Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting rich off an autism diagnosis

Doesn't the very idea of getting rich off of your child's autism diagnosis seem laughable? I mean, if there was a way to turn autism into a profitable enterprise, I would definitely be living on easy street with 2 boys diagnosed on the spectrum. The whole notion is absolutely ridiculous. Crazy. Cuckoo. Ludicrous. Insane.

Well, imagine my surprise when I saw a post in my Facebook feed yesterday that was titled, "Attorney Claims Autism Parents Are Just In It for the SSI Gravytrain." Say what? Come again? An SSI Gravytrain? Wow, if only I had known!!!

Give me a (insert your favorite expletive here) break.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link. And then my jaw hit the floor. At first I thought maybe it was a joke. When I realized it wasn't, I started getting angry.

The post linked above talks about an article from the The Los Angeles Times, as part of a series on autism. The focus of my shock and dismay was a comment posted by a reader in reply to the article. It reads:

"Many parents today want a diagnosis of autism spectrum for their child, not only because there is a great deal of funding allocated for services for those children, as the news article explains, but also because this qualifies the child or family to collect a good SSI payment each month. If a family can get a few kids diagnosed with such things, the family can live off the payments. This was caused because welfare payments are so low, welfare is so hard to get, and intact families with both parents present do not qualify for welfare.

The real story would be to check out what percentage of families with child with an autism diagnose are collecting SSI. That is where you will find the real secret behind this "epidemic." Also, school districts that will receive extra funding for each child with autism will be far more likely to make such a diagnosis.

When I was a kid, there were kids who kept track of details, counted things, paid little attention to others, and seemed socially awkward. There were called future accountants.

I realize there are actual cases of autism, which seems to be a form of retardation. A lot of this spectrum stuff, I think, is based on wanting to collect available funds, without regard for the fact it stigmatizes the children for life to have such a diagnosis.

Anyone who writes a scathing reply should reveal if their family is collecting SSI or if they or their school is in any way collecting funds based on autism."

Okay...whoa! Did she just equate autism with retardation? Did she just say that autism is every parent's dream ticket to government support? Did she say there is a great deal of funding for autism? Holy crap. Did I just step into the Twilight Zone here?

Let's just get one thing out of the way first. Autism is NOT automatically synonymous with any sort of intellectual disability. A majority of children on the spectrum are of average intelligence or even above average. This kind of comment proves to me how very uneducated she is about autism.

Moving on to the laughable portion of the comment...seeking an autism diagnosis in order to get a government handout. Are you kidding me? And, I'm dying to know where all the money is that she's speaking about. In my beautiful State of Washington, when you go through and file disability paperwork through the proper department, I've heard the wait can be anywhere from 3 to 8 years. Yes, that's right. Three to eight years! Oh, and our family doesn't qualify, by the way. We don't have a "classic" autism diagnosis. We're not the only ones. Lots of people I know are not able to qualify their children even though they could use some help.

My State is desperately underfunded and unable to keep up with the increasing needs. We are facing a huge crisis here due to lack of funding and lack of legislation. In Washington, autism is still a diagnosis that is widely discriminated against by insurance companies. This creates a major financial dilemma for families who are trying to care for affected children with proper medical interventions. An autism diagnosis is definitely NOT the golden ticket. If it is elsewhere (by some miracle), maybe I should move!

I guess the whole point of me bringing this up today is that comments like these prove how much education still needs to be done about autism. The woman who made these insensitive and clearly ignorant comments just doesn't get it (and probably doesn't want to get it, as far as I can tell).

Those of us in the autism community are very "aware." We obviously don't need Autism Awareness Month in April to remind us of our daily experience. Besides, talking about autism all of the time can be exhausting, and at a certain point it can become a worn out topic. But, we still have a big job to do.

The world needs to know what we go through. The world needs to know what our kids go through. The world needs to know that we have a big problem on our hands as this generation of affected children is quickly growing into adults. The world is not ready for them yet. Our kids need to have the best possible chance to succeed, and I guarantee we are NOT doing enough right now to help them. I see gaping holes in proper services and interventions every day. My hope and my dream is that all of this will change...before my boys are all grown up.   

*One last note - a disclamier of sorts:
I thought I should let you know that I saw the link to this post from the Facebook page for the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. I requested permission to post about this article but did not receive any direct communication back via email or Facebook comment reply. Because I felt so strongly about the topic, I thought I would go ahead and write up my post. I hope that they are okay with me doing so.

I sincerely encourage you to not only visit their Facebook page, but please read the article referenced above in its entirety. It gives a lot more information that is worth the extra time.

Please share your thoughts about this in the comments! Am I the only one who is gobsmacked by this woman's comments?   
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