Archive for the ‘Autism’ Category

In the early 1990’s while I was attending college there was this mass hysteria over political correctness. ( Ah, don’t we long for those halcyon days when the biggest problem facing this country was how to refer to people’s differences without offending them?!? That sounds very much like a quaint pre-9/11, pre-Katrina, pre-financial meltdown and pre-Gulf disaster world to have lived in, doesn’t it? )

You had people on the right denouncing the left for acting like the language police. And you had people on the left arguing that insensitivity leads to intolerance ( I know, I know…I just rolled my eyes when I read what I just wrote in that last sentence too ).

Political correctness quickly ran amok. But at the same time, the point was fairly made that people need to watch what they say.

The Senate has now passed, and an Assembly panel has now cleared, a Sweeney bill that would cut out demeaning terms  for people with disabilities from state law. That includes “retarded,” “mental retardation,” “feeble minded” and even “idiot.”

I think it is fair to say that these terms have no basis in the law of this state. They are indeed offensive and demeaning. The first way to dehumanize someone is to cut them down with degrading language. Moreover, words like “retarded” are simply not acceptable anymore. The same way terms like “homosexual,” “midget” and “oriental” are antiquated to the point of being offensive when used in modern parlance ( although I did recently have to quietly remind an elderly relative that one of those aforementioned terms from that second grouping is indeed unacceptable after she decided to scream it out loud in the middle of a crowded restaurant ).

It’s hard to teach people new habits. You just gotta keep reinforcing the point. It reminds me of my father’s famous refrain in reference to me and my brother while growing up which was: “It is never an inappropriate time. To remind my children. To lower their voices.”

If you gotta keep reminding people to say something the right way or act appropriately, then do it. The English language is evolving. And Sometimes government does need to set an example.

And yes, the title of this post is an homage to William Safire with whom I may have had the shortest conversation in modern history. I dialed him up at work years ago to ask if he would speak at our graduation, and he simply said “no.” End of conversation.

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It’s always hard to sum up a 22-year career, let alone one in the General Assembly.

But certainly some of Roberts’ most high profile achievements came as Speaker. Most recently when he pushed for autism legislation that requires insurers to cover early screenings, the second was instituting a permanent source of funding for those popular property tax rebates ( since scaled back, btw…harumph ).

At a Statehouse news conference, Roberts played down the latter achievement which came about after the 2006 government shutdown. I am not going to rehash all the details, but the long and short of it is a first-year-in-office Governor Corzine wanted to raise the sales tax by a cent. Roberts wanted the money to go to property tax relief. That issue had reached a fever picth within the electorate, and Roberts astutely calculated that any extra money must go to rebates before he ( as newly elected Speaker ) could reasonably do anything else with it.

What the experts have said is that rebates are a bit of a gimick. That’s true. But absent a complete restructuring of the state’s system of government, it’s kinda the only option we have. Roberts acknowledges that by calling the rebates a “flawed mechanism.”

But I would actually give him a little more credit than perhaps he is even giving himself. After all, the showdown in 2006 led to a compromise which established the first permanent source of funding for those rebates. that was Roberts. The Governor and he have shared the credit since then, but the Executive branch wasn’t pushing for that money to be used for property tax bill offsets.

The next interseting question is who will take Roberts’ place. The usual considerations are out there – geography, gender and race. Roberts candidly explained why South Jersey Democrats need to stick together to eke out a hold on some key posts in state government. That is because there are full delegations from places like Essex and Hudson counties who fight for their common interest in the legislature. ( Actually, that is somewhat lauaghable when we talk about Hudson being united,  but you get the idea ).

So, it comes down to who will get what. Bonnie watson Coleman, Joe Cryan and John Wisniewski wanna be speaker. I even heard Nellie Pou’s named mentioned in all of this. If South Jersey”s Senator Stephen Sweeney challenges Dick Codey for the leadership position in the Senate this fall and wins ( and btw – that is by no means certain ) then should the Assembly Speaker be from the north? That is a serious consideration.

Watson Coleman and Wisnewski are kinda both from Central J. Cryan is from up north. I asked watson Coleman if her being a woman of color would give her a leg up…and she wouldn’t go there. But others did on her behalf.

Hard to say what Wisniewski’s chances are, and Cryan’s fate could well rest within his current job as DSC Chair trying hard to get the Governor re-elected. In otherw ords if he wins, he gets it. But someone also suggested to me that even if Cryan loses, he might be the preferred guy to take on Christie as the Dem leader in the Assembly.

Poor Guv. What a pickle. if I were him I’d stay far away from this.

So, there is still quite a bit to be figured out in the convoluted universe of the Statehouse.

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We’ve heard the statistics – Autism rates in NJ are the highest in the nation. About 1 in every 94 children in New Jersey are diagnosed with the genetically based neurological disorder. Nationwide it’s more like 1 in every 150.

Well, it turns out that the thinking on this has evolved…although perhaps not for everyone.

Advocates now say that the reason for the discrepancy may actually be a testament to better diagnosis and reporting in NJ rather than some weird undetectable environmental factor.  Of course, that doesn’t really come close to solving the problem for parents who are burdened with laying out money for treatment.

So, the Assembly Appropriations and the Senate Health committees passed similar bills that will require insurers to cover more of the treatments and costs that come with early intervention.

Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts has championed this bill and says it will come up for a full vote soon. He was joined in giving testimony before the committees by Bob Wright, the former CEO of NBC Universal. Wright co-founded an advocacy group in 2005 called Autism Speaks after his grandchild Christian was diagnosed with the disorder.

Naturally, the insurance companies are opposed to this. They say NJ already passed a parity law for biologically based mental illnesses in 1999, which covered autism. This bill goes even further, which the industry claims will increase costs for small businesses.

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