Michelle was recently awarded a scholarship - full tuition at University of Hartford - that recognizes her commitment to community. To win this scholarship, she was required to write an essay that focused on one policy in no more than 500 words and submit that essay along with three recommendations. She chose to write on one that is dear to my heart. She was then chosen as one of four finalists and was asked back for an interview by a panel to answer questions about what she had written. On Friday, she was told that she was chosen as the scholarship winner. I have asked her if I can share it and she graciously allowed me to post it here.
Please note: I had given her permission to use our gal's name in the essay, but have changed it here to RJC as this is how we refer to her in my blogs.
Here it is:
Autism and DDS Eligibility
With infinite combinations for personalities, circumstances, and cultures, all people must be provided a set of default rights. Independence must be dispensed fairly; it is unjust to make the abstract, or unmeasurable qualities of people the foundation for opportunity and freedom. The society that a person with autism finds themselves in bases their rights on the most subjective of traits; their level of intelligence is the key to available learning services and financial support. The irony of this policy is detrimental to lives of people with special needs and their families. Their biologically altered level of intellectual functioning is ultimately what may obstruct them from building upon their ability to function as members of society.
DDS, the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services, provides support for citizens with intellectual disabilities. In addition to being a resident in the state of Connecticut, the policy states that a person must have a “valid Full Scale IQ score of 69 or below.” The DDS procedure for confirming eligibility does not involve a sit down interview with the applicant, nor do they examine the home and family the applicant belongs to. The precious funding for day programs, financial support, and at home assistance for a person with an intellectual disability hangs by a fragile thread; within an instant, a meager test result is capable of rupturing valuable services.
I have been offered the opportunity to work one on one with an adult who is diagnosed with autism through DDS. Twice a week, I leave campus to pick up RJC from her home fifteen minutes from the University of Hartford. My job is to offer myself as a relaxed, sincere friend to RJC, and help her become comfortable with the concept of making connections with people outside of her family. In the pursuit of helping RJC view places beyond her home as bright and meaningful, we approach the world as our playground. Together, we go bowling without bumpers, order our favorite sandwiches at Panera Bread, braid Challah breads, and simulate trips to the moon at the Connecticut Science Center. We have successfully formed a judgement-free friendship. She has reached a new place of mutuality and trust in me, someone who was once a stranger.
The Full Scale IQ test does not measure the level at which a person functions. Some adults with autism can score high on the test; however, their skills and ability to carry out everyday tasks are limited. When it came time for RJC to take her IQ test as proof of her eligibility to receive DDS services, she received a score of 69. Had she scored one point higher, a 70, my presence in her life would have remained nonexistent. The services she and her family are provided allow for RJC to gain her right to function, and continue to build upon her growing abilities.
The basis upon which people with special needs are chosen to receive state aid must be re-examined. To fully express the right to be a functional citizen, DDS expects applicants to show that they are not intellectually capable. It is absurd to make one irrelevant test of intelligence the deciding factor in providing services that could enhance the quality of a life.
Thank you so much Michelle, for the friendship you have with RJC and for your caring and thoughtful ways. Maybe young people like you will be able to change the world's view of our kiddos. And just maybe that will help the world recognize that they are important enough to deserve the support they need.