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posted: 6/21/2013 5:00 AM

Legislators: Time to back special needs families

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As my son leaves the 8th grade and the autism program in Schaumburg District 54, state and federal legislators need to know the real statistics of how the challenges of autism have grown in just one geographic area.

In fall, in his former school district there will be 247 students in Schaumburg's special education program from Early Childhood to eighth grade with a primary diagnosis of autism, costing an average of $23,000 per student -- not including transportation -- with the federal government covering less than 10 percent of that cost.

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Those costs and numbers do not include other students with other special needs, like Down syndrome.

To be clear, 247 students with autism in one school district is a 20 percent increase in four years, and it's still growing.

When my son gets to high school, the cost of a special education will range from $15,000 to $100,000 per student, up to age 22.

Many state and federal legislators from both parties run away from autism overall and avoid the issues that families go through, because families are not professional lobbyists.

When children like my son reach age 22 and they have no vocational training or job to go to, no place to live and have parents who eventually cannot take care of them or pass away -- that cost goes up to over $230,000 or more per year.

Here's an idea for state and federal legislators who need to know the problem is getting bigger and the people affected aren't going away: Learn about the subject and engage people and families with autism. Stop avoiding a problem that people who you should be representing need help with.

They deserve equal representation in Springfield and in Washington.

Mike Baker

Schaumburg

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