Monday, October 6, 2008

Another $700 Billion to pay?

Bailey Dabney

October 2, 2008 October 06, 2008 12:17 pm—

With the nation in turmoil over the reckless driving on Wall Street, we may have another national emergency just around the corner. Are you ready to support several hundred thousand or more children once they hit 18 years of age? I mean full-time support; room, board, food, medical, and transportation?
We have already started paying this growing expense due to an exploding population of children suffering with autism passing through our public education system.
According to a press release I received last week, Oklahoma is reviewing its autism services regarding children and education. We need to do more than chime in on this issue. It affects every child, regardless if they have a special needs label or not.
According to the National Education Association (NEA) rankings of the states 2006 and estimated 2007 school statistics Oklahoma ranks 48th for both per-pupil expenditures of $6,944 and average teacher salary at $38,772. The regional average for per-student spending stood at $8,084 and the regional average for teacher pay was $41,613. While it may cost a little less to buy a house in Oklahoma than California, the cost of educating a child does not.
With costs running two or three million per person for the care of an individual with autism and the latest conservative statistics showing our country has around a quarter of a million people with autism we have another $700 billion assessment our taxpayers will be expected to fund. Educating a child with autism is about three times what it costs toeducate a child who receives no special education according to the Government Accountability Office.
This is one of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the public school system. This is an increase of more than 500 percent in the last ten years. If we fail to educate this population of children now, we will pay much more as they age. Government estimates identify 1-in-150 children in the United States with autism. Some say there is no autism epidemic; that it has always been a part of our society; liberal labeling has caused this increase.Yet, there are not 1-in-150 adults with autism in this country. This is a growing problem.
Two things we need our elected representatives to look into; require insurance companies to cover the costs of treating autism, including a highly qualified Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy as well as bio-medical interventions, which are the only methods that can boast success stories. And, equip our schools with highly qualified ABA programs that have results of mainstreaming 47 percent of the children to the regular education arena. Other states have done this or are in the process of passing such legislation.
The evidence of properly implemented ABA therapy with autistic children to learn an extensive range of skills is irrefutable and stands up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Decades of research into the effectiveness of ABA have shown that the children who do not cross back into general education still showed marked improvement in cognitive skills. This could be the difference between being able to support oneself as an adult or being supported for life by the government, which is you and me.
This past April, the American Academy of Pediatrics President Renee R. Jenkins, M.D., FAAP, said “The Academy is committed to working with researchers and treatment groups like Defeat Autism Now! To get closer to finding answers to the multiple causes of autism and determining effective therapies.” Defeat Autism Now! is the medical arm of the Autism Research Institute, a non-profit organization, established in 1967. They provide research-based information to parents and professionals around the world.
The combination of an appropriate, highly qualified education and a nourishing biomedical approach to the autism epidemic may relieve half or more of their disability. These young US citizens’ education will determine whether or not they will be employable, independent contributing members of our society. This will also relieve society at large of the several million dollars per person in tax dollar support if we fail to properly educate them.
Oklahoma Legislature, the parents of autistic children welcome you to this issue. Your arrival is not a moment too soon. We’ll hope your next press release on this subject details your support.

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