Parents of autistic children slam budget cuts

ALUT organization meets with Treasury to discuss public service reduction; call to hold protest in front of PMO in J'lem.

Autistic students 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of ISRAEL21c)
Autistic students 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of ISRAEL21c)
The organization ALUT, the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, met earlier this week with Prime Minister’s Office director-general Harel Locker, as well as with representatives of the Treasury and Ministry of Social Affairs, to discuss public services that have been significantly reduced due to budget cuts.
The meeting came two weeks after ALUT and hundreds of parents of autistic children started a protest movement calling for the government to allocate an appropriate budget for relevant services.
According to ALUT, over 1,500 children are diagnosed with different levels of autism each year in Israel.
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.
Along with an immediate budget allocation of NIS 60 million, ALUT has also been demanding the advancement of a law that would make clear the rights of autistic children, as well as the creation of a special committee dedicated to these issues that would also help with interministerial coordination.
At the meeting with government officials on Sunday, however, only the third request was granted.
“The services that we are asking for exist. They are approved by the government and are written black on white. They are just not implemented because of budget,” Dr. Shmulik Miron, chairman of ALUT, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“These services are essential,” he explained. “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.”
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.
We try to explain the needs to decision makers. We tell them but they just don’t get it.”
He added that due to limited capacities in the education services, over 60 autistic children had to stay home last year. This year he sees the situation worsening.
“We are breaking the silence,” he continued. “We are done being nice and quiet citizens. Now we are here and we are starting to shout.”
Parents of autistic children are expected to protest with ALUT once more in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Friday morning.
“We will continue to protest until someone above will understand,” Miron made clear. “We have nothing to lose. We are fighting for our children, for our homes, not for salaries or work hours.”