By Geoff Dubrowsky
April is autism awareness month, a month that I finally had decided to ignore. Since I am responsible for three adults with developmental disabilities I find that celebrating is no longer an option. Sadly for me, my nature to not bury my head in the sand has lead me to have to write this article and not ignore the actions of April!
The month begins with April Fools' Day how appropriate! Sadly this April Fools' Day delivered us interpretations of the CDC's new autism rate. The new numbers, no matter how you want to interpret them, prove absolutely nothing. We already knew we had a problem, that was not being given the attention it demands and we still have the wrong people pretending to help.
So rather than spend time here telling you why the Combating Autism Act has failed for over a decade, or telling you how politicians refuse to listen to parents who are looking for answers, and instead listen to those looking to enhance their 401K plans, or pointing out the fact that we may have one too many autism non-profits (these lead to more platforms where way too many high functioning self-advocates, who claim they have or had autism are telling us what our kids need) with them aside - I'm going to tell you about my month.
My month started with a battle to help the 75 year old parents of a 50 yr-old women who has been a resident of the Woodbridge Developmental Center for over four decades. They had been given a ten-day notice that their daughter would be moved to another NJ Developmental Center some 90 miles away.
The state law requires a 60-day Habitation Plan, that includes the families input but that law is being ignored. Because the parents lived in Old Bridge, NJ, we thought we had lucked out since I happen to be a friend of their Assemblyman Ronnie Dancer. Dancer was great reaching out as he could and also called his Districts State Senator Thompson. The story falls apart here because Thompson is in favor of closing the Developmental Centers and he decide to call me to explain his ignorance. I jumped ahead on purpose because the man was so uneducated on the issue he is championing I was left cursing him out of the phone after his responses left me shaking!
Turns out he has never visited any of the States 7 Developmental Centers that he wants to close. He claimed to be unaware that NJ has over 300 people living in Developmental Center Settings out of state and that NJ Centers do not accept placements without a court order, which is why enrollment is not up.
I must move on from this because the next call was from a group representing the 300 individuals placed out of state who where just informed they have been targeted to move back into NJ and into the Community. These are people who were either denied access into NJ’s Developmental Centers or have been kicked out of group homes and deemed unsafe to their own families.
I will be interviewing these families during the dreaded Easter Break thanks to Camp Oakhurst who have agreed to watch my child while I help these families. My efforts with these families is to fight to keep their parental rights and not accept a Grandfather clause so their kids can stay because it hurts yours. These two fights are in addition to my own efforts learning a special form of self-defense. This technique should help my wife and I when our son attacks us at least until the police arrive. You see I really felt my April was full but I was wrong, the damn phone rings again.
This time it was another warrior parent whom I have known for decades. Her son, age 21was taken by police and placed in the states last operating mental hospital, and they had drugged him up and feel he is ok to go home, and DDD was going to allow it. Her attorney had gotten an emergency meeting but a call to me was placed because of my role on the State of NJ DD Council. I attempted to contact DDD but with the moving of people into state and closing facilities they have no idea what they are doing so I continue to get busy signals. I decide to set up a conference call with all parties, the call is placed -- however in the middle I learn my neighbors autistic son had gone missing.
With one ear on the call and another connecting the police with POAC I finally realized that I must keep fighting and if you get in my way you will regret it! I am lighting it up Red this April so do something positive or shut the hell up!
Geoffrey Dubrowsky. MBA is a member of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, Vice President of the Board of Extreme Sports Camp for Autistic Individuals and Executive Board member of VOR.
A professional video producer, with credits including, the Republican National Convention broadcast and Dr. Stanley Greenspan's Floortime series, Geoffrey and his wife are parent of an 18-year-old boy with severe autism. Uncle and guardian of two developmentally disabled young adults on various ends of the disability spectrum. Also, past Pres. of the New Jersey Chapter of Cure Autism Now, past vice president of and NYAC New York families of autistic children ,and past Director of Development for POAC Parents of Autistic Children.