Saturday, February 16, 2008

Autism and Money

My book “The Cockroach Catcher” has stories of a few cases of Childhood Autism. The causes for the sharp increase in autism diagnoses were also discussed.
It took an article in a non medical magazine, Forbes Magazine, to make me understand the full scale of the problem. I am of course talking about money, and lots of it. In the US, attorneys specializing in Autism has apparently become a growth industry.
“……Whatever the cause, the explosion in autism diagnoses has been a boon to lawyers who represent parents dissatisfied with the level of education their autistic kids are getting……
……Two years ago Wyner hit the jackpot. He'd represented a grade-school autistic student who sued the Manhattan Beach Unified School District and the California Department of Education for failing to provide him with an appropriate education, including extra reading instruction. In August 2005, after six years of legal wrangling, the parties agreed to a $6.7 million settlement, including $2.4 million for a family trust. Wyner's firm took home $1.6 million. He now has a partner, two lawyers and three paralegals and says he has more business than he can handle……”
The reason for the success is this:
“……The suits arise out of a 1975 federal law declaring that every child is entitled to a "free, appropriate education," regardless of ability. That means that kids with learning problems such as dyslexia, speech difficulties or autism are entitled to have their public school systems pay for special services……”
Isn’t it wonderful that the small people can win, given the right laws and the right attorneys? U.S. practices have the habit of crossing the Atlantic ten years later – so, watch this space!
Still, why is there such a jump in the number of children diagnosed with the condition?
It cannot really have anything to do with money, can it? Perhaps I should study law.
Here are some figures:
The number of autistic children in U.S. public schools:
1992 - 15,580
2005 - 193,637
Sources: CDC; U.S. Department of Education as per Forbes Magazine article
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