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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all madison area moms.

We've been considering a move back to the midwest and Madison is one of the areas, so any input would be helpful.

I looked on realtor.com for houses and seems like we can afford a decent house, so that's good. What I need to know is are there parts of the city (or surrounding areas) I should particularly look for or avoid. I need a good school district, b/c my ds1 has autism and ds2 has speech delay and is also possibly on the autism spectrum- not sure yet, very mild if so. I am a teacher in AZ, so I'd also need a job and dh is a supervisor over a technical help desk, so any ideas for work for him would be welcomed.

We wouldn't be able to move until next summer at the earliest b/c I signed a contract for the upcoming school year.

Also b/c of ds's autism, what state services are available that you know of? Here in AZ, b/c of DDD (dept of developmental disabilities) he's eligible for outside (separate from school) therapies- speech, OT, music, and is also on state insurance so they cover his copays that our regular insurance doesn't cover. We also get habilitation and respite (to work on improving his skills) paid for - we just need to find the provider and my MIL does it. We get 90 hrs/hab and 60 hrs/respite per month.

Any input would be great. Any websites to see what type of services are available? Here I know who to call and the idea of starting over is very, very scary to me.
 

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My oh my, you are going to LOVE LOVE LOVE the services for children with autism in Wisconsin.

My sons are in the process of getting into the program, so here's a rough idea of how it works:

Get diagnosed with autism
Send the report to the state agency that runs the Autism Waiver Funding
Agency puts you on the waiting list for funding (about a year right now)
Get a home visit from the Waiver Funding agency.
Wait. (For a year, sometimes a little more
)
When your child's name comes up on the waiting list:
20-30+ hours of free, state-paid, in-home ABA Therapy A WEEK! for three years, plus more at a discount if you want/need it.
The only big qualifier is that you must start the therapy before the child turns 8.

The details are still a little sketchy in my mind, because we're in the process of diagnoses for our sons...but it's an incredible program. I have a lot of friends in Early Intervention here, and a friend that went to work for the WI Autism program, and the results they're seeing in kids are incredible. I read that, after completing this program, about 40% of kids are able to mainstream in school. We don't hope for that with our boys (cognitive delays are too much), but we're incredibly jazzed about this program, and so happy that it's free. I'm so proud of WI for being progressive and putting the funding behind a program that's been proven to work.

There used to be no waiting list, but when families heard they could get $500+ hours of child-specific, family-oriented, in-home therapy per week free from the state, the numbers of families signing up (and even moving to WI) for this program when through the roof. The program is very supported, though...a state rep lives across the street from us, and he said the legislature fixed funds for this program well into the future. At $100,000+ (roughly) per child that enters the program, it's no wonder that they had to put a cap on the number of cases they'll take every year. You can go ahead and get therapies before you get the waiver funding, but there are some penalties (funding wise) if you pay for the full-time program on your own while you're waiting...I think that's an attempt to keep the program for families that wouldn't be able to pay the $500 a week it would cost (middle and lower class families).

Also, if you're looking for autism and funding resources, there's a parent-run group that you might want to check out...they could probaby help you flesh out the connections you'll be needing if/when you move to the area:
http://www.angelautismnetwork.org/

Respite care I don't know about....we haven't sat down and tracked it down, but we have looked around a bit and found it hard to come by.

Madison is a great area--very progressive, and beautiful, too. It's always being ranked as one of the best cities in the US....best for raising families, for biking to work, for health of water and air, etc. etc. etc. We don't live there, but we love visiting. It's an incredible, vibrant, active city. Hopefully some of the Tribe folks will give you specifics about Madison. I just want you to know that services for kids with autism, and special needs in general, are fantastic in this state. We've been so impressed with our boys' Early Intervention, with their Special Ed teachers (even in our lousy district...really one of the very worst in the state), and with the people we've met in the Waiver program.

Good luck, and don't be afraid of the big jump! You'll find lots of support here...it's in our midwestern nature!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks a bunch! I'm originally from IL, so if we make the move, we're going to be about 2 hrs from 'home'. I've posted about wanting to leave AZ vs wanting to stay before - several times, actually.

We already have the dx, so that's a 'good' thing- one less thing to do.

For the ABA- do they have trained providers or do I have to find someone. Actually, having MIL do ours is VERY helpful- for us and her.

What happens after the child turns 8?

I read through the website and it was hard for me to understand b/c it's SO different from what we do here.

We also get diapers provided after 3 years old- which has been a LIFESAVER.
 

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Diapers here are provided by SSI, or if you're too high income to qualify for SSI, you can apply for Katie Beckett.

There are several agencies around each community that provide and coordinate the ABA therapy--where we live there are 4+ providers to choose from. You pick an agency, and they provide the therapists. The state pays the agency.

To clarify the waiver program, I would call that Dane County representative. If she isn't helpful, there's someone from our county I can connect you to. It's not THAT complicated of a program, but it's the kind of thing that's best described by someone in person or over the phone...since it's a state program, with lots of govt. involvement, the website info is really complicated.

PM me if you want the phone number of our county coordinator of the Waiver program. She was extremely kind, patient, and family-focused--I love it when I find people like her!! I'm sure she could explain things to you or find someone in Dane county that can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the input. I'll make a few phone calls over the next couple of days. Of course, I've only been considering this for a few days (this time, anyway
) so I've got a while to figure things out.

Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I called today (too busy yesterday) and of course, the person I need to talk to is out for the afternoon!! So, I left a voicemail and will hopefully hear back soon. I'll keep you posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I got a call back and she explained the process. Pretty lengthy and a bit discouraging. We would be at least a year without services, probably closer to 2. But, once he's in 1st grade, I'm not sure how much therapy he will be getting outside of school anyway.

We're still considering our options and trying to figure out what to do. What parts of madison or the outlying areas are 'best' for schools? Are some schools/districts better than others or are they all good.
 

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yes,
, the wait is long. But once you get there, I've heard the services are fantastic.

As far as Madison area school districts, I'd check with that link above (angel autism network). I've looked at their list of seminars, and heard them interviewed on local NPR programs, and I think they could be a great resource for you. It's a statewide network, so if you could get in touch with someone from there, I'm sure parents would let you know the best school systems for children with autism.

In general, the school system in Wisconsin is great. Really great. But to find out the best possible Madison-area system with services geared toward autistic children, I'd start asking the parents in the autism network.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
thanks again, I will look deeper into the link (I glanced over it) for the autism specifics. I also have my nt dd who will be in school as well and i think it's safe to assume if a school has a good autism program,the typical ed would be good as well.

I'm wondering how much services we will be realistically getting at that point, regardless of where we live.
 

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My experience is fairly limited (I have two special needs sons, lots of friends in special ed. or the surrounding services, and my mother taught as a special ed. teacher), but I've found that in WI it's fairly easy to get services for your children...especially in "good" (read wealthier) suburbs. Even in positively working-class towns and suburbs, though, I've been amazed at the level of services offered to kids. You might be surprised. My mother worked in a very working-class town, and they were throwing services at children/families left and right (seemingly). I don't know the experience of parents in other states, so I'm totally limited in my scope and view, but it seems like special needs kids are given a pretty high priority here in WI. We have some very forward-thinking programs, and it's notoriously difficult to get teaching jobs in this state...the quality of teachers and staff is usually excellent. I think that goes a long way toward students that are well-served and cared for.

We did have to struggle a little to get extensive services for our two sons, but that was when they were transitioning from EI, when we were dealing with the sharkiest of "coordinator" sharks sent in by our huge school system, and well before we showed the school system they weren't dealing with a couple of defenseless newbies. So it's not all peachy. Take our early experience with a grain of salt, though....we live in a district that is mostly unlike 99% of the rest of WI.

In the end, we got services that made even our EI and advocate coordinators drop their jaws. So even in our worst-case-scenario of a WI school system, we still ended up with great services.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
that's reassuring. I've heard lots of great things about WI schooling. I have a friend in OshKosh w/a son the same age as my dd. I will ask her as well. Here, schools really aren't known as the best, there are good pockets and bad of different school districts. Our district alone has 28 elementary schools and most other districts are almost as large.

I have had to fight at IEPs, but as far as state provided services, I think I've been VERY lucky- everything I've needed has been provided without issue. And our support coordinator came with me to every nasty IEP, even after he was no longer our SC b/c our new guy was very new and in no way able to handle the situation (not to mention the fact I hadn't even met him at that point).
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Are there are any surrounding towns or suburbs that should just be avoided completely? It doesn't sound like it. Here, you can have one block with mansions practically and the next block where you're not comfortable walking at night. It's really strange.
 
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