Thursday, February 16, 2017

More Alternative Facts: Trump on the Prevalence of Autism

Donald Trump and Betsy deVos met people* who educate children or are parents at the White House.  There's a short YouTube video on that meeting:

One of the educators works with autistic children, and Trump took the opportunity to make wildly exaggerating statements about the prevalence of autism.

Jesse Singal writes about this.  The educator whom Trump quizzed is called Jane in this clip:

After Jane noted that many of her students have autism, Trump asked, “Have you seen a big increase in the autism, with the children?” Jane replied in the affirmative, but seemed to couch her response as being more about an increase in demand for services — she didn’t explicitly agree there’s been a big increase in the overall rate. Trump continued: “So what’s going on with autism? When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really — it’s such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea?

Singal then quotes an actual expert on autism, Steve Silberman:

“There’s no consensus as to whether or not there’s been any significant increase in the actual prevalence of autism, period,” said Silberman. “The real debate is whether or not there has been a small increase, and there are a number of factors that could play a role in that small increase. For instance, it’s well established that older parents have more autistic kids and people are waiting longer to get married and have kids now, so there may be a small increase there. Some people claim that there are some environmental factors — notably, not vaccines — that may be contributing to a small increase. But the consensus is that there has been no huge, startling, ‘horrible,’ as Trump said, increase in autism. And the CDC estimate has been flat for a couple of years, just as they expected it to be, because the major source of the increase that started in the 1990s was broadened diagnostic criteria and much more public awareness of what autism looks like.”
Looks like Trump disseminates fake facts here, too.

*  Mostly women,  because teaching is a female-dominated (and not that well paid) occupation until we get to the college level.  I also noticed, based on the introductions, that home-schooling women were the largest single group of educators around that table, even though we are told in the video that those present represent public schools, public charter schools, private schools and home schoolers. 

That is odd, given that home-schooling is much less common than sending one's children to public or private schools.

Whether that is a sign of things to come from the Education Department under deVos is unclear.