Autism Appeal

Steven Harper PiziksA few weeks ago, my son Aran, who is nineteen and autistic, applied for Medicaid-subsidized housing.  Or rather, I applied for it on his behalf.  After a long interview and an examination of his medical and psychological records, the Department of Developmental Services regretted to inform him that he was denied housing.

I filed an appeal.

Last week, I had to take Aran back for said appeal.  The social worker, apparently one higher up on the scale than the previous one, said she would run Aran through the entire intake a second time to see what was what and make a final decision.

This took more than two grueling hours.  We went over every aspect of Aran’s life and his ability.  I was forced to make him look as helpless as possible, emphasize what he couldn’t do, minimize his accomplishments.  It was horrible.

Several times, the social worker said that Aran is in a gray area when it comes to state aid like this.  He can’t function entirely on his own, but he’s too high-functioning to be a shoo-in for help.

“We mostly deal with people who have severe mobility issues or who need help with daily hygiene or who can’t do things like eat on their own,” she said.

“Who will help Aran when I can’t?” I countered.  “I won’t be able to do it forever.  Who will handle this when I’m not here?”

She acknowledged, not without kindness, that this was a problem.  “But our budget has been repeatedly cut,” she added.  “And unfortunately, it’s not likely to get better.”

By this, she meant the recent election, of course.

In the end, the social worker checked the lists, ticked the boxes, and regretfully announced that Aran’s appeal was denied.

“However, I can recommend him for Mental Health Services,” she said.

“Do they help with housing?” I asked.

“Sometimes.  It requires another appointment and intake with a new agency.”

“What’s the source of housing funding?” I asked, more than a little unhappy that I knew to ask this question.  “Section 8?  Medicaid?”

“I honestly have no idea,” she admitted.  “But they’ll be able to tell you.”

The new agency, it turned out, only accepts intake appointments between 10 AM and 1 PM on certain days of the week, meaning I would have to take an entire day off work to take Aran in.  I simply can’t do that after losing an entire week of work to upcoming surgery.  I was forced to cast far ahead and make an appointment in late December, when I’m on winter break.

I’m trying to be hopeful about this and having a hard time of it.

When people wonder why so many of us are upset about the election results, I point to my son.  Republicans don’t fund housing programs for the handicapped.  They don’t fund food stamps for such people.  They cut funds for social services when the handicapped need them most.  And we now have the most conservative, Republican administration in long history.

Things will only get worse.  You can imagine my fear and rage at the results of the latest election.  No one seems to care that it’s putting my autistic son on the street.

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Danny Large



Autism Appeal — 8 Comments

  1. Yeah, these are the things that scare me, too, though I have no children.

    My life insurance is spread between my roommate and my nieces and nephews who might be pressed for money after my death. And that sounds morbid — but what else can I do for them but try to help out now a little and give them a little something after my death?

    This election has appalled me in so many ways.

  2. I have relatives in California, a state with a fairly extensive safety net. There is an LD relative, who needs and uses these services — only this training and support will enable him to work at all, and since he will certainly never earn enough to support himself (it’s an expensive region) he will need services all his life. Nevertheless, and with the full knowledge and close-up experience of this situation, all the other relatives complain bitterly of high taxes and how California is a socialist paradise. It never seems to occur to them that their taxes pay for this care, and that without the safety net they’d be on their own with LD relative.

    • I keep running into people who say they’re moving from California to Texas because Texas is so much cheaper. If you don’t need any social programs — including, say, good public schools — that might work for you, but heaven help you otherwise. The real problem in California is not taxes but the price of real estate, which is way too high and was probably caused by the way Proposition 13 kept real property taxes way too low.

      • I’m in Austin. It is not cheaper than California. Trust me. The public schools are better than one would expect — provided you don’t mind a little Jesus in your Biology — and the big cities are lovely, diverse, progressive. The rest of the state . . . well, I hear hell hath no rival but for Texas.

        • Yep. I moved from Texas to California, so I know the comparisons, too. Texas has oversold the no income tax while conveniently forgetting to mention the very high property taxes. Real estate is cheaper (though not everywhere), but wages are a lot lower, too.

          Maybe the schools are inching up. Last I heard they were pretty bad, and that wasn’t even considering the state school board’s penchant for insisting people teach religion in place of science and inaccurate history.

  3. Steven, I have seen similar situations over and over among my friends and family, and saw them repeatedly back in the days when I worked in legal services, when I was sometimes able to make the system work (and sometimes not). I’m not even dealing with it personally and it makes me furious; I can only imagine what it’s like for you.

  4. What I found is that they would tell you that you’re disabled, but not their kind of disabled.

    Good luck with this, Steven. It’s going to be a hard road unless you can get a disability lawyer into the mix. And yes–you have to emphasize the worst to even get a hearing. Deep sympathies on this, and hope you can explain it to your son. I don’t envy you that conversation.