Having A Good School System: Funding for Autism

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Previously posted on Technorati as Having A Good School System: Funding for Autism.Child with Autism on the pier at San Francisco.I'm very lucky. I live in the boundaries of one of the largest school districts (if not the largest) in the State of Utah. That means this school district is well funded as it covers the more affluent East side of the valley, as well as the less affluent West side. And because it is well funded, the school district has been able to build a special school for special needs students, like my son. He has an occupational therapist that works with him and his sensory needs, a speech therapist that is assisting him in learning to talk, a fabulous teacher that coordinates the effort, and a supportive environment that helps all the students that are in need.And there are quite a few. As Autism becomes more recognized, more children are entering our public school system with needs that many schools across the country are finding difficult to meet due to funding issues. Many districts do not offer special programs for Autism, because they just can't offer any special programs. Having spoken with many other parents in Utah, I've found that our school district tends to be an exception, rather than the rule. This is a problem, as in the State of Utah, Autism is not recognized as a diagnosis by insurance companies, and therefore they do not cover the cost of doctors visits, therapies, etc. But my school district has psychologists on staff that are trained to identify Autism, and cover it as part of the school experience. Once your child is signed up for pre-school, if you or the teacher has a concern about Autism, they are tested for free.There has been a lot of talk about who should bear the brunt of the costs of Autism therapy. Currently, it is generally the parents of the children, registering their children for expensive therapy sessions that tend to cost between $30,000 to $50,000 a year. But for many less wealthy families, that can be more than they bring in for a year, so their children go untreated or are left to an ill-equipped public school system to try an manage. Insurance companies are concerned, because ABA therapy is a long-term committment, meaning regular pay-outs and a lot less money to build up their companies and pay their investors. If they are stuck with the bill, they say they will have to raise insurance rates for everyone, and as only 1% of the child population is diagnosed with Autism, the families of the other 99% feel like they are having to pay money for someone else. Another call is for the government to step up and increase their spending for Autism support services, as is done in the United Kingdom, among other countries. But with the current global economic state, many countries are calling on more austerity measures that tend to cut benefits like Autism therapy. And with many States seriously in the red on their budgets, spending for Autism services isn't very appealing.The bottom line is if no solution is found, then ultimately we all will pay country-wide, as these children with Autism start to move into the Welfare State because they were not given the proper intervention needed to help them contribute to society. And that can be a very long period of public funds paying for someone who would otherwise have been successful. It's a problem that has no easy answer, to tell you the truth.Personally, I'm grateful for the benefits I get through my school district. The Granite School District is one that I well respect, having been part of it my whole life (or at least K-12). The fact that they have services for my son, and soon my other son, is a comfort. But even as well funded as they are, they can't be expected to keep up the pace they have for long without another answer. Classrooms are filling in quickly, and even my son was moved at last minute to a new class with a new teacher that was hired a week before school started. That tells you at which pace that the school district has had to move to keep up with all the new students on the Spectrum. If I had my way, I would like to see a conglomeration of funding come in to our public school systems, with proper and rigorous oversight, and build up programs for Autism across the State (or nation), and as part of that program, have lessons for parents with children on the Spectrum, so they know what they can and need to do to help their children. Because we as parents represent the largest unpaid teaching force in America.. I think it's about time we were taught how to do it.Perhaps that's the answer, and perhaps not. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do know what has worked for my child. What solution would you propose?