FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Assault On The Disabled

by MARK GRAHAM

Since his election as governor, Republican Tom Corbett has left no stone unturned in his assault on the people of Pennsylvania.  To boil it down to a simple formula: he cuts food stamps to 1.8 million people while giving $1.7 billion in tax breaks to Shell oil.  Neoliberalism has come home to roost.   As a teacher I was outraged by the cuts imposed on us by the Corbett regime—and equally outraged by the huge percentage of my colleagues throughout the state who elected a governor so clearly against their own interests.  Now it’s different; it’s about my child.

Before Corbett’s rise to power, Pennsylvania had one of the most comprehensive autism treatment plans in the United States.  Any family, regardless of their financial status, was eligible through the Department of Welfare, to receive services for their children, gratis.  Yesterday I, like many parents of autistic children in Pennsylvania, received a letter from the PA Dept of Welfare which stated I would now have to make co-pays for my child’s therapy, to the tune of several hundred dollars a month.  Like so many other parents, I cannot make those payments.  As a consequence, Corbett and the Pennsylvania Dept of Welfare are robbing not just the future of my child but also the other thousands and thousands of autistic children desperately in need of therapy in the commonwealth.

Zayn was first diagnosed with autism when he was two.  He wasn’t speaking a word.  He engaged in repetitive, monotonous behaviors like hair twirling and other typical indicators of a problem.  My wife and I promptly went into denial.  Autism is not a psychological disorder.  It’s a neurological problem that can’t be treated with pharmaceuticals (which may be why the folks at the APA are hell-bent on changing the way it’s diagnosed).  There’s no “cure” for autism, Playboy bunnies and their homeopathic remedies notwithstanding.  What an autistic child needs is intensive therapy to help him or her break through the walls their own minds construct around them.  You don’t grow out of autism, you merely adapt to it.  This applies not just to people with autism but also to their families.  When our son was diagnosed we had to accept autism as a new member of our family that would never go away.  The strain of dealing with a child who behaved in strange, inexplicable ways to others, who lacked the capacity to reason as other children his age did, who could not express himself with language, who was physically impaired in terms of his motor capacities, who was a prisoner of his own consciousness—was so great that it drove me and my wife to the brink of divorce.  Depression and anxiety plague the parents of autistic children.  I will never forget sitting across the table from my son at dinner, asking him night after night, “Do you want some dessert?” and never getting a response—not a grunt, not a nod, nothing.  Zayn for half his life could not respond to a basic question—even for something he really wanted—with a simple “yes” or “no.”  Autism afflicts 1 out of 88 Pennsylvanians.  But they can’t afford to pay the rent on the governor’s mansion like Corbett’s corporate backers.

Today Zayn functions quite well in a regular second-grade classroom—with of course the talented and dedicated help of his autism support teachers and paraprofessionals.  But he still has a long way to go.  And he is one of the fortunate ones.  There are many, many children diagnosed with autism
whose struggles pose even greater challenges.  And these are the children that Tom Corbett has effectively cut off from help.  Granting the secretary of welfare extra-legislative powers to cut funding where he wills, Corbett has circumvented democratic control over his slashing of public programs.  The way the welfare department puts it, middle-class teachers like me can afford to foot the $300 a
month copay.  I beg to differ.  Like many teachers, I have no savings and live paycheck to paycheck.  Three hundred extra dollars a month for my child to get the services he needs is beyond my capacity.  As Pennautism. org explains, the new co-pays are not only unreasonable but oppressive for all but the wealthiest families.  The co-pays, roughly the amount of my car-loan (actually a little more), “exceed out-of-pocket maximums for nearly all commercial insurance plans in PA…[and are] approximately 200% more than average family contributions to employer-sponsored health insurance plans.”  Up until now Pennsylvania allowed multiple visits a week (physician approved) throughout the year.  While I do have insurance (and a decent plan, at that) Blue Cross covers six therapy sessions—a year.    Maybe I should start teaching summer school to afford the payments which previously had been my child’s legal right.

Autism support groups are currently protesting the attacks on services.  A few politicians have been enlisted in the struggle as well.  But politicians are not the ones who are going to solve our problems.  It’s not going to get fixed until we force the issue.   Corbett, like the corporate powers he serves so well, has cast a wider net in his warfare against the public.  Why just attack the poor and the teacher unions.  Why not assault the mentally disabled?  They will tell you it’s about the money which is patent nonsense.  If Shell gave up its tax breaks that would go a long way—and on a national level no doubt we could find money for all sorts of social programs if we, say, stopped building less drones and started funding more therapists, teachers, and social workers.  Just a thought.  While Corbett’s approval ratings are abysmally low, I think it’s time we forego dreaming that any election will solve the problem.  The real issue is not a single corporate shill but a poisonous antisocial mindset—the kind that can look at a beautiful, loving boy like my son and say: he’s not worth it.

Mark Graham is a high school teacher in the Lehigh Valley. He’s books include: How Islam Created the Modern World and Afghanistan in the Cinema.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail