Magical thinking in Texas special education

I never post political information, but as my son is a child in the Texas schools, and this blog is about life with autism, these series of articles from the Houston Chronicle deserve wider publicity. According to amazing reporting by an investigative team at the Chronicle, we learn that the state legislature cut the Texas Education Agency’s budget by $1.3 billion in 2004. The agency’s possibly illegal, and definitely immoral response? Set an arbitrary target of 8.5 percent for special education (lower than any other state), cap it there, and call everything else, “over identifying.” Justify to the federal government, that Texas education “cures” disabilities through “unique teaching methodologies” (ie. magic!) and force tens of thousands of children to receive no services, leaving thousands of parents to drop out of the workforce and home school. This “target” must be repealed and the state is going to need to raise taxes to plug this gap they created. I know, when hell freezes will taxes be raised in Texas for education, but this is an outrage. We are the state that cuts taxes on the backs of DISABLED CHILDREN. Okay, rant is over, now back to a blog about traveling with a disability.

Touring the Capitol for Autism

As a parent of a child with autism, I have taken many “trips” to the Texas Capitol building, and it is a gorgeous structure to tour. However, I’ve never been there as a tourist, not once in my eight years of trips as I’ve always gone there as an autism mom and advocate. I’ve testified at every session since 2007 (the first session that I knew my son had autism) on legislation related to disability services, special education and access to autism therapies. I have seen many interesting nooks and crannies of the Capitol building during my now eight years of autism advocacy and learned a thing or two about how laws are made and how advocates working together can make a difference.

I started my efforts with the 2007 Session working to get laws passed for the coverage of autism therapies and now just finished testifying at the 2015 session, again in support of access to autism therapy. One of the things that I learn is that slowly oh, so slowly, does autism law change. But, the few laws I’ve been able to see change have been well worth it.

This year I was speaking in defense of funding that is certain to be cut, and that’s a real shame, because my own child has benefited so greatly from the type of therapy on the chopping block–funding for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA can help children with autism gain speech, reduce tantrums and allow them to more fully participate in life by helping them overcome some of their anxiety that keeps them homebound. I testified, not because my son would likely use this program, but because other children in the state need this opportunity.

I know for my own son, ABA helped him immensely. He’s able to leave our home, attend school without tantrums (well, very few) and speak in sentences, all things that were impossible to him 8 years ago. I’ve even asked him as I’ve watched him excel in school and manage his tantrums, “How did you accomplish so much?” and his answer, “the therapies worked.”