I wiped the tears from my eyes as they approached the podium to give their stories. I really wished I would have brought tissues because the emotional charge in the room was overwhelming.
A young Autistic boy approached the podium and shouted into the microphone, “My name is John and I am 12 and I have Autism. If it wasn’t for respite care my mom would never get out of the house. Please don’t make these cuts!” And he bounced off, and the room cheered. His mom approached the microphone to tell everyone that when John was diagnosed at 18 months he couldn’t speak, and it took many years for him to be able to speak. And now he is in 6th grade and has the courage to get up in front of everyone and speak. He asked his mom to bring him there today, after reading a letter that came in the mail addressed to him.
A sister approached the microphone to say she was there to represent her brother who has Down’s Sydrome and couldn’t be there today because he was at work. And without these services he would not be able to be at work.
A young girl with a developmental disability cried into the microphone that she needs these services and “the cuts were TOO MUCH!”
A father got up to speak saying that his son was diagnosed with Autism and at the time could not speak, but with Early Intervention therapy and his wife’s hard work at home he began speaking. Only a month ago his wife suddenly passed away and with proposed budget cuts he would have to pay $6,000 a year at the minimum to pay for services.
A young man in a wheelchair approached. I found him the most moving, he touched my heart. He spoke so eloquently and told us how he would be bed ridden without services. He would have to be stuck to be in a bed and not a part of society. And it was apparent he had so much to give.
And the stories continued. One person at a time that would be affected by these devastating cuts.
This was my first Legislative Hearing. Just yesterday I found myself writing a political article for a local website. I don’t consider myself a political person, but this is serious, and I am ready to fight!
I realized my fight was for much more than just helping kids like Mateo. I was fighting for people of all developmental disabilities and their right to be a part of society. Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing between State and Federal funding a total of over 900 million dollar cuts to Special Needs Services. You all read that right….$900 MILLION DOLLARS!! These services are what allows people with special needs to learn daily tasks teaching them independence, transportation to work and special events, care so they can live on their own in their own home. Something each person takes for granted. Just because these people are in wheelchairs, and have trouble with speech doesn’t make them second class citizens. But our state of California is making them feel that way. They have rights and that’s why the Lanterman Act was created. Their civil rights are in jeopardy. And we all need to stand up for them!
Without early intervention, I do not know where Mateo would be right now. Without home program, I know that he wouldn’t be developmentally where he is today. He would not be able to attend a “typical” Kindergarten in the fall. These cuts could also wipe out the companies that run ABA and home program. They want to cut their funding by another 5%. They were already cut in the last budget. Think of all of the jobs they will be cutting. These people are already working for hardly any pay because of compassion, dedication and love to people with special needs.
I couldn’t hold the tears back. I sat in that hearing room up in the gallery and was so moved. All around me people were wiping away the tears. The gallery was filled with individuals fighting for the services that got them there today and family members fighting to keep those services going. There were many people unable to speak and so their caregivers would read their amazing stories they had written down, their writing was so honest, so real and well written. It amazes me how society can underestimated people with developmental disabilities. How people can’t look past a disability to see the amazing person within.
I kept thinking in my head, this is a fight we shouldn’t have to be fighting . These people should not have to picket the Capital and fight for the right to live independently. They are taking away their rights! This is such an injustice!
So please write your legislators and assembly members. Tell them that these are rights that people deserve, that we understand there is a budget crisis, but why are we taking from children and people with disabilities and leaving them nothing, no future and no hope? It isn’t right, we can’t let it happen.
There is another hearing next Thursday:
Thursday, Feb. 10
WHO: Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 on Health & Human Services
WHEN: 9:30 a.m. or upon adjournment of the Senate floor session
WHAT: Hearing on Developmental Services proposed cuts
WHERE: State Capitol in Room 4203
CAN PUBLIC TESTIFY?: Yes – very brief (can also submit written comments)
Here is a link to find your legislators: http://capwiz.com/thearc/state/main/?state=CA&view=myofficials