Budget Cuts Hurt Autism Program
Thursday, May 12, 2011
An after-school program for autistic kids in San Diego struggles to stay open after budget cuts.
SAN DIEGO More than 100 San Diego families rely on the Community Coaching Center, a non-profit behavioral training program for mentally-disabled kids over age 6.
The center has two facilities in the area, one in North County and another in Hillcrest.
Shawn Meyer is 11 years old. He’s a twin, but unlike his brother, Shawn has a severe mental disorder called institutional bound autism.
For the past six years Shawn, has attended the after-school program at Community Coaching Center (CCC).
On any given afternoon, he was matched with another child from CCC. A coach from the center would then take the children into the community to teach them how to interact in a social setting.
But no amount of coaching would prepare the center or their families for the waves of financial cuts headed their way.
CCC receives the majority of their funding from the State of California. In 2009 the center lost about 80 percent of its funding due to budget cuts.
Now the center staff and families worry they can’t survive this year’s proposed state budget cuts to social recreation programs.
Shawn’s mother, Pat Meyer, is the sole income provider for the family. She said CCC is a training program, not a social recreation program. Meyer also said without funding, both her son and society will suffer.
“So the center’s kids learn how to function in public, and the public can see the kids. That's good for everyone. We don't want to go back to the days where kids with disabilities are kept locked up in their homes,” Meyer said.
She also worries about CCC closing.
"If my son were home from school at 2 o’clock everyday, I wouldn’t be able to continue to work, which is impossible since I have another son to take care of. The only other choice is that he would have to go to the state and the state would have to take of him on a full time basis—which I don’t want to happen,” said Meyer.
Meyer said since attending CCC, Shawn’s interaction with others and his behavior has significantly improved.
CCC offers military and other discounts to qualified families.
Meyer pays about $400 a month for the program, but without state funding, the cost would jump to around $900 a month for each child in the program.