Saturday, June 13, 2009

Southern Illinois autism center in danger of cutting services


JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. - A state program under the gun is Illinois' Autism service.

It supports education of Autistic children including a center at SIU where officials say drastic cuts could be on the way.

According to national statistics, one in 150 children has Autism.

They require special training but managers at a local center say if their funding is left out the budget numerous families will have nowhere to turn.

Four year old Joshua is now playing, interacting with others and talking-- huge accomplishments for an Autistic child.

"When we first started dealing with all this he couldn't tell you what was wrong, he couldn't tell you what he wanted, he was non-verbal" says Josh's dad, Rick Reimer.

Josh's condition has continued to improve. He's doing things his dad never thought possible.

"...Spelling words, he's reading, he'll sit and he reads me stories."

Rick attributes his son's success to the help he received at SIU's center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, a place that helps more than 100 patients a year, but it's in danger of drastic cuts.

"What would you have to say to Josh's family?" I asked.

"We just don't have the ability to serve the number of families we used to" says Jenny Martin with the center.

If money for the state Autism program is cut, the center will lose its primary funding source.

Managers say they would only be able to help a few patients, and other families dealing with Autism would suffer.

"To get the services that we provide they would probably have to travel outside of the state" says Martin.

Josh's dad says it's crucial that those like his son get the treatment they need.

"You can either fund the programs now that help them, or you can pay for them the rest of their lives in these group homes or institutions" says Rick.

He has big dreams for Josh, starting with normal kindergarten next year-- but all that could be in jeopardy.

"I want them to get the funding, I want them to be able to allow Josh to come back because even though he's come a long way, he has a long way to go" says Rick.

The center says not only will families have to travel out of state for Autism services they will also have to pay thousands of dollars for the treatment.