As autism speaks, TAP suffers

Gov. Bruce Rauner demonstrated glaring ignorance when he canceled state funding of The Autism Program on World Autism Day at the start of this April — which also happens to be Autism Awareness Month.

On April 2, Rauner announced that he will freeze funding the state grant provided to the program, and in doing so will deprive the organization of the approximate $4 million of funding upon which it relies to provide services and educational resources to individuals affected by autism in Illinois.

Under Rauner’s budget cut, state funding for The Autism Program will end on June 30, leaving the grant-funded nonprofit organization completely underwater, and, according to a program affiliate at the University, likely unable to recover.

Nobody can deny that Illinois is well over its head in debt; however, defunding The Autism Program will have very negative implications on individuals affected by autism, and represents a complete disregard for the right to equal opportunities for education.

Cutting The Autism Program’s funding will likely prevent it from functioning in any capacity and will effectively deny a large group of Illinois citizens the resources necessary to obtain educational curriculums and programing that suits their needs.

It will leave a devastating number of Illinois citizens uncared for and their parents and educators under-informed. Further, it will leave many without the adequate care they may normally receive through such programs.

According to the program affiliate at the University, the center located on the Urbana campus specializes in making references and referrals, develops support systems for families and schools and provides programming that serves to “enhance the community’s capacity and quality of services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families.”

This program is particularly useful, given the low number of insurance plans that cover the types of therapies and health practices often used to treat autism (currently, treatment for autism is not covered under Medicaid). For many, the treatment provided by The Autism Program is a necessity. As there is no cure for this spectrum of neurological disorders, treatment is often necessary — for both severe and high-functioning cases.

The Autism Program serves as a financially feasible alternative for the many families with children with autism spectrum disorders.

As of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. This is a shockingly high statistic — particularly when one considers the exponential rate at which autism spectrum disorder diagnoses have increased over the past decades. Given the prevalence of autism in American households, it is great support to many families for programs to have this state-funded care.

Trailing behind the denied access to proper care will be an increase in misinformation. With the rise of people against vaccinations, I think we can all agree on the dangers that accompany knowledge acquirement via the Internet. As the anti-vaxxers have proven time and time again, the general population of the U.S. is not ready for that responsibility of deciding for themselves what reliable, credible information is and what it is not.

Access to a virtually unlimited amount of online information has rendered itself just as dangerous as it is beneficial.

By defunding The Autism Program, Illinois citizens will be cut off from the medical knowledge necessary to treat, understand and diagnose autism. This unintentional ignorance will yield a plethora of negative and harmful results to both the autism spectrum disorders community, as well as those who love and care for them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism spectrum disorder “occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.” It is a problem that has grown significantly in recent years, due to increased knowledge of the spectrum of disorders, as well as changing criteria for diagnoses.

A disorder so prevalent should be visible to citizens, and in turn, these citizens should be provided with resources that can inform and help them to live healthy and successful lives. Defunding The Autism Program will hinder many from receiving this treatment and education, and it will yield negative effects for those who cannot afford uninsured, alternate methods of treatment.

As students on a campus that houses an affiliate of the program, we should be especially aware of its defunding and the heavy implications it will have.

Carly is a junior in FAA.

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