Week in Review: March 3-9

For such a supposedly marginalized topic, disability issues are a fixture in the media.  Disability is in the news constantly and last week was no exception.

SCOTUS on Intellectual Disability and Capital Punishment  Last Monday, the Supreme Court heard a case that could challenge how states assess intellectual disability in the aftermath of the 2002 Atkins v. Virginia ruling that states could not execute people with intellectual disabilities.  The current case centers on Florida’s use of an IQ cutoff as the final say in an intellectual disability diagnosis.  An IQ score of 70 will disqualify an individual from intellectual disability status, regardless of any other evidence.  This is a fascinating development that highlights the blurriness of disability and diagnosis alike, and it was widely covered in the media, including here and here.

End the Word Day of Awareness: March 5  The amazing team behind the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign launched a national day of awareness last Wednesday and it was quite a success.  They now have nearly a half-million online pledges from supporters.  These folks are amazing!  In support of the event, the Huffington Post published a special feature of disability-related writings, new and old.  These including pieces by siblings and family members, which always makes me happy.  The pieces are well worth reading and I commend the Huffington Post for its disability coverage.  (Incidentally, if you haven’t already signed the R-word pledge, please get on that!)

IQ Boosting Drugs  Several pharmaceutical companies are developing IQ boosting drugs geared for people with Down syndrome.  This raises fascinating questions of diagnostic identity, bioethics, and pharmaceuticalization.  It is particularly interesting in light of modern plastic surgery techniques to reduce the classic Down syndrome facial features.  There is a lot to think about here.

Counterintuitive Impact of Pro-Vaccination Campaigns  The title of Emily Willingham’s piece for Forbes says it all: “Antivax Parents Dig In Heels At Pro Vaccine Messaging.”  Two articles in the current issue of Pediatrics  examined the ongoing issue of vaccines in the U.S. and found some surprising results.  Indeed, it appears that logical advice and scientifically valid information is not necessarily an effective response to false beliefs.  Quick, somebody call an anthropologist.  For more on this, there is also a story from CBS News.

Capitalism Meets Autism  Google and Autism speaks announced a partnership to support entrepreneurs with projects related to autism.  One only hopes that such efforts won’t lose momentum if/when diagnosis rates decline with the new DSM-V and also as the current generation of people on the spectrum move into adulthood.

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