From: melissamcallister@comcast.net
To: Howard Stephenson, Steve Eliason, Mike Kennedy, Stuart Adams, Lyle Hillyard, Jani Iwamoto, Aaron Osmond, Daniel Thatcher, Steve Urquhart, Joel Briscoe, LaVar Christensen, Bruce Cutler, Becky Edwards, Justin Fawson, Francis Gibson, Brad Last, David Lifferth, Marie Poulson, Kraig Powell,
Subject: To the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee
Date: Wed Feb 11 01:36:05 MST 2015
Body:

To the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee,

 

When my son Landon was born he was a very sweet and easy going baby. He had developed normally and even reached most of his milestones early. Around 13-15 months we watched Landon quickly slip away from us. His easy going personality was being replaced with tantrums and blank stares. Eventually he stopped talking and listening all together. When discussing Landon's regression with his pediatrician, he suggested getting his ears checked (maybe he had a hearing loss?). I quickly scheduled a hearing exam with an ENT. After the tests, I remember bouncing fussy Landon all around the doctor's office and anxiously waiting for the results. The doctor came back with, “Good news, Landon's ears work perfectly.”

 

My heart sunk. I was hoping this was the problem. I was hoping that hearing aids would bring my sweet baby back to me. The doctor excitedly gave me a rundown of his outstanding scores and kept reiterating that his ears were perfect. I vividly remember the doctor's confusion as he kept searching my heartbroken expression. As tears slowly crept down my face, I watched his demeanor deflate once he put Landon's behaviors and the results together. We both silently knew it was Autism. I remember the compassion in his eyes as he watched me hide my tears and tackle Landon's full blown melt down.

 

Since then, Landon has participated in various therapies, diets, and programs. None have been nearly as effective as the Northern Utah Autism Program. They asses each child individually and focus on that specific child's needs. They directly address attending skills, compliance, social skills, self-help, cognition, and language. All of their programs and protocols are validated by proven research.

 

For the first time ever, Landon loves school! Last year he attended a functional-skills preschool class through Early Intervention. He stuck out like a sore thumb. He had very kind teachers, but they weren't sure how to react to some of his autism traits- and because of this Landon was quietly classified as the “hard kid”. I believe he, along with the rest of the students, could sense the teachers' uncertainty about him. This made going to school a physically exhausting battle for both of us. However, picking Landon up from school was when the battle between my head and my heart would start. I remember looking at my son's pink blotchy face and swollen eyes (from crying) and wondering why I subjected him to this day after day.

 

NUAP has changed my child! Landon goes to school excited and leaves beaming with accomplishment. The staff is well prepared with the skills and patience it takes to tackle this broad spectrum. I have seen firsthand how they handle extreme tantrums and it is always addressed with respect and patience. What's most comforting to me is that these typical autism behaviors aren't ever silently held against the kids. Every child is loved for who they are and not known for their behaviors or lack of skills. I am also amazed at how far they can push Landon and how well he continues to follow through with their methods. It is so rewarding to see what he has learned at school transfer into our home. Last week, my sweet four year old put three words together for the very first time. That moment will be cherished forever. Every day he is showing us small but very significant signs of hope for a brighter future.

 

One of my favorite parts about NUAP is the required parent involvement. As parents, we attend a monthly meeting that helps boost our knowledge and confidence in our abilities to deal effectively and with our child's challenges. Parents are also expected to volunteer in the classroom each week and conduct ABA style sessions. Every time I work with Landon I have a new understating and love for him.

 

After Landon's hearing test, I left the doctor's office feeling helpless. Thanks to Northern Utah Autism Program I don't feel that way anymore. I feel empowered to continue working hard with Landon because the results are coming and his future is worth it.

 

We were so desperate and NUAP stepped in and honestly saved our family. Currently The Northern Utah Autism Program (who is run through Weber Human Services) has 80+ students on their waiting list and continue to get 1-2 new referrals a week. Last year NUAP had 15 kids age out of the waiting list because there was not enough funding. That’s 15 families who never got to witness the miracles that this program can perform with their children.

 

We ask for an increase in funding for NUAP. It would be applied towards an additional classroom serving 12 more students and it would also increase the salaries of the employees at Weber Human Services. They are currently short staffed due to the low wage it provides for the para/aide positions. With the additional funding it would not only take the extra weight off of the other teachers but it would also ensure the security for the students to have consistent aides.

 

One Solution is to…

 

Expand the

Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship

to include early intervention

 

The Carson Smith Scholarship is intended for children with disabilities recognized by IDEA to access education and interventions in an appropriate setting to maximize their potential. Those needs may include teachers trained in special methods, small class sizes, special materials, equipment, and classroom environments.

 

The rules state that the private school will specialize in serving students with disabilities, employ credentialed teachers, and comply with USOE requirements including audits and reviews. An assessment team determines the eligibility of the child and level of scholarship funding.

  • Currently there are 702 students receiving the Carson Smith Scholarship with 43 eligible schools in the State of Utah.
  • Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship is $7400 or $3500 per year, per child, depending on evaluation team determination.
  • After funding students for 1st quarter 2015, $350,000 remains available for use.
  • By increasing funding by $975,000 we could immediately serve 130 children on the waiting list for early intervention across the State in existing eligible schools.

*HB249, 2005 – Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship – Original language

*USOE Web site/Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship - http://schools.utah.gov/sars/Quick-Links/Carson-Smith-Scholarship.aspx

 

 I look forward to your support and seeing the difference that can be made by your decisions.Thank you so much for your time.

 

Sincerely,

 

Melissa McAllister

melissamcallister@comcast.net

(801) 499-3499

 




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