The comprehensive care and therapy needed by children with autism has given many parents an additional criteria when deciding where to raise their families; finding the best states with services for autism. While all states participate in the initiative to provide services to children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, services in each state are not created equal. Some states well exceed the requirements set forth by the federal guidelines, while others barely comply, leaving parents to either settle for the bare minimum or pay out of pocket. In some states, services may be difficult to find even for those who are able to afford to foot the bills on their own, and long waiting lists may be an obstacle to even the services provided by the Federal Early Intervention Plan or the school system.
IDEA: Ideal Goals, Inconsistent Practices
Enacted in 1974, IDEA has been amended several times over the years. In its modern version, this legislation states a goal of providing a Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, that prepares each child with a disability for further education, employment, and independent living, by providing specialized instruction and related services that are necessary to achieve those goals. IDEA extends these services to children with disabilities from birth through age 21. While there are federal guidelines in place, these are not always strictly enforced or properly funded, so the services actually provided can vary significantly from one state to another.
Finding the Best States with Services for Autism
The first step in evaluating the possibilities is to look at the overall provision of services in the states you are considering calling home. Examine each state's package of support and services to determine whether the state strives to provide the best care, or merely to meet the minimum standards to secure federal IDEA funding. Education departments in each state should be able to provide information on the availability of services, and public health services can be a good source of information as well. Determining where the best services can be found means checking into a variety of details.
The selection of services available in each state is important to consider, ensuring that options are flexible enough to address individual needs. Check if there are waiting lists for the services you will need, and if so, how long the average wait time is. Insurance regulations are important to look into, ensuring that coverage will be accepted for the various services you will be seeking. For first hand information, autism support groups in each state can be a great resource, giving insight into the experiences of the families who use these services.
According to Disabled World, the top five states with outstanding services for autism are:
- New Jersey
The list was compiled in 2007, and many other states offer excellent services for people on the spectrum. Taking an active role in your child's therapy is an important part of getting the most out of the services he or she receives. Individualization is a key factor to consider.
Once you have narrowed the list to states with good overall support for autistic children, evaluating your child's specialized needs is the next step. Which state has the best services is a determination that must be made with your child's particular circumstances in mind. While some states may rate highly in overall support and services, they may not be a good fit for your family.
If your child is responding well to certain methods of treatment, perhaps ABA or sensory integration therapy, be sure that these specific needs will be met in your new state. If you homeschool your child, check whether services are available to children who are not enrolled in the public school system. For toddlers, check whether early intervention services are home based, or if you will need to travel for appointments.
Evaluate the services your child needs now, then investigate what may be necessary in the future to be sure all possibilities are covered. Seeking advice from therapists and teachers who are currently involved with your child can help you determine present needs and what is most likely to be needed later. Or, if that isn't an option, seeking an evaluation and recommendations from developmental specialists can be a great approach to determining your child's future needs.
While all this may sound like a lot of work, preparing properly for that move will help ensure that you won't have to uproot your family again, saving time and trouble in the long run. Doing some of that research on the Internet can save a lot of time, and most state agencies and support groups have websites to make resources and information easily available. The time and effort invested in research now will surely pay off in the future, ensuring that your child is given the best possible start towards a happy and healthy life.