Disability Fieldnotes Week in Review: June 26-July 2

Here is a curated collection of last week’s disability news. Enjoy!


“Laura’s World” (Louis Menand)
New Yorker feature story on Laura Bridgman, the first deafblind child to receive a proper education in the U.S. Bridgman’s deafblindness was the result of scarlet fever as a young child, and she went on to study at Perkins School for the Blind, where my younger sister went to school as a teenager. For a fictionalized account of Bridgman’s life, read Kimberly Elkins’ What Is Visible

Disability, Law, and Society:

“Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” (Marilyn Wedge)
Interesting piece on the the cultural facets of this common diagnosis. While I cannot comment on the science behind it, I do believe it’s important to question contemporary understandings of “disorder” and even “diagnosis.” I’m curious to read more from this author. Continue reading


Disability Fieldnotes Week in Review: June 19-25

Here are some of the disability news features that I found most interesting from the past week. Please send other suggestions my way!

Disability and Race
Claim: Minorities Underrepresented in Special Education” (Michelle Diamond)
More Minority Students Should be in Special Ed, Study Says” (Joy Resmovits)
Minorities are Disproportionately Underrepresented in Special Education: Longitudinal Evidence Across Five Disability Conditions” (Paul L. Morgan et. al)
This study, published in Educational Researcher and then featured on Disability Scoop, examines the common assumption that children of color are overrepresented in U.S. special education programs. Surprisingly, the authors found the contrary to be true. I would love to hear more on this topic, as there remains much work to be done on the intersections of disability and race.

Disability Rights
Sowing New Needs in the Garden of Disability Rights Activism” (Emily Ladau)

Economic Well-Being
The IRS released guidelines for the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which can be found here.

No Link Between C-Sections and Autism, Study Says” (Catherine Pearson)
California Law to Curtail Vaccine Exemptions Clears Hurdle” (Rebecca Plevin)
California Lawmakers Vote to Remove Vaccine Exemptions for Schoolchildren” (Scott Neuman)
California Passes Bill to Require Vaccines and Ban Religious Exemptions” (Anna Diamond)

Diagnostic Snapshot: Autism Prevalence and Disparities

I am currently working on a longer piece for Autism Awareness Month.  Diagnostic meaning, environment, conspiracy theories, what Ian Hacking would call “making up people” – all of this plays into my interest of how we, as a society, make sense of difference.  What do the stories we tell ourselves about physical, intellectual, and/or physiological difference reveal about collective anxieties, fears, and aspirations?  What might they tell us about shifting notions of the good life?  How do these forces intersect with bodies, medical knowledge, and beliefs in daily life?  And what, really, can we do with such knowledge? These are heady, but important, questions and they highlight the potential contributions for anthropology to inform understandings of difference, disability, and health.  

For now, take a look at three sets of data.  The first chart (found here) is a striking snapshot of increasing rates of autism diagnoses in the last decade.  The second one (located here) breaks down the racial makeup of U.S. children with autism.  The third chart, courtesy of the NIMH, looks at autism diagnoses in terms of both race and gender.  Do keep in mind that these data are superficial, in that they say nothing about the functioning level of the individuals in question (e.g., if they are considered to have intellectual disabilities), which is a critical component of the racial and also gender disparities with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Autism Data 2000-2010 (CDC)

Autism and RaceAutism Prevalence by Race and Gender