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Autistic Advocacy Group Condemns Presidential Appointment of Anti-Vaccine Activist Peter Bell

Posted Jan 12 2012 5:11pm

of Autism Speaks has been appointed to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. As I read about the appointment I felt that there would be some reaction. Perhaps even a strong reaction. And, as you will see, I was correct. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has issued a press release condemning the appointment.

Here is the press release :

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS CONTACT Melody Latimer
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Phone: 202-630-7477
mlatimer@autisticadvocacy.org

AUTISTIC ADVOCACY GROUP CONDEMNS PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT OF ANTI-VACCINE ACTIVIST PETER BELL

Recent appointee Peter Bell has a long history of supporting fringe, anti-vaccine positions widely discredited in the scientific community

Washington, DC – January 12, 2012 – The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the nation’s leading advocacy group run by and for Autistic adults, today expressed concern and disappointment over President Obama’s announcement Tuesday of his intent to appoint anti-vaccine activist Peter H. Bell as a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

“Bell’s appointment shows such contrast to the forward motion the Obama administration has shown in the areas of autism and disability as a whole,” said Melody Latimer, ASAN Director of Community Engagement and an autistic parent of autistic children herself.

Bell, Executive Vice President of Programs at Autism Speaks, has a long history of supporting anti-vaccination related causes, dating back to his time as President and CEO of Cure Autism Now, which merged with Autism Speaks in 2007. Despite wide ranging scientific evidence to the contrary, Bell and others in the anti-vaccine movement have long maintained the existence of a link, a position viewed as irresponsible by many public health advocates.

“The link between Autism and vaccines has long been discredited, and so an appointment placing an anti-vaccine leader in a position to influence a greater audience and re-open the issue is disappointing and ill-advised. We respect and appreciate the Obama Administration’s commitment to autism issues, but hope they will vet their appointees more carefully going forward,” Latimer noted.

Autism Speaks, Bell’s employer, has a checkered and controversial history. In 2009, Autism Speaks lashed out at the Department of Health and Human Services for refusing to incorporate research objectives connecting autism to vaccines in the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee’s Strategic Plan for Autism Research. In response to Autism Speaks’ disconnect from mainstream science on this question, several senior executives resigned from the organization in protest.

Autism Speaks has also been viewed with substantial controversy by Autistic people themselves, in large part due to the organization’s failure to meaningfully include individuals with the disability on their board of directors or in more than token roles in their senior leadership. Other criticisms of the organization include the low percentage of funds Autism Speaks invests in services, abnormally high executive salaries and what many have interpreted as deeply offensive advertising utilizing fear and pity to raise money. In 2009, the organization debuted its much-ridiculed video “I Am Autism” at the United Nations in New York City, presenting autism as an anthropomorphic force aiming to steal children. After widespread protests from Autistic adults across the country and criticisms from other disability organizations, Autism Speaks eventually pulled the promotional film.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is the nation’s leading advocacy organization run entirely by and for Autistic adults and youth. ASAN’s supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, family members, professionals, educators and friends. ASAN was created to provide support and services to individuals on the autism spectrum while working to change public perception and combat misinformation by educating communities about persons on the autism spectrum. The organization’s activities include public policy advocacy, community engagement to encourage inclusion and respect for neurodiversity, quality of life oriented research and the development of Autistic cultural activities and other opportunities for Autistic people to engage with others on the spectrum.

  1. Marc Rosen:
    A petition has been started on Change.org urging the President to NOT appoint Bell to the committee. Here's the link: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-dont-give-peter-bell-a-federal-appointment
  2. Autism Blog – Autistic Advocacy Group Condemns Presidential … | My Autism Site | All About Autism:
    [...] Original post: Autism Blog – Autistic Advocacy Group Condemns Presidential … [...]
  3. RAJ:
    Ari Ne'man the founder of ASAN was already appointed by the President as an advisor and he now objects to Peter Bell? Ari Nee'man and ASAN has for years been trivializing a profoundly handicapping disorder. As Dr. Alan Francis, the editor of DSM-IV, has correctly stated, the field trials of DSM-IV failed to predict the false epidemics of autism, attentional disorders and bi-polar disorders. Ari Nee'man and the members of ASAN, many of them self-diagnosed Aspies, under DSM-III diagnostic criteria would have most likely met diagnostic criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder, a diagnosis that is not meaningless and requires agressive treatment, but hasn't very much to do with autism at all, a profoundly handicapping disorder. Thank goodness the framers of DSM-5 intend to drop Asperger Syndrome from the ASD's. Here's my recommendation for a Presidential appointment to the President's commission and Ari Nee'man should be required to sit next to this young man at every meeting of the Commission: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPWL5yimhyg
  4. Julian Frost:
    Firstly RAJ, the "Vaccines cause Autism" lie has set back the Autism Community not only in wasted time and effort, but also in opportunity costs as money that could have been used to research assistive technologies and training methods for autistics was instead wasted checking vaccines. Vaccines are a dead end in autism research. Secondly, anti-vaccination propaganda has eroded vaccination levels to the point where lives have been lost. I am pleased that ASAN is not prepared to let Bell's appointment pass unchallenged. As to the rest of your septic tirade: obvious troll is obvious.
  5. Sullivan:
    Ari Ne’man the founder of ASAN was already appointed by the President as an advisor and he now objects to Peter Bell?
    More accurately, the organization which he founded is condemning the choice. Mr. Ne'eman is not all of ASAN and is not mentioned in the press release.
    Ari Nee’man and ASAN has for years been trivializing a profoundly handicapping disorder.
    Interesting opinion presented without supporting evidence. Runs counter to my experiences and observations.
    . As Dr. Alan Francis, the editor of DSM-IV, has correctly stated, the field trials of DSM-IV failed to predict the false epidemics of autism, attentional disorders and bi-polar disorders.
    Which has nothing to do with the press release, Mr. Ne'eman or ASAN.
    Ari Nee’man and the members of ASAN, many of them self-diagnosed Aspies, under DSM-III diagnostic criteria would have most likely met diagnostic criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder, a diagnosis that is not meaningless and requires agressive treatment, but hasn’t very much to do with autism at all, a profoundly handicapping disorder.
    As noted, the previous statement has nothing to do with the discussion. This sentence, however, is where you go completely off the rails and demonstrate ignorant and insulting behavior.
    Thank goodness the framers of DSM-5 intend to drop Asperger Syndrome from the ASD’s.
    What is your point? Autistics who are currently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome will continue to be diagnosed as autistic. I doubt this is the point you are trying to make. Rather you are continuing on your attack against people who have disabilities.
    Here’s my recommendation for a Presidential appointment to the President’s commission and Ari Nee’man should be required to sit next to this young man at every meeting of the Commission:
    I would chose that gentleman any day (and twice on Sunday) to represent the autism community over you, RAJ. If for no other reason that the way you use him in this manner is insulting to him. Not Ari Ne'eman, but the gentleman in the video.

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