Our state's checkbook is in trouble -- no surprise there. Solving the budget crisis in Austin will require significant cuts to many programs and services. That is no easy task, and officials at the Child Study Center are certainly aware of the complexities involved. However, damaging the future of our community's most vulnerable children is unequivocally not the best answer for balancing Texas' budget.
Local children with autism are cared for through funding from the Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Department. The Child Study Center's Applied Behavioral Analysis program provides early intervention to autistic children ages 3 to 8 from 75 counties statewide.
Sixty-four percent of behavioral analysis funding comes from Rehabilitative Services. The remainder is from private donations as well as medical insurance -- a perfect example of a successful public-private partnership.
The behavioral analysis program started as a pilot project almost four years ago. We have improved the lives of more than 150 children, many of whom are functioning alongside their peers. Because of state funding, hundreds of children like Donnie have moved from throwing tantrums 90 percent of the day, refusing foods and refusing to use the toilet to becoming pleasant, polite and social youngsters.
There is no suitable alternative for children with autism in our public education system. The programs provided by the center are the only way that modest and low-income Fort Worth-area families of children with autism can possibly hope to access the intense service that will change their children's lives.