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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fighting for Services

In Hanover, Pennsylvania, The Evening Sun reports on Christian Goff, an ASD student whose parents had to fight for an appropriate school placement:
He wasn't making any progress, said Christian's mother, Kim Goff. So she started talking to school officials, asking for ways to get him transferred to another school, one designed specifically for autistic students.

For six months she fought the school district, attending the litany of meetings that goes into changing the course of care for a special-needs student, and still, the district said no.

That did not stop Goff.

"Is he getting what he needs?" she said, her voice cracking in anger. "No. He is 12 and still can't read or write. He doesn't understand how to type on a keyboard."

The school district did eventually approve Goff's request, but it took a lot of fight, too much fight, Kim said.

"That's what you have to do," Goff said. "You have to fight to get your kid into the right school. It's sad, but unfortunately that's the fact."

As it turns out, there are fighters like Goff all over the country. A nationwide survey conducted by Autism Speaks in 2011 found that even among parents who are happy with their autistic children's education, 24 percent said that they had to fight to get it.

One possible barrier to getting this specified level of education is cost.

In the South Western School District, it costs about $20,000 more per year to educate an autistic child in an LIU classroom than it does to educate a typical student, said the district's business administrator, Jeff Mummert.

When recent statewide budget cuts to education are also thrown into the picture, it's clear that school districts are feeling the squeeze. State funding for special education has not increased in the past four years, despite the fact that costs continue to rise, Mummert said.

School officials insist that, by law, they are required to pay for special education and that the district obeys those laws. They also explain that the drive to keep special-needs students within the public school system is purely for educational reasons and is not motivated by monetary factors.