Monday, October 31, 2016

Survey Response: Craig Bowden Candidate for US Congressional District #1


Survey Response: Craig Bowden Candidate for US Congressional District #1

Candidates for the November 2016 elections were given the opportunity to answer a few questions relating to autism.  The following are Craig Bowden's responses.


Healthcare:  44 states (including Utah) have enacted legislation requiring health insurance to cover autism.  State law cannot affect self-funded plans, which fall under federal ERISA rules.  Would you support adding autism coverage to federally-regulated plans?

Craig Bowden:  Yes. I believe that people on the spectrum should be covered.

Education:  Over the past 4 decades, the ADA and IDEA have dramatically improved access to education for students with disabilities, including those with autism.  Many students with autism need the support of an IEP or 504 plan in order to access an education.  Although IDEA requires states to provide services and provides some federal funding, that funding has never reached the originally intended 40%.  In 2016, IDEA is funded at around 16%.  Would you support efforts to increase federal funding for IDEA?

Craig Bowden:  First we need to find out where the money allotted actually went. Before
we can ever discuss an increase in spending, especially where we are
sitting at nearly $20 trillion in debt, we need to identify where money
is going.

Employment:  In the years following high school, 2/3rds of people with autism are neither employed nor continuing education.  “H.R. 5587: Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” passed the House in September.  It supports career and technical education (CTE) programs and helps students with autism gain skills necessary for employment.  Do you support such legislation?

Craig Bowden:  Yes.

Wandering:  Almost half of children with autism wander from a caregiver.  “S. 2614: Kevin and Avonte’s Law of 2016” passed the Senate in July.  It provides federal support for equipment and training for first responders and schools to combat wandering.  Do you support such legislation?

Craig Bowden:  100%. Law enforcement and first responders need to have adequate
training to ensure they are prepared to interact with individuals in the
spectrum.

Personal experience:  The autism rate in Utah is 1 in 54.  Your family and social circle doesn’t have to be very large before it includes someone with autism.  If you want to share any personal or professional experience with autism, please do so.

Craig Bowden:  My step son Brandon is autistic. I personally understand the challenges
people in this community face, as I am one of them. It is important to  me to ensure that there is equal opportunity for him and others in our  state and nation. Especially in education where it takes a dedicated  group of teachers, counselors, and administration working with the
parents and child to bring the best outcome possible for them.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Survey Response: Doug Owens, Candidate for U.S. Congressional District #4



Candidates for the November 2016 elections were given the opportunity to answer a few questions relating to autism.  The following are responses are from Doug Owens:

Healthcare:  44 states (including Utah) have enacted legislation requiring health insurance to cover autism.  State law cannot affect self-funded plans, which fall under federal ERISA rules.  Would you support adding autism coverage to federally-regulated plans?

Doug Owens:  I understand how expensive it can be to care for a child with autism, and I would support adding autism coverage to federally-regulated plans. I also know that those expenses often don't end when the child becomes an adult. It's estimated that care for an adult with autism will cost more than $3 million over a lifetime, and few parents have much, if any, excess cash to pay into a savings plan to prepare for those expenses. This is why I proudly supported the ABLE Act, and would have co-sponsored it in Congress. The ABLE Act helps individuals save money to cover expenses like housing, transportation, education, and other types of necessary assistance.  These tax-exempt saving accounts will help reduce the financial stress and difficulties individuals with autism and their families face when planning for their future. In addition, these accounts will not impact eligibility for disability benefits. I also support broadening 529 college education savings plans to include children with special needs. Individuals with autism and their families need the financial flexibility and freedom to live a life that suits them best.

Education:  Over the past 4 decades, the ADA and IDEA have dramatically improved access to education for students with disabilities, including those with autism.  Many students with autism need the support of an IEP or 504 plan in order to access an education.  Although IDEA requires states to provide services and provides some federal funding, that funding has never reached the originally intended 40%.  In 2016, IDEA is funded at around 16%.  Would you support efforts to increase federal funding for IDEA?

Doug Owens:  Ensuring that every child receives a quality education is one of my highest priorities. I understand the unique needs and demands involved with educating autistic children, and I am committed to supporting measures that provide them with the best education possible.  All educators, not only special education teachers, are vastly under-valued and under-paid, and we must develop ways to bring more money into the Utah education system that will provide our educators with the resources and flexibility to address the most pressing needs of their students. This is especially true for special education needs. As a Member of Congress, I will work to ensure that any revisions to the No Child Left Behind Act would increase funding and reduce burdensome requirements for improving special education. I will fight to maintain Utah's share of federal resources for Title 1 schools and special education programs.

Employment:  In the years following high school, 2/3rds of people with autism are neither employed nor continuing education.  “H.R. 5587: Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” passed the House in September.  It supports career and technical education (CTE) programs and helps students with autism gain skills necessary for employment.  Do you support such legislation?

Doug Owens:  I have seen firsthand how those with autism benefit greatly from being employed. That is why I would have voted for and strongly support the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.

Wandering:  Almost half of children with autism wander from a caregiver.  “S. 2614: Kevin and Avonte’s Law of 2016” passed the Senate in July.  It provides federal support for equipment and training for first responders and schools to combat wandering.  Do you support such legislation?

Doug Owens:  When elected to Congress, I will strongly support Avonte's Law and would also be proud to introduce the House version of this bill. I understand that wandering is one of the greatest fears for families of autistic individuals. The option of tracking devices would not only help reduce the stress families face when their child wanders, but would also reduce the cost and length of potential searches. The $10 million in grants provided in this bill would help make tracking devices an accessible option for working families. Utah's incidence of autism, which is one in 54 children, is higher than the national average, and I would fight hard for Utah to receive a greater share of these grants.

Personal experience:  The autism rate in Utah is 1 in 54.  Your family and social circle doesn’t have to be very large before it includes someone with autism.  If you want to share any personal or professional experience with autism, please do so.

Doug Owens: My wife Cynthia and I are the parents of four wonderful children, one of whom has high-functioning autism. Autism is not an "issue" for us. We have lived and continue to live the concerns of parents with children on the spectrum. When elected, you can count on me to work tirelessly to ensure that all individuals on the spectrum and their families have the resources they need to address the condition and flourish in our society.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Survey Response: Janet A Cannon Candidate Utah State Board of Education District #8

Survey Response:  Janet A Cannon Candidate  Utah State Board of Education District #8

Candidates for the November 2016 elections were given the opportunity to answer a few questions relating to autism.  The following are Janet A Cannon's responses

What's working?  Special needs are treated in a variety of ways across Utah's school districts.  Can you tell us about a program, practice, or policy that you've seen be effective and would like to see become more widespread?

Janet A Cannon:  What works for special needs students often is the same thing that works for other students; they benefit from small class sizes, well trained teachers with plenty of experience, and paraprofessionals in the classroom to help personalize instruction to their needs.  All of these items cost money.  Utah has the most poorly funded classrooms in the nation and I believe that impacts our students with special needs severely.  Utah used to be among the top ten states in making an effort to fund public education.  In recent years we have dropped to 31st.  Now our schools are poorly funded because we choose to give other items in the state budget a higher priority than our children.  I believe this needs to change.   Instead of merely giving lip service to the idea that our children are our most precious resource; we should back that idea up with dollars for their education.  Specialized schools like the Carmen Pingree School and the two campuses of Spectrum Academy are providing great service for autistic kids. 


What's not?  If there's something in particular you think we should be rid of, tell us!  

Janet A Cannon:  I think we should be rid of the largest class sizes in the nation, the most poorly funded classrooms in the nation and teachers who rank 49th in pay.  None of these work for the benefit of our children.

Funding:  Considering the limited funds currently available, even when additional Federal funding is included for special needs students (source), how would you help address the concerns and growing population of autistic children within the state?

Janet A Cannon:   There are at least 11,000 autistic students in Utah’s school system; a significant number.  As I have indicated previously, I believe it is vital for all students that the state of Utah once again become one of the top ten states in making an effort to fund education.  

Teacher Shortage:  The recent teacher shortage has sparked many innovative ideas. One is the new track to teaching policy that “allows schools to hire individuals without teaching licenses or experience” (SL Tribune, June 14).  Utah’s universities require classes specific to special education for those obtaining education degrees.  Educators without an education degree will be missing some training that is particularly important for our community. How would you address that?

Janet A Cannon:  I think the recently passed Alternative Pathway to Teaching should be repealed.  It is disrespectful to Utah teachers who have paid the price in time and tuition to become fully licensed. They should not be expected to mentor for free those with only a subject matter degree.   Your point here, that teaching pedagogy involves learning how to serve mainstreamed special education students is critical for autistic  students.  APT seems like a bandaid approach to the teacher shortage.  The teacher shortage will end when we pay teachers a living wage and honor them with the respect they deserve.

Safety:  Safety, both for our children and for those in charge of educating them, is always an important issue. For example, wandering is an issue for autistic children. What are your suggestions for better ensuring safety for our particular population within the school environs?

Janet A Cannon:  I am a friend of John & Carmen Pingree, who founded the Pingree school for children with Austism.  I well remember John telling about a terrifying experience when their autistic son, Brian, wandered off.  The burden of assuring an individual child’s safety at school in terms of wandering should be addressed in that child’s IEP.  Make sure that a document is in place requiring the school to notify parents of any wandering incident and document any incidents that may occur.  Make sure that things that may trigger wandering, like water in lakes, pools, etc. are blocked off so children don’t have access to them.  Security staff at the school should be made aware of a child who might wander off and know how best to handle that particular child should any incident occur.  If possible, have therapists address wandering in their sessions.

Personal experience:  The autism rate in Utah is 1 in 54.  Your family and social circle doesn’t have to be very large before it includes someone with autism.  If you want to share any personal or professional experience with autism, please do so.  

Janet A Cannon:   My academic background is speech/language pathology.  I have a Masters Degree and a national Certificate of Clinical Competency.  I worked several years in Davis School District.  I have worked with autistic children as a speech pathologist.  My choice of a major was impacted by the fact that I have a brother who is mentally handicapped. Almost two years ago, my own little granddaughter was born with Down’s Syndrome.  Many children have special needs.  I am very concerned that the rate of autistic children seems to be increasing at a dramatic rate, especially in Utah.  Among that number is my best friend’s little granddaughter just diagnosed at age 4.  Each of these is a special, unique individual who are there to bless our lives and they are counting on us to do the very best we possibly can to make their lives happy and meaningful.