When my son was first diagnosed with autism, I shared his diagnosis with a long time friend whose wife works in the disability community. She told him to tell me I was very lucky to live in California, because we have the Regional Center system.
I don’t know a lot about what it’s like to be fighting for services in other states, but I do know that because of our local Regional Center, we were able to send my son to an early intervention pre-school that he began before he turned two. It is like a typical pre-school except they have PECs cards and a structure that allows kids with autism, mental retardation, and other developmental disabilities to acclimate to school early. It also allows kids to socialize and copy other kids. It has been a complete blessing for our son. He’s blossomed in the program, made a ton of friends, and learned a lot of signs and routines that will serve him well when he transitions to special ed in a few months.
They also help us pay for speech therapy, since we can’t get it through our insurance (here’s my post on my fruitless search).
Last week, I saw this article about autism caregivers, and was reminded that the Regional Centers need some help to continue to help others.
State Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) recently sent a letter asking that $25 million in “bridge funding” be added to next year’s operating budget to help “address operating cost pressures arising from extraordinary cost-of-living increases in each of California’s major population centers.”
Amy Westling, director of the Association of Regional Center Agencies, said the cash would help to increase compensation in areas where the local minimum wage is already higher than $11 per hour. For example, the minimum wage in San Francisco is already $14 per hour and will increase to $15 per hour on July 1. It’s $13.25 per hour in Los Angeles this year and $11.50 in San Diego.
I wanted to help, so I put together this petition:
California’s Regional Centers are a model for the entire country, yet aides to children and adults with autism are not being paid fairly. As a result, Regional Centers are facing funding issues–and those with developmental disabilities pay the price. Pass AB 2623 to modernize Regional Center reimbursements.