Many kids with autism receive services through the school district for their educational needs. The county then funds services to help with their community needs. Severe budget cuts have affected both the school district and county budgets. This means that they cannot provide kids with the same level of services as they have in the past.
When my daughter started getting services through the county, people we knew regaled us with tales of the golden years when kids received amazing services. They had behavior aides assist them during the summertime at camps, received 25 or more hours of behavior therapy, and had special community outings with adequate support. In addition, parents received about 25 hours of respite care a month so that they could go out on dates to help handle the stress of raising children on the autism spectrum.
Those days are long gone! We had to fight to get our daughter's behavior therapy to last as long as a year (even though we were told that they generally provide it for three years). And she never received more than 9 hours a week!
After she "graduated" out of behavior therapy, I asked if she could get into a social skills class. The county approved this, but what I didn't realize is that my daughter would only be allowed to attend her class for 30 weeks, once a week.
For a while, my daughter was having a bit of a hard time in the class. If things didn't go her way, she would cry. When we mentioned this to the County service coordinator, she said that the social skills class could potentially boot her out of the program if her behavior isn't up to par for the class. When I mentioned that she might need more behavior therapy to get her up to par, the service coordinator stated that she can't have this because her behavior wasn't bad enough. So, theoretically, her behavior can be too good for behavior therapy, but not good enough for social skills classes, so she ends up getting no services. Luckily, the social skills class would never kick her out of it based on her crying.
They are going to boot her out soon because she's nearing the end of 30 sessions. The service provider wrote up a report to talk about her progress. She met only one out of her three goals. However, the report stated that she was showing improvements with each session. The report concluded with the recommendation to stop providing the social skills class. Huh? My daughter has only met one goal out of three. The classes have helped her however, so the recommendation is to stop them entirely?
When I questioned the service provider about their report, they agreed that it's premature to pull her out. Nevertheless, the county never approves this class for more than 30 sessions. So, she said that we'll have to wait a month or two, then contact the service coordinator to tell her of the ongoing need for the class.
I understand that budgets are tight. I also understand that my daughter is on the higher end of the spectrum. It just floors me that they pull the services that my daughter needs even when it's obviously that they shouldn't stop the service. If anything, the data supports continuing the service!
With these severe budget cuts, what happens to the children? How do they obtain the skills they need to lead productive lives? While this affects the special needs students especially hard, all children are affected with the decrease in resources provided to education.
It's really despicable!