Most families affected by autism are not happy with the services available in their community, but in a national survey released Friday, residents of some cities appear to be faring better than others.
New York, Chicago, northern New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Seattle stood out as the best places to live if you have autism in the survey conducted by Autism Speaks.
The findings are based on survey respondents who said they were pleased with the services available in their area. Overall, about 75 percent said they were not.
“These survey results confirm what we hear every day from families — that they are struggling to get their children services that are essential to their development and well-being,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.
Specifically, two out of three people who participated in the survey said educational services were hard to access in their area, with some saying they changed school districts or employed legal action in order to obtain needed supports.
Respite care, recreational activities and medical care or treatments like behavior therapy were also particularly hard to come by for the majority of survey respondents.
Not surprisingly, those who said they were happy with the services in their community generally were more likely to report good schools and access to medical or therapeutic services nearby.
Nationally, 848 people representing the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia participated in the survey which was open to anyone affected by autism for a three-week period in February and March.
The greatest percentage of negative responses came from people in Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and California.
Autism Speaks officials emphasized that the findings came from a community survey, not a scientific study, so whether or not a location fared well in the “best places” listing could be skewed by how many responses came from people living in a given area.
“The overall consensus is that people are not very happy,” said Peter Bell, executive vice president at Autism Speaks, who indicated the findings will be used to help understand what’s needed and to highlight the situation to policymakers. “Our only intent here is to create some conversation and dialogue.”