Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t give a damn

by Apollonia Jordan

Apollonia-lil-Armond-0509-web, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t give a damn, Local News & Views About six months ago, I found out that my 3-year-old son Armond suffers from autism. Due to his autism he suffers from a speech delay and also some cognitive delays. Armond is now attending a great school for children with developmental disabilities in Pittsburg, the Lynn Center.

The Lynn Center has worked closely with my son and he has come a very long way. His services include speech therapy, occupational therapy, sign language training and also PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) training. Before going to the Lynn Center, Armond would often get frustrated and act out on his emotions because people couldn’t understand and he was unable to express to them clearly what he wanted.

The Lynn Center ensures success in the students by using a one-on-one teacher student routine in the classrooms. This system allows each child to have that special attention that every child with autism or developmental disabilities needs in order to learn. Armond is now signing, using many different words; his favorites are “no,” “go” and “stop.”

The Lynn Center even provides bi-weekly trainings for the parents of children with autism, which has helped me a lot. These trainings allow me to use different techniques to teach my son because a lot of times it’s hard to understand a toddler and even harder when your toddler suffers from autism. We don’t have much, so I created my own PECS at home by using construction paper and pictures from Microsoft Word and we use them at home to help him with his speech.

The Lynn Center also teaches the children to go to the potty. Armond is being trained at home in this area as well and is doing great; he has it down. I don’t know what we would do or how I would even survive without these services.

The Lynn Center and its programs are state funded and due to the budget cuts and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I don’t give a damn” attitude towards low-income communities, public schools and people with developmental disabilities, many of the services that were once provided to my son and many children will be cut. While Arnold’s children are dressed in hundred dollar suits and going to the best, most expensive private schools, he is cutting services to children who suffer from autism and other disabilities.

According to The ARC (advocacy, respect and commitment) of California, the governor has made devastatingly destructive cuts in the support system for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Recently I received a letter from the president of the ARC, Dwight Stratton, stating that our elected legislators decided to ignore the will of the people of the state of California by decimating the Lanterman Act.

In 2003, our scandalous governor tried to suspend the Lanterman Act, which promises the support that every Californian with developmental disabilities needs. Back then, the ARC was able to stop him, but now Schwarzenegger and the 10 members of the Legislature’s Budget Conference have taken another big step toward ending the promise. All six Democrats and four Republican legislators voted 10-0 to accept all the cuts recommended by Schwarzenegger’s Department of Developmental Services.

This catastrophe wasn’t necessary. The ARC and other community groups relentlessly presented reasonable alternatives that would have saved the state just as much money without these terrible cuts. In the end, Gov. Schwarzenegger and these 10 legislators decided to ignore them and make the cuts.

These people are making decisions that can ruin programs like the Lynn Center. I turned on the news this morning to find out that a state budget should be passed this week. This means that by next week my son will be stripped of services that are invaluable to his education and disability.

Here is a list of a few of the cuts and how they will affect families like mine and others with development disabilities, according to the ARC website:

Early Intervention is cut. About 17,000 babies at high risk for developmental disabilities will be denied eligibility for this program. Even eligible babies will be denied many services that are available now.

Respite hours are capped. Families will be denied respite beyond an arbitrary limit set by the state.

Programs are forced to close 14 days a year. In addition to 10 uniform holidays, all day programs, work activity and infant development programs will be closed an additional four days per year.

Your right to choose the service provider you want is curtailed. Regional centers will have more control over what services you receive and who provides them.

Some services are almost totally eliminated. You will be forced to prove extraordinary need to be considered for social and recreational activities, camping, children’s educational services and non-medical therapies.

Some programs close permanently. Funding cuts have already forced some community programs to close permanently. These cuts will close more.

The Lynn Center is in desperate need of donations and support from the community. They are looking for donations of snack foods, such as goldfish crackers, marshmallows, juice, cookies, fruit and vegetables. The children are given snacks every day and due to budget cuts these snacks will be unavailable or very limited. Donated supplies are needed too, including PECS, paper, crayons, books, toys, binders, folders etc.

In order to stay open, the center is raising funds with the help of Little Lambs and Auntie Anne’s fundraising products. Anything can help and every little penny counts.

My son Armond is selling cookies, pizza knots, pretzels and gourmet bread sticks for the school. All the items are frozen, and they cost about $15 a box. Each box makes 48 cookies, which come in flavors of chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar delight, macadamia nut, chocolate chunk, double chocolate brownie, M&M and Snickerdoodle. The pretzels and pizza come in boxes of 8 and 15 and the price ranges from $13 to $15.

Please contact Apollonia at (925) 727-1743 or if you are interested in purchasing any of these products to help Armond’s school. If you would like to donate funds to the Lynn Center, please make checks payable to “Lynn Center” and mail them to the Bay View at 4917 Third St., San Francisco CA 94124; write “Attn: Apollonia, Lynn Center Fundraiser” on the envelope.

Thank you to everyone who is willing to lend a hand to help ensure that children like my son have a promising future … even if our own governor doesn’t give a damn.