Keeping the Vision of Vermont Autism Act 35

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Dear Esteemed Legislators of Vermont: The Agency of Human Services has decided to have the Autism Plan Steering Committee take on a new role of establishing priorities under the autism plan report. Starting last August, 75 people participated in various autism planning committees and a steering committee that continued until November. The work of the committees culminated in a report presented at the State House on January 23rd. The Report provided more than 60 recommendations for a strategic autism plan under Act 35. This new role of the Steering Committee allows the committee to decide which of the recommendations made under the autism plan report will move forward (and which will be cast aside) in a report due to the legislators at the end of the session. We strongly believe that a new, special task force be formed for this purpose. New purpose: New committee: Our understanding of what a \'steering\' committee does is to provide guidance and to summarize the work of sub-committees. Now that the autism plan report has been completed and the sub-committees have all disbanded, the steering committee is clearly no longer a steering committee as there is no one left to steer. Transparency: Despite all of our hard work and dedication, members of the sub-committees have been kept virtually in the dark about the autism plan process since the subcommittees disbanded in November. Although the decision to offer the Steering Committee members a new, expanded role was decided in November, it was not until the presentation of the autism report at the State House on January 23rd (a meeting that the subcommittees were never told about), that this decision was made public. We believe that an insulated committee does not have ownership over a cause that has affected so many families in Vermont. There needs to be fairness in giving other parents an opportunity to participate in the process that can have significant impact on the lives of individuals and families. The process of how the parent representatives will be selected needs to be open. Furthermore, the roles of and the type of committee that will be formed needs to be clarified. Is this to be a special committee, which would dissolve once the prioritizing has been completed or would this committee be contemplated as a standing committee Fairness: When the invitation to join an autism plan committee was sent out last summer, some parents may have selected to be on the steering committee had they known there was a possibility of it morphing into a committee that sets the priorities. There also would have been more community scrutiny to ensure fair representation. Representation across the spectrum: Act 35 states that the autism plan shall include:


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