Wednesday, November 17, 2010

War On Autism Services in New York State

I just received this letter from the Autism Action Network. It is an FYI for all families with children on the spectrum living in New York State. Interestingly how we are the most taxed state in the Union but somehow they decided our children don't deserve services.

Sent: Mon, November 15, 2010 9:17:05 PM
Subject: Article 200 autism education regulations are gone

Dear All:
I attended the Meeting of the Board of Regents today in Albany with Mike Smith.

Despite acknowledging hundreds of phone calls and emails and dozens of letters of opposition from various organizations from our community, the Regents voted the article 200 regulations into extinction - some actually chuckled while doing so. These regulations offered at least some protections for our children for speech services and class size and gave parents at least some degree of support in CSE meetings.

These regulations are now gone, dismissed with a wave of Regent Chancellor Tisch's hands.

The disdain was not universal; Some - like Chancellor Emeritus Bennett - expressed concern stating "I am very concerned that we are reducing services...I also fear that we are upsetting the balance of the relationship between parents and CSE chairs.  Regent Chapey - who has a back ground in speech, language and hearing - also stated openly that there was no research that supported reducing speech services to those with autism.  Further, Regent Cofield stated "There is distrust - We are not dealing with the distrust that people feel in the CSE process."

Some Regents like Nassau's Talis and Westchester's Phillips voiced support for the changes saying districts would take care of the families and would not cut services.
But, in the end, the Regents voted unanimously to cut speech services. Then some basically said that parents could use due process and "handle it that way." One Regent indicated that children with autism use up all the services leaving nothing for other children.

In the end, Chancellor Tisch simply stated that districts need flexibility. They voted with her. Chancellor Tisch and the Regents have green lighted school districts to cut speech to people who - in some instances - can't talk. Our children were not viewed as children with needs; they were viewed as "unfunded mandates."

I spoke to a few of the Regents - Chancellor Emeritus Bennett for a few minutes. He suggested that he was open to establishing a committee to focus on autism and connected me to an outraged member of NYSUT. My conversation with Mr. Phillips was not pleasant. I told Harry that he just did the wrong thing and he has no idea how badly he and the Regents have hurt families with autism.

Mike Smith and I spoke to the Albany Press. Later in the day, I spoke with a reporter from Newsday.

All of us who have had struggles with our children's CSEs know what is now going to happen. In this budget environment, it will likely mean the elimination of most speech services and stretching autism class rooms to the max - risking the safety of our children.

The New York State Education Department has walked away from our children. It is time to fight back.

I ask all of you to put this out on your lists and let our community throughout the state know what has happened here.

More to come.

Louis Conte
Autism Action Network

They think everything can be taken care of in a due process hearing. Of course this is much more cost effective for the districts. Now families  have to choose between suing the district  or providing services for their children. Which would you do, sue the district while your child falls further behind or provide services on your own? I guess those property and state taxes we pay don't really mean much. I wonder what is the amount of all the perks the legislature/Board of Regents and governor enjoy and how many children could receive speech services from those monies.

Oh and before you think this is a Sharon Angle moment, the government of the State of New York is decidedly democratic and it was the democratic governor who vetoed the autism insurance bill. While this will not effect my boys at all, everything at this moment comes out of my pocket for collegeman and HSB only has 6 months left of high school then I start to pay for all of his support too (yes extraordinary debt is a way of life for us), this is going to be devastating for so many families in this state. My hope is that the autism advocates in New York State can get the legislature to reverse these decision by law. But it is up to each and everyone of us to work towards that goal. It seems it doesn't really matter who is in control politically, our children are poised to get the shaft.

Until next time,


P.S. You don't have to like some of the stances of the people at Autism Action Network, the issue presently is the actions of the Board of Regents, the legislature and the governor of the State of New York.