The Arc logo

The Pandemic’s Devastation Continues for Many Families

“It’s like a tornado has devastated us. But no one is coming to help.”

By Grace from New York

I have twin sons who have autism spectrum disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of my sons has significant needs and needs to attend a full-care and full-supervision day program. He graduated from high school in June 2020, but because of the pandemic, no day programs were open for him to attend.

Three years later, due to the pandemic’s devastation of adult services and programs, there are still no programs available for him, nor are there any programs for the graduates of the classes of 2021, 2022, and soon, the class of 2023. And there is nothing on the horizon for any of them.

My son has been home for three years without supports or services.

I had to leave my job to stay home and care for him full-time, even though I am a single parent, and I was the only source of income for my family. Now, we are struggling terribly, both financially and physically, trying to survive under these extreme conditions.

The devastation of the pandemic has not ended for our family and others like ours. My son has been left with no direct care support, no respite, no day program—no services at all. The main cause for this failure is the lack of funding for programs and staffing. It was a fragile system at best pre-pandemic, but now, it has been decimated.

The best analogy is that it has been similar to when a tornado levels a town, and the community must rebuild everything completely. That is what happened to the programs and services for adults with disabilities during the pandemic. But the big difference in our story is that no Red Cross has shown up to help. No FEMA. No one is coming to help.

We have been left out here in our decimated landscape for three years now. And the idea that Congress may want to further cut financial support to programs for this most vulnerable population is beyond comprehension.

Please take the time to look at what has happened, to see the suffering, and to offer the compassion and realistic financial support so desperately needed.


Many young adults with disabilities face similar challenges when transitioning out of school. Life for these students shouldn’t stop when their schooling ends. This problem is not new, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased its severity and effect nationwide.

Congress must deepen its investment in Medicaid home and community-based services so people with disabilities have the support they need to take part in their communities throughout their lifetimes.

A photo from 1988 depicting a family of six. Three people are standing in the back, including a young adult man in a dark suit and purple tie; a woman wearing sunglasses, a white blouse with black polka dots, and white pants; and a man in a track suit. Two young men in suits are sitting in chairs in front of them. Another young man, also wearing a suit, is sitting cross-legged on the floor between them.

Roy’s Fight to Keep His Three Adult Sons at Home and Out of Institutions

As parents of adult children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) grow older, they may face concerns about what their child’s life will look like when they are no longer able to provide care. Certain questions become important and can be agonizing to think about, such as:

  • How will my child’s life change when I’m gone?
  • Where will they live?
  • Who will pay for the things they need?

For Roy, these questions are all too familiar.

A professional photo of Roy and Arleen's family from 1976. Arleen is sitting in the middle and is wearing a tan dress. She has short, dark brown hair, red lipstick, and is wearing a gold necklace and earrings. Her husband, Roy, is on the left; he has shaggy brown hair and is wearing a light tan suit with a dark brown shirt underneath. Their three sons are seated behind them and to the right; they all have shaggy, bowl haircuts and dark brown hair. The young man behind Roy has a small moustache and is wearing a blue jacket. The young boy next to Roy is smiling and has a white turtleneck on. The young boy next to Arleen has a very big smile. He's wearing a blue jacket with a white collared shirt.

The first time Roy and his wife, Arleen, heard the word autism was in 1963. The high school sweethearts had been married just two years and they were told their son, Roy Jr., who was only a year old, had autism.” After Roy Jr., Arleen and Roy had two more sons, Michael and Glenn, and all three children would eventually be diagnosed with autism and fragile X syndrome.

In those days, institutions were the only options in New York state for people with disabilities. Looking for the best care for their sons, Roy and Arleen visited the Willowbrook State School. The deplorable conditions shook the couple to their core. Roy and Arleen made a vow to each other that day: each of their sons would live at home with their parents all their lives.

The visit to Willowbrook was a turning point in Roy and Arleen’s lives. The family devoted themselves to advocating for their children and others with IDD. Thanks to their advocacy efforts, Roy Jr., Michael, and Glenn attended IDD parent-founded provider agency schools until the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted in 1976. IDEA guarantees students with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education—and after it was passed, the three boys were able to attend public school.

Twelve years ago, Roy’s “dear cherished bride” of 50 years passed away, leaving Roy to care for his three sons alone. After several years of advocacy, Roy received approval from his state agency to convert his home into a certified group home for his three sons and two other men. In 2019, when the family’s in-home residential services were ended by the provider who had served them for 20 years, Roy set up self-directed care for his sons and became an immediate supervisor for a staff of seven.

A photo from 1988 depicting a family of six. Three people are standing in the back, including a young adult man in a dark suit and purple tie; a woman wearing sunglasses, a white blouse with black polka dots, and white pants; and a man in a track suit. Two young men in suits are sitting in chairs in front of them. Another young man, also wearing a suit, is sitting cross-legged on the floor between them.Since then, Roy Jr. and Glenn have both passed away. While both lived at home until their passing, they suffered at the hands of an underfunded system of care. Despite these losses and challenges, Roy has remained steadfast in his commitment to keeping his middle son, Michael, in his own home all his life.

Four people have been selected and approved to live with Michael. However, for the past two years, the agency Roy is working with to run the group home has been prevented from opening because they are unable to hire staff at the low salary rate authorized by Medicaid for this type of home. On average, direct care workers get paid just $14 an hour, which is much lower than the hourly rates for similar jobs.

Roy is doing all he can to help plan for Michael’s future. He’s now 84 and Michael will be 60 this summer. Roy wants to ensure Michael is safe at home. For that to happen, Congress must invest in critical supports for people with IDD.

Millions of people with disabilities, like Roy’s son, Michael, rely on Medicaid home and community-based services to live at home in their communities. But due to the fact that Medicaid must fund institutions, and home and community-based services (HCBS) are optional, states don’t have the funding to support everyone in the community.

To change this, Congress must invest in HCBS now!

Roy’s efforts to ensure his son can live at home in his community should not be hindered by decisions in Congress and a lack of investment in disability services.

The Arc logo

Disability and Aging Groups Join Senator Bob Casey and Hundreds of Care Advocates for a Save Medicaid Online Rally

Washington, DC —Disability and aging groups were joined by Senator Bob Casey, care advocates, and nearly 500 activists from around the country for a Save Medicaid Online Rally on May 24. During the rally, attendees sent demands to Congress to stop any cuts to Medicaid, an essential program that 88 million Americans rely on for their health care, including 54 million older adults, children, and people with disabilities.

The rally, hosted by The Arc of the United States, Autism Society of America, Disability and Aging Collaborative (DAC), Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD), and Caring Across Generations, served as an opportunity for supporters to learn more about the harmful effects of work requirements and program cuts against Medicaid included in the Default On America Act. This rally is one of many actions supporters and care advocates across this country are participating in to save Medicaid, including last week when Caring Across Generations delivered 12,000 petitions and The Arc of the United States delivered 86,000 petitions demanding Congress put a stop to harmful cuts.

“Let’s call it like it is: the Default On America Act will directly harm millions of families across this country. I find it alarming that this extreme proposal will take Medicaid away from millions who do not meet new bureaucratic work requirements, including people who have a hard time finding work, such as family caregivers, older people over 50, and disabled people,” said Nicole Jorwic, chief of advocacy and campaigns at Caring Across Generations. “This plan puts a false choice in front of us: take care away from families, children, older adults, and disabled people or force a default that will disrupt Social Security checks and raise interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, and car payments. There is a better way: raise the debt ceiling cleanly and invest in the care we need by making the ultra-wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.”

“Medicaid is a lifeline for people with disabilities, and its underfunding has already created a crisis of care,” shared David Goldfarb, Director of Long-Term Supports and Services Policy at The Arc of the United States. “Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have serious medical needs and already face barriers to accessing safety net programs and our health care systems. Millions of them are falling through the cracks right now because these complex systems have overwhelming red tape and years-long wait lists. Adding work requirements to Medicaid will only exacerbate disparities and discrimination against people with IDD and jeopardize their access to life-sustaining health care and community living.”

“The stakes have never been higher,” stated Christopher S. Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. “Cutting Medicaid will further exacerbate the current unacceptable waiting lists for services and support for people with Autism. Understandably, aging parents and caregivers have intense anxiety surrounding the fears of what will happen to their family members after they are gone. We must create equitable and accessible health care for Autistic individuals and the greater disability community.”

According to Carol Tyson, Chair of the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities, “People with all types of disabilities rely on Medicaid for access to critical health care, and services and supports to live in, and contribute to the community. The evidence is clear that Medicaid work requirements are not effective. Medicaid work requirements would create unnecessary barriers and result in millions of the already underserved facing life-threatening cuts to essential coverage. Congress must prioritize the health and well-being of people with disabilities, and all those who rely on Medicaid and essential programs, by rejecting proposals that would cut Medicaid funding, impose work requirements, or restrict access to care.”

###

About The Arc of the United States: The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses. Founded in 1950 by parents who believed their children with IDD deserved more, The Arc is now a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. Through the decades, The Arc has been at the forefront of advances in disability rights and supports. Visit thearc.org or follow us @TheArcUS to learn more. Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

About Autism Society of America: The Autism Society’s mission is to create connections, empowering everyone in the Autism community with the resources needed to live fully. As the nation’s oldest leading grassroots Autism organization, the Autism Society and its approximately 70+ local affiliates serve over half a million members of the Autism community each year. It envisions a world where everyone in the Autism community is connected to the support they need, when they need it – including education, advocacy efforts, and supports and services throughout the lifespan. For more information, visit autismsociety.org.

About Disability and Aging Collaborative: The Disability and Aging Collaborative (DAC) is a coalition of approximately 40 national organizations that work together to advance long-term services and support policy at the federal level. Formed in 2009, the DAC was one of the first coordinated efforts to bring together disability, aging, and labor organizations.

About Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities: The Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD) is the largest coalition of national organizations working together to advocate for Federal public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society free from racism, ableism, sexism, and xenophobia, as well as LGBTQ+ based discrimination and religious intolerance.

About Caring Across Generations: Caring Across Generations is a national organization of family caregivers, care workers, disabled people, and aging adults working to transform the way we care in this country so that care is accessible, affordable and equitable— and our systems of care enable everyone to live and age with dignity. To achieve our vision, we transform cultural norms and narratives about aging, disability and care; win federal and state-level policies; and build power amongst the people touched by care. For more information, visit caringacross.org.

The Arc logo

Private Duty Nursing Makes Community Living Possible: How You Can Help!

For Jennifer, home health nurses hold her family together. Nurses come to her home and care for her 11-year-old child’s medical needs. They help ensure that her child’s tracheostomy (a surgically created hole in his neck) and ventilator are both working so he can breathe. Because of this care, her child can experience his childhood at home—riding his bike, going to school, and playing with friends.

Around the country, thousands of people with disabilities and families like Jennifer’s rely on private duty nursing to help their family members live at home and stay financially stable.

Private duty nursing is care provided by a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse to someone who has complex medical needs. A private duty nurse performs skilled care in a person’s home that is typically provided in a hospital or nursing home. Nurses may help monitor and ensure that ventilators and tracheostomies are working, change and monitor feeding tubes, provide IV therapy, and more.

Children and adults with disabilities who need these services rely on private duty nurses in order to live at home in their communities. Otherwise, they may be forced into an institution or nursing home—away from their families—and often have a lower quality of life and social inclusion.

For parents and family members, private duty nurses help the family stay intact. For Pamela from New Jersey, “The home health care nurses change our lives every shift they show up. I get the chance to just be mom, not nurse or therapist, and I can be more present for my older son.”

Private duty nurses also help families remain financially stable and parents remain employed. When their third child, Josh, was born and had significant medical needs, Debbi and Victor struggled to hold onto their jobs. Victor was often called away for active military duty. Debbi worked through the night to meet her deadlines and keep the health insurance they relied on for Josh’s care. “That insurance, it was always in the back of my mind, was what was keeping Josh alive.” The challenges of balancing work and family caregiving responsibilities began to mount. Debbi struggled to get approved for unpaid leave and as Josh’s care needs increased, Debbi had to reduce her working hours substantially. This was a financial burden for the entire family and increased her worry about losing her job altogether.

For many families nationwide, parents are forced to leave work to care for their family members who are medically complex. Pamela concedes, “Our son’s medical needs are left for us to manage; often at the cost of one parent having to leave behind their career.” It doesn’t help that there is still a lack of state paid family leave programs across the country.

Right now, 50 to 70% of private duty nursing shifts nationwide are going unfilled. This is causing additional pressure and stress for the families who need it.

The home skilled nursing workforce is experiencing a shortage similar to that of the general nursing and direct care worker communities, and Medicaid is often unable to pay nurses at the wages they could get in a hospital.

The result is that people with medical complexities are being hospitalized with avoidable complications, and parents and caregivers are being forced to leave their careers behind to care for their loved ones or to make the difficult decision to put their family members into an institution.

How You Can Help

Protect Medicaid from any cuts so that people eligible for private duty nursing receive their services.

Any potential Medicaid cuts could make access to private duty nurses even more difficult. The stability of families and quality of life for children and adults with medical complexities is at stake. Support proposals at the state and federal levels that would improve pay and benefits for private duty nurses and other members of the direct care workforce. Two major federal bills are the Better Care Better Jobs Act and the HCBS Access Act.

Support universal paid family leave that includes siblings and other family members.

The Paid Family Leave Act would help parents and family members stay employed while they balance work and provide the needed care to their family members with medical complexities when they cannot find a nurse. Some states nationwide are working to pass legislation to provide different variations of paid family leave. Contact your local legislators or state chapters of The Arc to support those bills.

The Arc logo

Why the Debt Ceiling Matters and How You Can Help

The United States could hit the debt ceiling as early as June 1.

Right now, Congress and the President must decide what to do about the debt ceiling.

These decisions could have a BIG impact on people with disabilities and their families.

What is the debt ceiling?

The federal government regularly borrows money to pay for things.

The debt ceiling is the largest amount of money the federal government can borrow at one time. It can’t borrow more than the debt ceiling allows.

When the government gets close to hitting the debt ceiling, Congress must decide whether to:

  • Raise the debt ceiling, so the government can borrow more money to pay for things, or
  • Do nothing and fail to pay for the things it promised to do.

So far, Congress has always raised the debt ceiling.

This has happened 78 times since 1960.

Congress typically raises the debt ceiling high enough to last only a short time, from a few months to a few years.

What is happening with the debt ceiling debates now?

On April 26, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling.

It agreed to raise the debt ceiling for one year in exchange for over $3.6 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years.

The bill also adds radical work rules for all Medicaid enrollees who are ages 19 to 55.

These work rules would likely result in millions of people who rely on Medicaid getting kicked off the program.

The bill says that Medicaid enrollees would have to work at least 80 hours a month.

This includes enrollees who:

  • Get Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid
  • Have Medicaid waivers for home and community-based services

There would be only one way for people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid to get out of this work requirement.

They would have to get a note from a doctor or medical professional saying they are “physically or mentally unfit” to work.

This adds a lot of red tape for people with disabilities and their families.

It also fails to understand that people with disabilities can and do want to work.

Medicaid’s rules related to work, savings, and disability are already complicated enough.

Adding more red tape will hurt people with disabilities and their families who rely on Medicaid.

What happens if Congress decides not to raise the debt ceiling?

If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the federal government may not be able to pay for important things like:

  • Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Our military and the salaries of military service members
  • Tax refunds
  • And many more programs and services

The economy and stock market could also have trouble. It may cost people even more money to get a loan, and people could lose their jobs.

Everyone may struggle if Congress does not increase the debt ceiling.

But people with disabilities who depend on government services may be hurt more if the programs and services they need stop.

What You Can Do

Congress and the President can agree to raise the debt ceiling without cutting Medicaid or other essential programs.

Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to keep Medicaid out of debt ceiling negotiations.

Dozens of small people icons forming a map of the United States

Change Your World: Kick-Start Your Disability Advocacy With The Arc

For nearly 75 years, The Arc has been on the frontlines of the disability advocacy movement, fighting for the issues that matter most to people with disabilities and their families. The Arc is a grassroots organization with nearly 600 state and local chapters, all pushing for the full inclusion of people with disabilities on the federal, state, and local levels.

Every day, people with disabilities and allies across the country—just like you—are advocating to build a more inclusive world. And with everything that is on the line right now, we need every person who cares about disability rights and equality to step up and join our fight for inclusion for future generations. We need YOU!

So, what are you waiting for? You can join us RIGHT NOW and become a fierce disability activist! Here’s how:

  1. Find out who your members of Congress are: The Arc provides an easy way to see who your Senators and Representatives are. Head on over to our Action Center and enter your zip code in the Find Your Elected Official box on the righthand side. Once you know who your members of Congress are, visit their website and review their priority issue areas. Using this knowledge, you can tell them how important it is to include disability issues in legislative discussions.
  2. Connect with your state and local chapters of The Arc: Discover who your state and/or local chapters of The Arc are and where they are located. Visit their website to learn how you can get involved.
  3. Follow your members of Congress on social media: When Congress is in session, you can follow along with your members’ current legislative actions on places like Twitter—even if you don’t have an account! When they work on an issue that matters to you and/or aligns with The Arc’s Action Alerts, this is the moment when your outreach will make the greatest impact. Get in touch with them directly or through The Arc’s Action Center to share why they should support a position that benefits the disability community.
  4. Visit The Arc’s Action Center: The Arc’s Action Center (thearc.org/action) houses all The Arc’s current action alerts. Clicking on the alert you are interested in will lead you to a page with more information where you can send a note to your members of Congress showing your support. You can use our prefilled template or write your own. Once you have filled in your contact information and completed your submission, click the button at the bottom to submit your note.

Now that you are equipped with The Arc’s four key advocacy steps, get out there and start advocating for the disability community! Remember, take pictures of your advocacy when possible and share them on social media. Don’t forget to tag The Arc of the United States in your posts.

We can’t wait to see you out there!

 

Close up of a person holding a small leather wallet in their left hand and pulling out a folded dollar bill

For Tyson, Marriage Changed Everything – Including His SSI

By Tyson from North Carolina

Married people with disabilities often experience penalties that force the couple to give up necessary benefits. Congress must address marriage penalties so everyone has the chance to marry without endangering the key supports they need to live in the community. Tyson is one of the many people with disabilities who have experienced this penalty, and he shares his experience below.


I have been getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since I was 19 years old. I’m now 46. These benefits are important to me; they help me pay for things I need, like rent and food. I have always been vigilant to report my earnings and document everything Social Security asked of me.

In 2021, I got married to the love of my life. My wife works for our local school system and is a wonderful partner. I didn’t know, though, that getting married would so greatly impact my SSI.

In late 2021, I got a call from Social Security. It was time to do the regular review, where Social Security asks the same questions over and over to make sure I am sharing all the information and earnings I have. During the call, I shared that I got married, gave them the date and information, and shared my wife’s income information.

Because I got married, I was told that my SSI would be cut from about $800 a month to $500. This was because of my wife’s income. But SSI is my only source of income, and it felt like I was punished for getting married. At the same time, I also found out my rent would increase by $200 a month. So, my wife and I had to do more with even less.

The Social Security office also told me I could get a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit through my dad’s work record. I spent hours tracking down school records to make sure Social Security had what they needed. Several times, people who worked at Social Security told me I would get SSDI. But, in the end, they rejected my application. I felt like I was lied to and that my time was wasted.

I do my best to pay my bills and live the best life I can. But I am trapped in poverty.

I can’t help that I have a disability, and I want to do more to contribute to our household and have planned to get a part-time job. I am worried that doing this will make me lose my SSI and other benefits. My wife and I have thought about moving to another state to be near other family members, but that may cause me to lose my other benefits, too.

I don’t know what to do, but I know that people should not have to live like this or be punished for marrying the person they love.

A selfie of a father and his teenage son, sitting in a car and smiling. The father is wearing sunglasses.

School Should Be a Safe Place for Students, but Isaac Was Assaulted

A selfie of a father and his teenage son, sitting in a car and smiling. The father is wearing sunglasses.Isaac has autism and mental health disabilities. Isaac sometimes gets very focused on certain things and struggles to adjust or focus on other things. To help him in school, a 504 plan was created so that teachers and other staff at the school would know how to support and redirect him safely.

When Isaac was 15 years old, that plan failed when he was put in a chokehold at his school by the school resource officer. Now 22, Isaac and his dad, John, shared with us about the incident and how it impacted Isaac’s school life.

Tell us about the choking incident. What happened?

ISAAC: I was in band class. Our school called students to the gym for a sex education class. The teachers told us you didn’t have to go if you didn’t want to, or if you signed a paper saying you weren’t going to go. I told them I didn’t want to go, but they still forced me to go. Since I didn’t want to be in the room, I went to the other side of the gym to nap until the class was over.

One of the teachers didn’t like that I was napping and ignoring the class, and they asked me which teacher I had for the period. I didn’t answer because I felt like the teacher was trying to get me in trouble, even though I had not done anything wrong. When I refused to respond, they called in two administrators. The administrators told me to give them my backpack and search through it. I refused to give it to them, as they did not have the right to take my things for no reason. They then tried to take my backpack from me forcefully. Finally, the school resource officer got involved. He took my bag from me.

I was still trying to get my bag back from them. I was not fighting back but resisting the situation. The officer forced me to the ground. He stood side-by-side with me, placed his left leg in front of both of my legs, and lifted his leg backward. This swept my legs from underneath me and caused me to land on my stomach. Then, since I was still resisting and trying to get back up, he got on top of me and started to choke me. I stopped resisting after about 10 seconds because I did not want to black out. After that, he let me go and began searching my backpack because he claimed that the administrators thought I had drugs or a bomb in my bag. I obviously did not have anything like that in there.

What happened after the incident?

ISAAC: The afternoon after the incident, the school told my mom that they had wanted to search my backpack, and I resisted this. They did not share that I was put in a chokehold. My mom told the school that I had a 504 plan that describes how to support me if I resist what the staff asks me to do; however, the administrators explained that they had so many kids with 504 plans that they could not have possibly known which students do or don’t have plans—or be expected to follow them in the heat of the moment.

Later that week, the school resource officer told me he was sorry for the run-in, but did not acknowledge that he or the school may have been in the wrong. He did at least try to get to know me better and have a civil relationship from that point on.

No one from the school ever told my mom or dad that I was in a chokehold or taken down by the school resource officer.

I didn’t tell them either. I was new to the school. I am also not a tall guy and, at the time, was 106 pounds. I was a new, short, small kid that no one knew. I didn’t want to be a target for bullying. People at my new school were already wary of me before the incident because of how I reacted to things and because I always wore a hood because I was always cold. After the incident, a rumor started that the officer had tackled me.

Afterward, people feared me. People began to worry and ask whether I would shoot up the school. I was okay with people being scared of me because I was just happy that people were not trying to bother me or bully me. And I had friends who knew me. However, I was portrayed as the bad guy by classmates and at school.

John, how did you and your wife discover the incident?

JOHN: I was at the high school several months later to speak to a class at the teacher’s invitation. When I was introduced, it was mentioned that I was Isaac’s father. A student at the side of the room said, “I know that dude. He’s crazy!” After that, I asked Isaac if something happened.

As a parent, I was extremely disturbed. Nobody likes to hear that their child is bullied or being targeted. I had a few experiences with bullying as a child, and no one wants that.

I’m also a professional disability advocate. At the time, I had also just watched the reports around Ethan Saylor, who was tackled and suffocated to death. There were also some reports of teachers being tough and not accommodating to students with disabilities because they don’t understand how to help them.

When my wife and I discovered Isaac was put in a chokehold, it was months later. At the time, there was not much more we could do but try to fix the rules that caused the incident. But that’s not enough—changing the rules does not change people’s attitudes.

When people think of autism, they see Rain Man or The Good Doctor. With Isaac, you would not know he had autism unless you knew him very well. He does not present how people typically think of someone with autism. As a result, he sometimes gets pushed around more than other kids.

The incident should never have happened. For the administrators to talk it down or brush it off without informing us is the most disturbing thing. He was assaulted—and no one bothered to tell us about it.

What do you want other people to know about the use of restraint and seclusion?

JOHN: I want them to know the same thing my father taught me: there’s never a reason to resort to violence. I have never yet seen, even in the worst situations, a need to escalate to violence because people are not responding clearly and immediately to demands. There are ways to get the desired result, but sometimes, you have to dig a little deeper. There are always other options.

What happened could have been averted if they had gotten to know my son. How many people use seclusion and restraint instead of getting to know the kids they support? Educators need a better sense of what is happening and how to help the kids they educate. In our home state of North Carolina, educators only need eight hours of training to work in a classroom for kids with disabilities. How can you expertly support kids with only eight hours of training? Certainly, more could be done to prepare teachers.

ISAAC: I want other kids with disabilities to know the same thing my father taught me: there’s never a reason to resort to violence. And that they should wait until your parents get there to speak with the school. Quite literally, your parents are your lawyer. Teachers won’t always listen to you. It would be best to have your folks with you to argue for you and advocate on your behalf. To parents, you may be angry about an incident, but you still need to be civil and work with the school because otherwise, the school won’t help your child; they may suspend or expel them instead. You must do your best to be civil and willing to work together to keep your student at school.

JOHN: I’m proud of my son for what he just said. Previously, I spent time as a trustee on a school board. People would ask over and over what school is the best for kids with disabilities. The critical difference in outcomes for kids with or without disabilities is parents being involved. They know who we are and that we are not just angry parents but also active and involved in the school. It changes the educators’ attitudes, and they see our child more as a person. They become more willing to engage with parents and intervene before things blow up.

Parents should also know what their and their kids’ rights are and be able to call people out when needed. Isaac is my fifth child. I know our rights and how to advocate with him because I made mistakes and learned with my previous children. Sometimes, administrators will say things that do not respect the rights of kids and parents. They may push boundaries that they should not do so and rely on parents not to know their rights. It can be intimidating. Parents must know their and their kids’ rights and advocate.

The Arc logo

Get Ready for Medicaid Renewals in 2023

As COVID-19 rapidly spread across the U.S. in March 2020, Congress declared a public health emergency and passed legislation that gave states more money for Medicaid if they met certain requirements. One of the main requirements was that people would be able to keep their Medicaid health care during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

As a result of recent legislation, the continuous enrollment requirement will end in early 2023 and states will soon be restarting Medicaid eligibility reviews. For many with disabilities, this means that they may lose critical Medicaid services and supports. Based on estimates, up to 15 million people could lose their current Medicaid coverage.

States may start the renewal process as early as February 1, 2023. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be ready:

  1. Verify that your contact information is updated. Make sure your state Medicaid agency has your current mailing address, phone number, email, or other contact information so they can easily contact you about your Medicaid coverage.
  2. Check your mail regularly. The state Medicaid agency will mail you a letter about the status of your Medicaid coverage. This letter will also let you know if you need to complete a renewal form to see if you still qualify for Medicaid.
  3. Complete and send in your renewal form (if you get one). Fill out the form and return it to your Medicaid agency to help avoid a gap in your Medicaid.
  4. If your Medicaid coverage has ended, visit HealthCare.gov to find an affordable, comprehensive health plan.

For more information, you can visit Medicaid.gov/renewals.

The Arc logo

Using Medicaid Is Complicated: That Hurts People With Disabilities

Medicaid is the nation’s primary health insurance program for people with disabilities, but it is so much more than health care. For individuals with disabilities and their families, Medicaid also funds vital supports to keep them in their communities.

People with disabilities who are eligible for Medicaid often live in or near poverty. They rely on Medicaid for stability, support, and services. However, Medicaid can be extremely challenging to navigate—requiring people to spend significant time and effort learning how the system works, how to complete all of the necessary paperwork, and waiting for appointments to access critical care and services. If people are unable to navigate these challenges, they risk losing essential care, services, and stability.

In 2022, The Arc and its chapters asked families nationwide about their challenges navigating Medicaid.

Terri, who has a child with Down syndrome, notes that complications with the Medicaid application process have meant her family has “missed out on eight years of having co-pays covered, on financial support for the diapers her son wore until he was seven, and on assistive devices to help him walk and talk. Despite being well-educated, I found the paperwork really daunting,” says Terri. “The cynic in me wondered if it was complicated by design, to frustrate people from applying.”

Frances, a self-advocate from Colorado, has received Medicaid for over 40 years. Still, she encounters many difficulties in navigating the Medicaid system. According to Frances, “It is frustrating because I do not know what my co-pay is on a doctor visit and I will receive a bill that I do not understand. When I call to ask for more information, it is often hard to talk to a person and get a call back when I leave a message.”

Many people on Medicaid are required to reapply or prove they are still eligible for services on a yearly or even semi-annual basis. For Frances, this is the biggest barrier. “I have to work with the Department of Human Services and submit proof of housing and income,” she says. “But because they are not meeting with people in person, I have to fax these documents, and it is very difficult to get a hold of someone at the office to do this. I wish I could submit this paperwork in person.”

Monique, a disability professional from California, recounts the difficulties of trying to get a specialized wheelchair through the Medicaid system for an individual with Parkinson’s disease. Monique notes that it took “multiple months to get the process started.” This long wait time meant the person with a disability had to use a rented wheelchair “which was not adequate for [him] and his staff.” By the time the chair arrived over a year later, the man was already in a nursing home. “[He] died a week later,” says Monique. “[He] never even sat in his wheelchair or was able to see it.”

In the coming months, navigating Medicaid will likely get even more complicated. There have been special rules in place to protect people from losing Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2023, these rules will end, and states will likely begin kicking millions of people off Medicaid.

Accessing Medicaid should be made easier, not harder. The Arc will continue to advocate to strengthen and protect Medicaid for people with disabilities and their families so that everyone can navigate it and access this vital support.