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Another Look at Autism and Vouchers


After I wrote two weeks ago about Missouri lawmakers' considering vouchers for students with autism, Piet van Lier directed me to an analysis he did for a Cleveland-based public policy group on Ohio's autism voucher program. It grants parents up to $20,000 a year in state aid in order to pay for educational services. The program served 734 children in the 2006-07 school year, at a cost to the state of about $10.8 million, and the policy analysis suggests that money would be better used to expand programs that can serve more children with autism.

My article will be in next week's print edition, but it's already up on the web. The comments on my Missouri blog post, plus the interviews I did for the Ohio story, make it clear to me that the parents who use such programs really love them. I asked parents if they were concerned that school districts might avoid bolstering their autism programs if they believed they could just shift parents onto the voucher program. Lori Peacock, a mother I quoted in the article, said she has heard of districts very pointedly making parents aware that they can take voucher money and go elsewhere.

Peacock, who has a 12-year-old son with autism, said she doesn't feel like she can wait for districts to get their acts together. "They've had nine years to get it right for him, and they still haven't gotten it right," she said. "We need to have options."

OK, teachers and administators--what do you think?


The pandemic that is autism has finally gotten much needed attention! We, as advocates for those with autism spectrum disorders should be vocal to the fairness of such policies. I believe vouchers are beneficial if parents are judicious with the allocation and type of support for their child(ren). To merely accept the funding and not research the intervention could be counterproductive for the child. On the other hand, parents that have done the research, gotten involved in support groups, and become ambassadors for the disorder, should be rendered the necessary funding to finance a research based, research proven intervention to maximize the social, emotional, academic, and language functions of their kids.

Hi! So, your comment intrigues me. First, let me say that I am not expressing an opinion on vouchers. However, one thing that I do know from my reporting is that the parents who take advantage of them tend to be better educated and more aware of their educational options.

Your comment about vouchers going to parents who have "done the research" might lead one to think that if you're an undereducated parent (and they do exist) then you shouldn't be allowed to "merely accept" the voucher money. What counts as sufficiently educated, though? And, if you support vouchers, don't all families deserve the money with a minimum of preconditions?

What if people are educated to whatever standard is appropriate, but just don't feel like getting involved in support groups and being ambassadors for autism? Not everyone wants to take on that role.

And what if parents don't want to pursue a "research-proven" intervention? At least in the case of Ohio, some parents are using the voucher money to pay for aides and parochial school. I am sure that's a quality education, but it may not be geared specifically for the needs of a child with autism.

I'm not trying to hammer you with questions! I'm just interested in sparking a discussion.

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