The recent article regarding the state of autism services in our county was a pleasure to see (“Autism services are extensive, but questioned,” Aug. 14, 2008), however there was some information that was not quite accurate.
Autism services in our county are by no means “extensive,” nor do they “abound.” It was wonderful to hear the perspectives of parents having difficulties with Tri-Counties Regional Center and county schools, as I often do. Those are the only sources of funding for families with a child on the autism spectrum in our county, for those who qualify. Private-pay services are debilitatingly expensive. As to the quality and training of professionals in our county, that, too, is limited at best. As Ms. Covell wrote, there are some wonderful providers out there, but they are exceptionally difficult to locate, often require a commute, and rarely have available time.
Additionally, the nation and statewide increases in the incidence of autism are mirrored in SLO County. Twenty children with autism were served by SLO County Schools in 1996, but 109 children were served in 2002, a 545 percent increase. Over the longer span of 1991 to 2006, the increase is even more dramatic. In 1991, one student was served in the county. In 2006, 201 students were served, an increase of more than 20,000 percent (San Luis Obispo County SELPA, 2007). Our schools and other providers (TCRC included) are not able to handle this crisis alone. There are many other students in our schools who must squeak by, who do not qualify for services.
To address this situation, the Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center exists to expand and centralize access to services for people, families, and professionals who are touched by autism spectrum disorders on the California Central Coast. We are a relatively new organization, and operate with a very dedicated board of directors and team of volunteers.
We have experienced a great deal of community support for our endeavors, having recently received $3,000 from the Annual Mike McGee Crawfish Boil at McCarthy’s Irish Pub, and are the designated nonprofit to receive a donation from the upcoming Pismo Beach Business Improvement Group “Entertainer of the Year” event on October 11. They are committed to the purchase of a resource library for the families of the Central Coast—a much needed resource!
We are also bringing Dr. Barbara Firestone, president and CEO of The Help Group in Los Angeles and author of Autism Heroes, to SLO County on Nov. 1 at Cal Poly. She will be sharing her journey and story with families and professionals, and will be signing copies of her book.
CCASC can only continue to help county families with continued community support. Thank you for putting autism in bold letters in the New Times.
-- Juli Miller, - Interim Director - The Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center
-- Juli Miller, - Interim Director