Having a Good School System: Funding for Autism
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 commitment, 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.Continued on the next page