In October 2018, the Minnesota State Senate established a working group called the Minnesota Autism Council to provide guidance on how best to address issues relating to autism, including “treatment, educational options, employment opportunities, independent living, and more.” It was decided that the council would consist of individuals from different backgrounds, including autism advocates and caregivers, people living with autism, elected public officials, representatives of state agencies and other citizens.1 2
According to State Senator Jim Abeler of Anoka, Minnesota, “In selecting members of the Autism Council, we desired to get a broad range of participants. Including all voices and points of view will improve our chances of developing policy recommendations and action steps that will stand the test of time and actually work.”3
One in 42 children in Minnesota are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).2
Sen. Abeler, who thinks that healthcare professionals should inform parents about the “pluses and minuses of vaccine,” appointed the first three council members last fall. Among these was Wayne Rohde, who was assigned the task of helping shape the group and choosing other members, which ultimately included Patti Carroll. Both Rohde and Carroll have been involved in efforts to create public awareness about vaccine-related reactions and the importance of preserving the right to make informed and voluntary vaccine choices with regard to vaccination.2 3 4
Rohde, who has a son who is on the autism spectrum and defends the right of parents to make decisions about vaccinating their children, has stressed that his position on vaccination is not relevant. “We’re not about causation within the council. The council is all about how to deal and help those who are afflicted, and their families and those who provide services,” said Rohde.2 3 4
Nonetheless, the presence of Rohde and Carroll on the council has generated opposition from others within the council concerned about their vaccine safety and choice advocacy work. According to fellow council member Noah McCourt, “Even if it’s not something that’s discussed or that a policy is going to come out of, giving them this large contingency on this council is dangerous.”2 3
1 Learfield Wire Services. State Senate Appoints New Minnesota Autism Council Working Group. VoiceofAlexandria.com Oct. 18, 2018.
2 Mole B. Anti-vaccine advocates appointed to Minnesota autism council after measles outbreak. Ars Technica Jan. 25, 2019.
3 Enking M. Minnesota’s Autism Board Installs Anti-Vaxxers. Daily Beast Jan. 24, 2019.
4 Gstalter M. Vaccine skeptics appointed to new Minnesota council on autism. The Hill Jan. 25, 2019.