Autism and Tuition Costs
The Post-Dispatch reports on the challenges that parents of autistic kids face:
Symptoms typically begin before age 3, and experts including those at the National Institutes of Health, say early intervention is critical. This is where the costs begin to mount.
Autism treatment falls under four broad categories: behavioral, speech and language, neurosensory such as music therapy, and biochemical such as medication and dietary changes.
Unfortunately, the article doesn’t mention tuition tax credits for autistic kids instead, the focus is on insurance companies that don’t cover all the treatments. Some parents are lobbying for state mandates to force the insurance companies to pay.
Insurance mandates are a bad idea in general, and in this case they clearly don’t make sense. If a kid has a learning disability that affects his reading skills, no one would expect a health insurance company to pay for extra help. That’s an educational issue, not a medical one. Likewise, when autistic kids need 30 hours a week of music therapy, help with learning communication and social skills, and personal attention, that means they need a special school environment. Now, no one would expect a public school to be able to do all those things for one or two autistic children. That’s why there are private schools that specialize in treating autism. We should focus on giving autistic kids access to those schools.
How can we do that? Insurance companies aren’t set up to be tuition scholarship organizations. And leaving the problem for school districts to deal with on a case-by-case basis leaves many kids without help; right now, only a few of the most affluent suburban districts help send kids to private autism centers like Judevine. A tuition tax credit program would benefit autistic kids throughout the state, without overwhelming individual districts. But in the absence of such a program, people are demanding that insurance take up the slack.
I hope legislators will take responsibility for gaps in the state’s education system without getting the insurance sector involved.