Hundreds attend autism support day at capitol

12:12 AM, Feb 26, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Like the rest of a busy Capitol in session, room 216 was filled with busy people, on their way to somewhere. It's only when you looked more closely that you saw many of these people were clutching photos of children, and many more had  children with them.

Mother Melissa Solares says, "It's a fight right now, they're hoping we go away."

MORE | Complete coverage of The Autism Gap: The Fight for Insurance

Solares has come with her husband and two children, all the way from Augusta. The couple's five year old son Arturo, was diagnosed with autism one year ago. Solares' husband is a surgeon and in the past year they've spent $100,000 for special therapies for Arturo. He has undergone a transformation. They head upstairs to search for their state senator.

"He doesn't talk at all. He hasn't said a word." 

Outside room 216 is young mother April Covington. Her four year old son Braden was diagnosed a year and a half ago. She says they can't afford extra therapies and they must depend on the school. So far her son has yet to speak. It's frustrating for Covington, because she just moved to Georgia from Florida a year ago, never thinking she would lose her autism insurance. She says Braden was making great strides before their family came to Georgia, and if she had known things would go like this, she wouldn't have uprooted her family.

Each family has a story of emotional and financial hardship. Today is about putting a face to the issue -- and frankly, begging for support for their children.

Melissa Solares and her family go to the third floor and ask for their state Senator Bill Jackson. They wait outside the senate until Jackson comes out.

Solares tells Jackson about her son, about the money they've spent, about how lucky they are to have the money, but that most families don't. "I'm here to plead with you." Senator Jackson responds, "You don't have to plead with me. I'm here to help people." He tells her he's "basically" on her side and will do what he can.

The Andrade family is waiting outside the senate to see their state Senator, Renee Unterman.

"We always wanted to adopt from foster care."

Meg and Santiago Andrade adopted 11 year old Deven two years ago. He has severe autism and cannot speak. Deven waits with his parents, snapping a band and hugging his father.

Unterman comes out to speak with them and tells them she cannot support the bill because it's asking people to pay for something else during a recession and that people don't want it. Andrade responds, "but thousands of Georgians have come out in the last week saying they're for this. People who aren't affected by autism have heard the cost analysis and they support it." Unterman says, "I don't believe 32 cents is an accurate number," referring to data from other states who now cover autism treatments. Andrade says, "What about the data from all the other states?" Unterman tells Andrade she had a son with autism and that she understands, but she is not swayed.

Andrade presses on. "There are tens of thousands of people in this state who don't have the resources you may have had to pay for your childs treatment."

While parents advocated for their children, mother Anna Bullard took the fight to a national level appearing on the Headline News show 'Raising America' with Kyra Phillips.

Towards the end of the morning inside the Capitol, word began to spread that the bill had been put in mandate committee, a move that would stall it for at least another year.

Andrade says she will be back tomorrow. She is exhausted, but won't be deterred. She is also frustrated. "It seems corrupt. That's how it seems."

Most Watched Videos