keep track of the strength and sources of this response. Remember: abusive messages hurt our cause - please be respectful in your comments.

Contact info:

Morningside Elementary School Principal:
Mrs. Marcia Cully
(772) 337-6730

St. Lucie County Schools Superintendent:
Michael J. Lannon
4204 Okeechobee Road
Ft. Pierce FL 34947-5414
Phone: 772/429-3925
FAX: 772/429-3916

St. Lucie County School Board Chair:
Carol Hilson

Vice Chair:Judith Miller

Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 1212
Washington, DC 20005

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ASAN Sponsors Presidential Forum on Disability Issues

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a supporting co-sponsor of the National Forum on Disability Issues, to be held at Veterans Memorial in Columbus, Ohio, on July 26, 2008. This event is a nonpartisan forum on national disability policy. The presidential candidates have been invited to discuss their views on the future of disability policy in America. Members of the audience will be allowed to ask questions through a moderator.

A similar forum that was held in New Hampshire in November made history as the first presidential candidates' forum on disability issues. Seven candidates participated in that forum, five of them in person.

ASAN expresses its gratitude to Estée Klar-Wolfond of The Autism Acceptance Project for her generous assistance.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Potential Alliance

We are exploring the possibility of working with the Ohio chapter of TASH to advance policy initiatives of interest to the autistic community in Ohio. This is still in the preliminary discussion stage, but seems promising so far.

TASH seeks to develop inclusive communities that allow for full participation of persons with disabilities. Its mission is to eliminate physical and social obstacles to equity, diversity, and quality of life. On many occasions, TASH has provided testimony and legislative advocacy regarding disability rights issues. It strongly advocates banning the use of aversive behavior control methods that inflict pain on children and adults with disabilities.

The Ohio chapter of TASH has indicated a particular interest in working with ASAN Southwest Ohio on matters of legislative advocacy.