Gov't sets up c'tee on autistic kids after protests

Cabinet establishes inter-ministerial committee to draw up arrangements for measures on autistic children.

Parents demonstrate for autistic children, Dec. 31, 2012 (photo credit: Courtesy ALUT)
Parents demonstrate for autistic children, Dec. 31, 2012
(photo credit: Courtesy ALUT)
The cabinet established an inter-ministerial committee on Sunday to draw up arrangements for measures on autistic children, following weeks of protests by parents demanding the government enact legislation to protect the rights of children with special needs.
The parents protested that their children lack access to basic education and later in life will encounter difficulties finding adequate employment.
The organization ALUT – The Israeli Society for Autistic Children, which has been organizing the movement, met last week with Prime Minister’s Office director-general Harel Locker as well as representatives of the Treasury and the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, to discuss the issue and lay down their demands.
The establishment of the special committee was one of the three requests presented by ALUT along with an immediate budget allocation of NIS 60 million and the advancement of a law that would clarify the rights of autistic children.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the committee was appointed because of a significant increase in the number of children being diagnosed with autism.
The committee is charged with formulating recommendations to define and meet the needs of individuals with autism and their families, and will explore budgeting, ways to increase government efficiency in the field and the possibility of enacting legislation on the issue.
“My heart goes out to individuals with autism and their families, and the government is committed to finding appropriate answers for their needs,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the meeting.
“Appointing this team is a very welcome and important step, and a humane step, that is designed to assist the unique needs of this population.”
According to ALUT, one out of 100 children in Israel is diagnosed with autism.
Government services for these children and their families, such as specialized schools, kindergartens and after-school programs, are functioning in the country.
However, with recent budget cuts, fewer children have access to these programs, which are filled to capacity.
“These services are essential,” ALUT chairman Dr. Shmulik Miron told The Jerusalem Post last week.
“You cannot leave an autistic kid alone to read a book – they need to constantly be watched over, to make sure they are not hurting themselves. They can’t go to a regular school,” he said.
Miron, father to an autistic teenager, said his group is merely asking that existing services be fully used.
“We are not asking for luxury,” he explained. “We are not asking for the butter, just for the bread, for the basics.
The organization of parents released a statement on Sunday afternoon that said, “We will closely monitor developments, and as long as things progress positively for the advancement of our goals, we will cooperate with the activity of the inter-ministerial team.”
A representative from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry will chair the committee, which will also be composed of members from the Prime Minister’s Office; the Education, Health and Finance ministries; and the National Insurance Institute.
The team will ultimately submit its recommendations to Locker.