California Regional Centers and Your Child with Autism

California Regional Centers and Your Child with Autism

A rant and a warning to new parents.

What is a California Regional Center?

From the website:

“Regional centers are nonprofit private corporations that contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. They have offices throughout California to provide a local resource to help find and access the many services available to individuals and their families.”

Which means what?

It means if I have concerns that my child may have autism, I can get my child evaluated at a regional center, and if the evaluation places my child on the autism spectrum, regional centers will provide services to help my child.

That’s in theory.

What happened to us?

In 2004, my fourteen-month-old son was provisionally diagnosed with autism and was accepted as a client with our regional center’s early intervention program. When he was age three, he was given the diagnosis of autism, and those services continued.

Also, at the same time, the school district assessed my child, placed him in an appropriate educational environment, and provided an aide, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

Along with regional center services!

What recently happened to another child?

I have a friend who is a pediatrician. He has a two and a half-year-old patient whom he referred to the regional center. The parents took the child and got him evaluated. The psychologist evaluated the child and gave him a diagnosis of autism.

And, they assigned the child a case worker.

The holidays came and the regional center told the parents that they wanted to wait during the “slow Holiday period” before beginning services.

January came and went as the parents called and didn’t receive a call back from the regional center.

February came and the regional center told the parents that they didn’t have funds for services for new clients. They had to direct the funds they did have to established clients. They told the parents that they would have to call their insurance.

What is the warning here?

Here is the lesson for those of you that live in California.

*Regional centers have to evaluate any child that has a concern about autism – Parents can have this concern, pediatricians, school officials. They cannot turn away your child.

*Regional centers cannot diagnose over the phone.

*If regional center assigns an autism diagnosis to a child—and assigns a case worker—they have to provide services to that child.

Regional centers cannot turn away that child

They cannot tell the family to “go check your insurance.”

They have to provide services.

And, they have to return phone calls. Our regional center has a 48 to 72 hour return call policy.

This family waited two weeks.

What about the school district?

The school district will provide some services, but the regional center is responsible for services like ABA at-home services, Discreet Trail Training at-home services, Floor Time at-home services, and respite at-home services.

Respite is now a service that is partially paid by the family—depending on family income.

But, ABA services, Discreet Trail Training services, and Floor Time services have to be provided by the regional center for as long as the child needs.

Especially when that regional center has assigned a diagnosis AND a case worker!

They cannot say they don’t have funds for a new client.

What should a parent do in this case?

Call them back and ask to talk to a supervisor.

Ask them when your child will be receiving services. Not IF but WHEN. Tell them that you know that a regional center cannot pick and choose who they want to provide services to.

If they respond that they cannot provide services because of lack of funds (like they did in this case), tell them you are consulting an attorney.

Consult an attorney.

It’s that important. Your child is that important. And, it’s that important to not let any regional center treat you AGAINST the state-wide regional center policy.

It’s unfortunate that you have to fight like this for your child, but sometimes you do. I’ve heard about fights like these too often.

So, put on your fighter-advocacy cap and step into the ring. California Regional Centers and Your Child with Autism

Here is a list of all 21 regional centers in the state of California:


More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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