Saturday, June 13, 2009

What is the "Detroit News" thinking?

What is the "Detroit News" thinking? I am so perplexed by the ignorance and lack of understanding of the author(s) of this editorial, Here's a guess: The writer(s) of this editorial canNOT be the parents or family members of a child on the autism spectrum, and they canNOT know any teachers of children with autism. The writer(s) of this editorial are uneducated. Ignorant. They not only do not understand autism (it is developmental, neurological and medical, not an educational disorder!), they also do not understand our educational system or the fact that teachers are not medical professionals.

Autism is so much more than a challenge to be addressed by intermediate school districts. Autism is one diagnosis. Most individuals with an autism diagnosis have several (or more) co-occurring conditions that include fine motor delays, motor planning issues, visual processing challenges, auditory processing challenges, information processing delays, sound sensitivities, feeding problems, acid reflux, abdominal pain, malabsorption, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heavy metal poisoning, food allergies and intolerances. Some individuals on the autism spectrum have other mental health labels like Tourettes, bi-polar and schizophrenia. What typically happens when a parent takes a child w/ autism to the doctor and describes self injurious behavior, seizures, whatever, is that the doctor will not investigate, and instead, say, that's just what we see in autism. (My response: Bull hockey.)

Individuals on the autism spectrum are often the victims of discrimination by their family health insurance provider, because the provider refuses to cover "autism". These individuals have medical issues that contribute to the characteristics we use to describe autism (in the DSMIV). Treat the medical issues, and the "autism" decreases. AMAZING! Get rid of pain and illness and the student becomes a better learner. Who knew? Individuals with autism deserve to be covered by insurance plans in order to be treated by doctors who specialize in the biomedical treatment of the co-occuring "stuff" that often accompanies a diagnosis autism. These doctors understand behaviors as communication of underlying illnesses and know how to treat these individuals.

Intermediate school districts are not doctors or clinics. Doctors and parents do not want school staff diagnosing or treating the medical problems that accompany autism. We want school staff teaching our children. (Some of us choose to bypass the public school system and manage the education part with homeschooling. Homeschoolers still have to manage the co-occurring conditions with professional guidance.) Dealing with the neurological and/or medical issues that come with autism is no more the responsibility of our schools than having our schools take on the diagnosis and medical care of students with pediatric diabetes or pediatric cancer.

Children on the autism spectrum need and deserve intervention beyond the scope of what the schools provide. Autism in many ways is better understood outside the public school system. Many (most) school staff understand autism as a mental or behavioral condition, not a neurological condition or a developmental delay. Universities producing our teachers are years behind the latest research, which means schools are behind, too. Teaching a child with autism is SO MUCH MORE than the behavior management that is prevelent in our schools. Many students identified with autism are not given access to remediation programs in public school settings because autism is defined incorrectly, considered behavioral and not neurloogical, medical or developmental. In addition to school staff members sorely needing to play catch-up with the latest autism interventions, students with autism need help for co-occurring conditions that school staff members have no expertise in diagnosing or treating.

Once the job of the school has been properly defined (and that has yet to happen), there are more problems: On the education side, Congress has never fully funded federal special education law. How are schools supposed to do the job of educating students with autism when they are not being financially supported to do so?

Individuals on the autism spectrum need much more than services from an ISD, and the "much more" includes coverage by health insurance policies for neurological and developmental conditions, for starters.

Mandating insurance coverage for individuals with autism is just one of several changes that must occur to create a fair playing field, and studies show that the increase to premiums would be small. The benefits would be ENORMOUS. And it's the right thing to do.

For more info, go here:


PaintCrazy said...

You are so right about that writer being ignorant. Besides not understanding the least about autism, he most obviously doesn't understand the health care and insurance systems in Michigan. No, Michigan doesn't have as many state mandates as other states but we have plenty of Federal mandates that apply. We also have some of the richest benefits in the nation compared to other states thanks to the work of the unions - which I'm surprised are opposing the autism coverage. On the other hand, the auto unions are just trying to save their own behinds right now...for good reason.

Anne said...

I totally agree with you. I get their point about insurance costs, but the cost has to be paid somewhere. Either parents will try to pay it out of their own pockets, which is a hurculean task for most of us, or our children will simply be denied the services they need and will burden the system farther down the line with issues that could have been dealt with and perhaps even resolved with early intervention.

Lawmakers need to see early Autism intervention as insurance against future educational and medical costs for all taxpayers.

Mara Husband said...

Thank you, "New to Homeschooling...", for writing this post and validating those of us fighting for autism insurance legislation. It is important to note that so many states have passed mental health parity laws (thankfully) but those states continue to have to pass autism specific insurance coverage laws in order stop exclusionary language in policies. I just hope that cost-heavy legislation does not drag all parties down once again, for the 14th year in a row. More and more people move out of Michigan hoping that states with autism insurance legislation will provide better coverage for their children and I would like to see some of those people feel they can stay in Michigan!

Anonymous said...

Excellent points, way to go P!

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