It seems that everywhere you look there are examples of just how crumby the economy has gotten. A sad reminder that nothing is permanent, that there are no guarantees. Unfortunately, a program for which I have a lot of respect and a lot of passion about might be on the chopping block, due to cuts in the budgets. Both of my sons attended the Northern Utah Autism Program (NUAP) during their preschool years. I would have to say that I credit them with the major successes we've had with our boys.
L. was not speaking, was not potty trained, and exhibited some very destructive behaviors when we began their program. I can't say what would have happened without their guidance, and training. I can tell you what would have happened to H. though. H. didn't speak either. The public school systems Head Start Program tested him and found that he was eligible for their serves and for a time a speech therapist was coming to our house to work with him. She was excellent. The time came when he was old enough to go to preschool.
I could see right away that he didn't fit in with the other children. He couldn't obey simple commands, he couldn't sit still at circle time, and he didn't communicate like the other children. I did, however, have the ability to see that he was an intelligent child. Head Start sadly, did not have that ability. After several months they told me that they felt he belonged with the mentally retarded children in a separate preschool away from the normal kids. H. was on the waiting list for NUAP at the time and by a miracle, we got the call that they had room for him and would take him.
Within six months he was speaking, potty trained, and his attention skills had drastically improved. Because of NUAP he was able to go on to a regular school and be mainstreamed into a normal classroom setting. I can't say that he doesn't still have a few struggles, but we've been very blessed with excellent and patient teachers who work with him tirelessly. I really in my heart of hearts believe that without NUAP he never would have made it this far.
I told his teacher this story, getting teary eyed as I recounted it. She was stunned, knowing him now, that they ever would have suggested that he be put in with the mentally handicapped children in preschool. The fact is he reads on a higher level than the other children his age, he spells like a champ, and he isn't too shabby at math either. What's most important to me is that both of my sons are able to experience their full potential. Even if for L. that isn't on the same level as his brother, I want them to be all they can be.
NUAP was a big part of helping them achieve that potential that was locked away. I owe so much to them. Now I see that program in jeopardy and it makes me feel so sad for the parents and children who's quality of living hangs by a thread. I hope for them that the states sees what a valuable asset they are and continues to provide funding.