Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Amicus Letter for Nate Tseglin

On March 17, I wrote a post titled One Runs Home about the plight of Nate Tseglin. Nate is a young man who was forcibly removed from his home and consigned to Fairview Community Center in Orange County, CA by San Diego Child Protective Services.
I recommend that you read the family's website, GetNateHome, for a complete description and timeline of the events leading to Nate's current circumstance.
Today I was informed by my friend Ari Ne'eman, President of ASAN, that he and V.P. of ASAN Scott Michael Robertson had submitted an Amicus Curiae brief on behalf of Nate Tseglin. The purpose of this document is to establish, via published scientific findings, that his current placement and course of psychotropic medications is highly inappropriate.

I'd like to publish that letter here on my blog, and express my hope that this piece of advocacy by ASAN provides significant assistance in estabishing the need for Nate to return home to his family.

To Whom It May Concern:

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is an international organization of adults and youth on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's Syndrome, working to promote the interests of the autistic self-advocate community through public policy and social change advocacy. We are writing as friends of the court to express our concern about the treatment of Nate Tseglin, a young adult with a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome who has been taken away from his family and placed in an institution under heavy psychotropic medication.

The right of individuals with disabilities to live in the community has been well established by the United States Supreme Court under the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision. The ruling requires states to shift funding from institutional placements to community living supports. Given the clear evidence that institutional settings and the indiscriminate use of psychotropic medication negatively impact the quality of life of autistic adults and youth, we are concerned by Nate's continued placement under restraint in a residential facility where he is isolated from his family, his community, and any meaningful educational or social opportunities. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community indicates that such a placement is inappropriate, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

Scientific studies have not found that autistic persons are more likely to commit violent acts or violent crimes than non-autistic persons despite some media sensationalism of isolated cases of violence (Murrie, Warren, Kristiannsson, & Dietz, 2002; Barry-Walsh & Mullen, 2004). Autistic persons are, however, more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, for which cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and one-on-one talk counseling are the recommended interventions (Stewart, Barnard, Pearson, Hasan, & O'Brien, 2006; Sofronoff, Attwood, & Hinton, 2005). Autistic persons also require positive support systems, frequent encouragement and praise, and living and learning environments that are compatible with their cognitive strengths, challenges, and preferences in order to achieve success in their life pursuits and gain a high quality of life (Renty & Roeyers, 2006; Plimley, 2007). Psychotropic medications should always be used with extreme caution with autistic persons as typically these medications are not specifically tested on this population in clinical studies, and psychotropic medications may cause substantial harm if used in an indiscriminate fashion.

Nate's current placement does not meet his needs and is likely to result in long-term physical and emotional damage. We urge the Court to recommend that Nate be removed from the Fairview Developmental Center and returned to the community.


Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network,
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 1212
Washington, DC 20005

Scott Michael Robertson
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network,
Vice President