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The Anthropologist’s Guide to the Government Shutdown

Is the government shutdown affecting anthropologists? Absolutely.

Many anthropologists work for federal agencies like the the Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These agencies, as well as others, rely on members of our discipline to study, research and provide perspective on how  agency policy affects US citizens in real time. Unfortunately, with the shutdown, many of their activities may be considered “non-essential” and they will be furloughed. Alternatively, they may be considered “essential” and asked to work without pay.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided a list of agency contingency plans so that citizens can see how each agency plans to approach the shutdown, including a description of which employees and employee activities are considered essential to Federal government operations. We encourage members to review these lists, and contact their member of Congress to let them know that not only should the current budget impasse be resolved quickly, but also that anthropologists provide an essential role in our government.

If you are a government employee, we’d love to hear your stories about how the shutdown is affecting you so we can communicate your stories to Congress.  We promise to keep your identity private. Send your messages to ddozier@aaanet.org.

Surprising Prevelance of Autism in South Korea

AAA member, Roy Richard Grinker is making global headlines as senior author for a study unveiled this week on autism. The study, a collaborative effort by Yale Child Study Center and George Washington University and to be featured in The American Journal of Psychiatry, sought to gauge the rate of childhood autism in a middle-class city in South Korea. The rate within the community studied indicated that 2.6 percent of all children aged 7-12 years old were diagnosed with autism.

“South Korea was chosen not only because autism prevalence had not been measured there, but also because its national health care system, universal education and homogeneous population made it a promising region for a planned series of studies that will also look at genetic and environmental factors in autism,” said New York Times reporter, Claudia Wallis.

CNN reported Grinker’s response to the study as surprising but not alarming. Grinker believes the study’s estimate reveal that “autism is more common than we think it is.”

Nature.com interviewed Dr. Grinker on their news blog to gain an insight on the study. Aside from discussing the take home message of the study, blogger Meredith Wadman asks:

It seems that by definition, if you were largely in schools that are not for special needs or intellectually impaired kids, that you must have been discovering milder cases on the autism spectrum. Wouldn’t it be hard for a profoundly affected child to pass in a mainstream school?
In the US we are so sensitized to picking up special needs and providing services. But not every country in the world does that. Depending on the state, 10-15% of American kids are getting some special education services. That number is less than 1% in South Korea. So of course you are going to find those kids in mainstream school environments. Sixteen percent of the kids that were in the mainstream schools that we diagnosed had some degree of mental retardation. Also there were certainly children that I saw in schools that had significant impairments. But South Korea has a pretty strong mandate for inclusion, legally. They have laws in place for inclusion. Unfortunately that inclusion does not come along with a lot of services. Some kids can get by and adapt to the situation.

Visit the links below for additional details of this study and media coverage:
Autism Speaks
CNN
Nature.com
NBC Today Show
National Public Radio
New York Times

Looking for more information on autism? Check out the Ethos issue on Rethinking Autism, Rethinking Anthropology.

Are you an AAA making headlines? Let us know! We feature newsmakers on the AAA Members in the News webpage.

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