A friend of mine from college, Arran McWhirter, is at the end of a due process case against the local school district to ensure that his son Owen, who was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in April 2008, receives that which the schools are required to provide him by law -- a Free and Appropriate Public Education.
They have incurred substantial legal fees -- over $150,000. They've already paid nearly $50,000 of that but have a long way to go. They are in the process of taking out loans but it still won't be enough -- they need your help. They have set the amount here to be raised on their site at $10,000-- it is a minimum amount that they hope is attainable by May 17th, 2009. Still, they'd like to raise as much as they can up to $150,000.
Owen's Due Process Legal Fund
The Administrative Judge will make a ruling on the case on May 28th. If they are the prevailing party they may be able to recover some of the legal costs. If they are to prevail and do not need the all of the money raised, whatever is left will be donated to Autism Speaks' advocacy program.
This is from Arran:
When your child is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and you start to read and do research about what s/he needs, one of the first things you learn is just how very important early intervention is to the management/treatment of autism. And not just early intervention, but intense early intervention. When we left Argentina, we did so because we couldn’t get Owen the early intervention services that everyone was telling us were so important for him. We returned to the US because, we, like every other parent of a special needs child, thought that those services would be available. They are available, at an exorbitant cost. And while we were naive to think that the State of North Carolina would provide most of the services, that the federal government under the IDEA act, had provided children like Owen the right to an education. We were wrong.
The short of our story (which is not a unique story by any means) is that while Owen was found eligible for services under his diagnosis of autism and and IEP was written, he was only offered 3 hours of services a week — a far cry from the intense early intervention that researchers, doctors and educators say he needs. We are positive that Owen will be able to enter a typical kindergarten class with his peers when the time comes but in order to get him ready he needs intervention. He’s getting what he needs, of course, because we have no choice but to provide it to him privately. What else are we supposed to do?
When people find out that we hired a lawyer to fight this they think we are crazy. It’s not a fight we can win, I’m told. It’s not a system that can be easily changed, I hear people say. I listen, and I nod, I tell them that I know, I understand, I get it, I do. But, what else am I supposed to do? What else can I do but fight. I fight for my son, for his rights. Isn’t that my job? This is not an easy battle, but neither is the fight against autism. It’s just unfair that you have to do both at the same time.
I know you don't know Arran, but he's a good person who's just trying to do what's best for his son. If there's any way you can help, even if it's just to forward this message along or post it on your own blog, it'd mean a lot to me and his family.