70 petitions

Update posted 3 days ago

Petition to Governor Terry McAuliffe

Decriminalize Autism and Save Drew

Our son, Drew Harrison, has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is currently serving three active years of a 50-year prison sentence. Drew’s Autism was not taken into consideration at trial or sentencing. We are petitioning Governor McAuliffe to grant Drew a pardon. Drew reconnected with a woman he had dated in high school. The evening before inviting him to her apartment she shared her interest in BDSM, submissive sex. She told Drew that her boyfriend was too tired after work to please her sexually. Upon arrival she laid a blanket on the floor, she allowed him to massage her shoulders and feet, she showed him her semi-nude, erotic photos of herself and engaged in sexualized talk. In the bedroom he easily removed her shirt and pants. Drew gave the woman oral sex and put a finger in her vagina. When she told him to stop he stopped. The two of them texted and emailed back and forth hundreds of times post event. They even got together a few times. On one occasion they went to a bookstore where she pointed out an erotic BDSM book for Drew to buy. Six months after the evening in her apartment she reported to the police that the contact in her bedroom was nonconsensual. Those with ASD typically have a strike or two against them when entering a courtroom. The pace of questioning often exceeds their ability to process everything that is heard. Their high anxiety and repetitive statements can be mistaken as indicators of deception or guilt. Without an understanding of their unique way of processing information and their difficulty expressing anger appropriately a court can easily question credibility and reach a faulty conclusion.  Drew’s therapist testified that Drew has a strong desire to please, that he has learned to fake well in order to fit in. The judge interpreted this as our son’s ability to be deceitful and he used it as part of the reason for convicting Drew. He never asked the autism experts in the courtroom for clarification regarding Drew’s social and communication deficits.  In a letter presented to the judge Drew’s probation officer noted that Drew complied with all probation conditions for over two years. She stated that if this were a regular case without the appeal process she would request early release from probation. She added that Drew passed the state-issued polygraph without deception. Results were consistent with the not guilty plea Drew has maintained from the beginning.      The judge stated that he didn’t view Drew as a threat to the community or the woman. He emphasized that he was sending Drew to prison as a general deterrence to others because that is what the community would want him to do. Drew’s therapists are convinced that Drew is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. They warned the court that incarceration would be torture for our son. In prison Drew suffered a break down after abrupt medication changes and being moved from isolation into general population. To deaden his senses from loud clanging doors, the bright buzzing lights and the chatter of inmates Drew often wears ear plugs and wraps a shirt around his head. He struggles to navigate the unwritten rules of inmates. Drew lives in fear and overwhelm. He begs us, “Please get me out of here”. Prison visits are bittersweet. We are grateful to spend time with our son, but heartbroken as we see him deteriorate. We are asking Governor McAuliffe to grant Drew a pardon. We ask for your support by signing this petition. My blog gives additional details and excerpts from transcripts. It shows the considerable reasonable doubt and injustice.  Thank you, Judy and John Harrison       

Judy Harrison
1,406 supporters
Update posted 2 weeks ago

Petition to Bernie Sanders, Vermont Governor, Vermont Dept. of Aging and Independent Living

Keep Martha in VT!

*** Please read 10/7/17 Update at BOTTOM of this page. I've been advocating for years, now Martha is out of state and deteriorating. Scroll down to bottom for update. Please help Martha stay home!! I'm Martha's mom. Martha is 16 years old and has autism. She is a smart, capable, sweet, hard working and complicated young lady. She wants to be a farmer when she grows up. I started a home-based business growing vegetables and raising chickens, so she could do just that (Martha Grows,llc). I also founded a non-profit organization that will provide opportunities for others with autism (Martha's Barn, Inc.) I have been preparing for Martha's future everyday.  Every. Single. Day. I have not stopped advocating for her since the day she was diagnosed at age 2, and I will never stop, as she doesn't have the voice to do it on her own. I have worked tirelessly advocating for Martha's care and education her entire life. That's why I started a business for her to work at and a program for her and others to be involved in, once they 'age out' of high school services. I'm planning on bridging that cliff for Martha and her peers. I love our community and Vermont and I want to keep that an integral part of who Martha is, my little farmer.   What I HAD NOT prepared for, was the day I would be told VT cannot fund what Martha needs to remain home. Martha's needs are complicated and require a skilled team. Her educational, psychiatric and therapeutic needs are complex, as well, but she is in a wonderful program, right here in our community, and supported by a team of doctors. The missing piece is that her program can't stop when school ends. Our home life is tumultuous, to say the least. Martha struggles daily to stay safe. She has needed a 'continuum of care' for years, and now, I am desperately advocating for one, as our other option is sending her out of state, giving her to DCF custody or to another family to care for. This is unacceptable. I have applied for an out of state residential school placement for Martha, with her team's support, as we know, time is running out for her. I have been pushed to that point. Her needs are great. I am being told her VT plan lacks a 'system' to fund it.   What? Isn't it better to fix the system than to send Martha away? Martha's IEP team and I have created a cost effective solution to keep Martha home and learning in her current community environment and in her current school placement. We have extended her current services to created a 'full day and supported overnight' to meet her level of need. Our solution is to build Martha more living space, to meet her safety needs, paired with the services and educational supports she has already here in our community. This will allow her a therapeutic environment to learn and sustain life skills, provide overnight space for staff but most crucially, the safety modifications to allow medication changes, which can't happen currently, unless she were to spend months in and out of psychiatric hospitals, none appropriate for her exist in VT. Both the Agency of Education and the Agency of Human Services are failing Martha. And they are failing others with this level of need. The state of Vermont is afraid to set a precedent, that is the underlying reason that Martha's crisis is not being funded. How can sending Martha out of state be justified? It can't be. Vermont can do this. We CAN meet the needs of our most vulnerable, in a cost effective way, but not if the AOE and AHS don't work together. I hope VT builds residential schools and programs that provide state of the art care and education for our kids. Our kids are vulnerable, they need to be close to home. VT needs to keep VT dollars in VT, filling this need at home, keeping our families together, especially the 'Marthas'. We need to create this wheel.  Why don't we have more options for our severely autistic children? We have the means, the resources and we certainly have the need. I hope the future includes a system to support the 'Marthas' in our state. It is fiscally irresponsible to keep sending our kids away. Here is the crux of the problem, as I understand it:  VT's ACT 264 PLAN and The SYSTEM OF CARE PLAN FOR DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES (the governing documents for Martha and the Marthas of VT) were created with the mission "to make Vermont the best state in which to grow old or to live with a disability; with dignity, respect and independence" and "that human services and public education work together, with parents, to coordinate services for better outcomes for children and families..." But they don't work together well. And our children don't have options. Act 264 can't help families, if VT lacks any infrastructure. Where does Martha fit in? Do I have to give her up to DCF custody to get her needs met? I'm confused. She won't be growing old here if she has to leave VT? Is this mission meant for the people with disabilities less severe than hers? Does her level of need fit into this plan? WHY are the most vulnerable VTers leaving VT? I am told there is 'no system to fund her home accommodations but there is a system to fund out of state residential'. I was told that when I called the Governor's hotline 2 weeks ago. I appreciate that option of out of state, I really do. But her needs can be met here (I have the ACT 264 and IEP notes to show that). If her plan can't be funded, than Martha has to move to MA, for many years, as she can't come back to VT with nothing in place for her? Is this Vermont's intention? I hope not. In the meantime, this is what Martha needs to avoid out of state residential placement... an addition off of her bedroom, approximately 500 square feet, as determined by her Psychiatrist and IEP team. It is much more cost effective than many years of out of state residential. Her IEP team and Act 264 notes reflect that we have been able to solve this issue, saving Martha and saving money. But the current system is not set up to support our children at home. This requires 'out of the box' thinking to save my daughter from leaving VT. I think VT can fix this problem. We should have a 'continuum of options' for our children, ranging from Least Restrictive to Residential. VT does not have a Residential Treatment School in VT. When Brandon Training School closed 20 years ago, VT changed its mission to include all VTers in their communities.  What happens to the children who need the same amount of school based treatment to also keep their children safe and learning at home? These VT vulnerable children are leaving for out of state residential placements, that's what happens to them, and these numbers are increasing. Please provide a continuum of options in VT so that our families don't have to be separated, for all Vermont children, not just Martha. Currently, I am trying to amend Bill H.859 to include the needs of my daughter and others like her, so that may get their needs met in VT. We could access all of our VT resources and build our infrastructure from within our own state, I am hoping. I appreciate you reading this petition. Please sign, please share with everyone you can, I need as many signatures as possible to help my daughter. Please help Martha stay home. Time is running out for her. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Kathleen Burke Kourebanas (Martha's mom) Essex, VT    

Kathleen Burke Kourebanas
931 supporters
Started 2 weeks ago

Petition to Netflix

Replace the show "Atypical."

My name is Lydia. I am a 19 year old autistic woman. As far as canonically autistic characters go, we have very few we can relate to; this is especially true for female characters who are canonically autistic. And whenever the media portrays us, it's almost always a terrible representation. So when the show "Atypical" was announced, I was a bit hesitant. The day it came out, I decided to give it a chance. I could only get 5 minutes in until I was absolutely disgusted by it.  First off, it's the same stereotype we have seen for years; a white, cis, straight male who is autistic, interested in science, monotone, awkward, apathetic, highly dependent on neurotypicals, etc,. Second his traits are clearly played up for laughs. His bluntness gets him in trouble. His facial expressions get him in trouble. What he says gets him in trouble. Third it uses person-first language (person with autism) almost exclusively. Many of us in the autistic community prefer identity-first language (autistic person) because our autism is not separate from who we are.  Something else that really bothered me is that it portrays us autistic people as burdens. The mom can't be intimate with the dad because the son, who has a job and is functioning well, now wants to date? The support group for "Autism Moms"? On top of it, the actor isn't even autistic, nor did he or any of the production team actually talk to autistic people. All they did was basic research, which can only get you so far. Talking to people who are actually autistic and listening to us are what get you to truly understand what being autistic is like.  This show is highly detested by a large percentage of us in the autistic community, while most of the good reviews come from neurotypicals or parents of autistic children. And now it is being renewed for a second season. I cannot express my distaste enough towards Netflix's decision to move forward with a terrible and stereotypical representation of autism or their refusal to listen to autistic people. The media heavily influences how we view others. People may begin to generalize autism and base their assumptions about us on this show. This can lead to autistics who don't fit the stereotypes feeling out of place which can lead to depression and perhaps to suicidal ideation. In fact, according to Psychology Today, autistic people are twenty-eight times more likely to attempt or commit suicide. This needs to change. I am hoping that with this petition, it will move Netflix to replace "Atypical" with a show that is much more informed about autism, doesn't rely on stereotypes, or portray us as burdens to society. I also hope that this show will star an autistic actor/actress or multiple autistic actors/actresses playing autistic people and/or have many actually autistic people working on it. If we can spread our own stories and get them out to the mainstream public, people may begin to have a better understanding about autism.

Lydia Bodnar
14 supporters
Update posted 3 weeks ago

Petition to Consumers of ultrasound for fetal scanning

Are prenatal ultrasounds safe? We demand more research

Ultrasound is used routinely for fetal imaging worldwide and its safety is hotly debated.  Many studies have demonstrated that excessive ultrasound exposure can cause changes in cognition, sociability, and physical development in animal models.  Studies from China corroborate that excessive prenatal ultrasound may cause harm to humans.  Until more research is performed the safety of prenatal ultrasonography is questionable.  We must raise awareness and demand more studies be funded. Start with my YouTube series discussing the articles in this petition: Is Prenatal Ultrasound Safe? YouTube Playlist Here are some published research articles of concern in how ultrasound may affect human development: 50 Chinese Human Ultrasound Exposure Studies, Prenatal ultrasound alters learning and memory in young rats, Prenatal ultrasound alters normal mouse brain development, Low-intensity ultrasound energy applied to rat testes alters testosterone levels, Ultrasound alters cell growth, Ultrasound sensitizes hearing of infants, Prenatal ultrasound alters sociability in mice, Prenatal ultrasound negatively affects mouse cognition Have questions or personal accounts?  Join the Facebook group!  We Need Safer Sonography Facebook group THREE MAJOR ISSUES IN SONOGRAPHY: (1) Sonographers do not typically record how much ultrasound is used during a scan session.  This makes it impossible for researchers to correlate ultrasound dose with health outcomes.  We do not know for sure whether ultrasound is actually safe or could be linked to risks.  There are stark correlations between groups that typically receive a higher number of ultrasounds and a greater emergence of health conditions, such as autism.  Unfortunately, because there is no dose response to study, relevant epidemiology is untenable.  [Relevant citations: FetalUltrasoundSafety, the website of Dr. David Toms - a practicing radiologist; -- an independent site tracking known ultrasound side effects research] (2) Nearly half of all medical ultrasound units in clinical circulation are defective.  A defective unit may have a worse picture, requiring extra exposure in order to make a diagnosis.  More frequent maintenance of ultrasound units would not only be prudent for safety, it would also promote engineering and tech jobs which could help the ailing economy. [Relevant citations: High incidence of defective equipment in circulation, Annual calibration is not sufficient] (3) The average number of ultrasounds for a healthy pregnancy is 4, while high-risk pregnancies can receive upwards of 20 or more.  The skill of individual sonographers varies greatly, and so does how much ultrasound they use.  Some clinics offer hour long ultrasound recordings for keepsake and vanity.  These practices disregard safety regulations and are allowed to continue; educating the public is likely the only way to solve this problem. [Relevant citations: Proliferation of Fetal Ultrasonography, Ultrasound is safe, right?, Clinical end users show poor understanding of ultrasound safety] ** Please read the testimonials of scientists, practitioners, professionals, and parents whom have signed this petition and left comments: Dr. Manuel Casanova, MD – Neuropathologist, autism researcher, founding member of the John Hopkins and National Institute of Mental Health pathological brain bank units, and now Gottfried and Gisela Kolb Endowed Chair in Outpatient Psychiatry and Professor of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology.  The University of Louisville, Kentucky “Ultrasound was deregulated and energy levels were increased without proper safety studies being performed. There is evidence that besides thermal and cavitation effects ultrasound may provide for redox and membrane permeability changes. A significant number of ultrasound transducers in clinical practice are defective and end users seem unknowledgeable about the safety margins of their equipment. Ultrasound is now being used far beyond the safety recommendations of imaging boards for non-risk cases. There should be more studies on this matter and the technique should be regulated to enforce safety concerns.”    Dr. Diana Mason, RN, PhD, FAAN – Rudin professor, emeritus of the American Journal of Nursing, and now Co-Director of the Hunter College Center for Health, Media, and Policy,  New York, New York. ”I'm concerned about the rise in autism, including with my extended family. First Do No Harm should be the mantra that we all adopt. I'm concerned about the proliferation of the perspective that fetal ultrasound is like a regular photo, when it's not. We must change public perceptions about the potential dangers of fetal ultrasound and call for more research immediately.”   Dr. John Chiles, MD – Radiologist.  Raleigh, North Carolina “As a radiologist I have been concerned about over utilization of imaging procedures and ultrasound in pregnancy is a prime example. A way of controlling this would be for insurance companies to pay for the equivalent of one ultrasound per pregnancy but the obstetrician could perform as many as he or she felt were necessary. Another way would be to increase the price for obstetric care which would include all the in-office ultrasounds.”   Dr. Reginold Moore, MD – Family medicine.  Hickory, North Carolina “If there is any possibility that prenatal ultrasound can be linked to the increasing problem with Autism Spectrum Disorders it should be researched further and practitioners using Ultrasound should be cautioned to consider the risks and benefits before performing. There may be a greater risk during the fetal developmental period (1st trimester) after which ultrasound is significantly safer and beneficial. Medicine needs these answers.”   Dr. William Brandon, PhD – Physicist.  Pembroke, North Carolina “We should always be suspect of "lucrative" medical procedures - particularly when supported through insurance policies. Consider this - all biological tissue in the region of ultrasound exposure vibrates at the frequency of the ultrasound wave, leading to a myriad of complex and potentially harmful side effects.”   Parrish Hirasaki, MSME - Engineer with experience in industrial heat and systems management, and web manager of, Dickinson, Texas “I am an engineer who is certain that overexposure during ultrasound is causing brain damage. It does in rats - why not humans?”   Nancy Evans, BS - Health science consultant.  San Francisco, California “Ultrasound exposes the brain of the developing fetus to heat, vibration, and high intensity sound. Prenatal ultrasound is being performed in unregulated non-medical settings (shopping mall boutiques selling "keepsake" sonograms). It is not a risk-free procedure and women need to know that.”   Cindy Sage, MA – SAGE Design. Santa Barbara, California “One thing that should be halted is the now-routine use of ultrasound twice within two weeks to check for signs the fetus may have Downs syndrome. The neck is scanned twice... in two weeks... to gauge the neck thickness. Can you imagine the exposure to such a small area of the brainstem - it is entirely avoidable since there is a new and reliable blood test. Stop ultrasounds for this procedure.”   Laura Blumenstiel - Mother "I have two children, and although my pregnancies were both high risk for various reasons (generally my health during pregnancy), I feel that the number of ultrasounds scheduled was excessive.  I probably had close to 10 in my first pregnancy, and had at least two per week for the last two months of my second pregnancy.  Scare tactics were used by my doctor any time I questioned the need for so many, including the claim that he needed to be "prepared" in case my babies were born with conditions that required immediate treatment.  They were not.  I genuinely believe that some OB's see high risk pregnancies as a cash cow.  Certainly mine did."   Brenda Hinton - GREY LYNN, NEW ZEALAND "Obstetric practices in NZ follow close on the heels of those in larger countries like the USA. Most women in NZ now have at least 4 ultrasound scans during their pregnancy with at least 2 of these being performed in the first trimester. In NZ most women access fully subsidized pregnancy/maternity care and those who pay privately for obstetric care still have their (usually much greater number of) scans publicly subsidized. The continuing increase in ultrasound scanning is greatly increasing the cost of maternity care to the NZ taxpayer with no commensurate improvement in outcomes. Like the rest of the developed world, where ultrasound is readily available, we are seeing an increase in autistic spectrum disorders and also things like tongue and lip tie. More regulation, research and consumer education is urgently needed. We hope the USA will lead the charge to ensure the safety of this overused technology."   Michelle Hughes - PFLUGERVILLE, TX "As a CNM, I frequently have patients upset or disappointed that we don't do frequent US. I try to explain that US has proven effects on fetus, but it makes little impression on them, since no one has ever heard of this. I agree more research is needed, as well as mainstream education."

David Blake
1,008 supporters