Autism in California

There’s autism in California too? Yep. And if you haven’t discovered IHSS or SSI it’s time to check that out. California has an early intervention program for children with disabilities ages birth to 3. Actually, in reality, it serves ages birth to 2.99. It’s called Early Start. This program aligns with I.D.E.A. Part C Regulations. It’s a federal program but individual states can opt out. Fortunately, the Golden State hasn’t opted out, but the current economic crisis may change that. As of early 2009, both Arizona and South Carolina have thrown around the idea of opting out. We’ll see if it really happens.

Something else California has is Regional Centers. And the California Department of Developmental Services, through Regional Centers, funds many programs and services you’ll want to know about including the Early Start Program. Regional Centers serve children with autism in California indefinitely.

If you suspect your child has ASD there are certain steps you should take to get the help your child needs.

Regional Centers

Established by the Lanterman Act of 1977 Regional Centers are in place to plan and coordinate services for people with developmental disabilities. They are case carriers. They are responsible for outreach, assessment & evaluation, service coordination and more. If your child has autism in California you should be familiar with your local Regional Center.

Regional Centers serve all children with (or at risk of) developmental disabilities up until age 3, when services move to the Local Education Agency (LEA) which is usually the school district of residence. However, children who have the autism diagnosis stay on their caseload for life, as I noted up above. So if your child has autism in california make sure you connect with the Regional Center that covers your county if you haven’t already.

Need an assistive technology device for use at home? Regional Center is probably the agency most likely to fund it.

Need diapers for your autistic child? Regional Center.

Need a behavioralist for in-home support? Regional Center.

Here’s the catch; Let me speak honestly about Regional Centers, but specifically from a parent’s point-of-view and our family’s experience with them. It’s a love-hate relationship. You’ll love ‘em when they fund a device your child needs. You’ll hate ‘em when they hassle you about funding or services and question whether your child really needs it when they’ve taken so little time to get to know your child and your family. And they always seem to have new employees that give out misleading or incorrect information.

They also seem to be much better at supporting people with disabilities but not so good at involving the family as a whole. And as you know, when your child has a disability it affects the entire family. Real support isn’t something our Regional Center does well, as most of their staff are not walking in our shoes. In other words, most of their staff do not have children with disabilities themselves. But they are still a valuable resource for your child with autism in California.

Respite Services

Respite; What the heck does that mean? I must admit that I had never heard of the word until we started using the service. I have a 4 year college degree but I had no idea what a ‘respite’ was. It’s another invaluable service for autism in California.

Respite is a break or a cessation for a time. As it pertains to autism in California respite is someone who can watch your child while you get a break and they can even work on particular areas if you like, although they are not therapists. They are people who can sorta be a “surrogate parent” while you leave to go see a movie, have dinner out, or whatever you decide. My wife and I have noticed that when we get time away from our son we are recharged and ready to continue being parents. As they say, time away makes the heart grow fonder. Time away also makes us better parents.

Respite is most useful for parents of a single child because a respite worker won’t watch your other children. They aren’t paid to watch all your children, just the ones with ASD. So unless you have somebody else arranged to watch your other children you can’t really go out for a night on the town.

As parents you need to make sure a particular respite worker is a good match for your child, for your family. You also need to make sure you can trust this person. One way to ensure the person is trustworthy is to have someone in your family, maybe grandma, become your respite worker. Autism in California is much easier to manage when you have a grandma in California who’s ready to help! Haha!

My family uses respite and it’s fabulous. In fact, we consider our respite worker part of our family, although she’s not related. She’s a real lifesaver! My wife and I completely trust her and she works SO well with our son. We love her!

Your Regional Center should tell you about respite services and how to get the wheels in motion, but in case they forget you should ask.

For more info:
To find which Regional Center covers your county: