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Social services beset by low pay, long waits, poor access

Devon Brown (left), a program manager at Advocates Day Services in Ashland, takes participant Eric Birdsall on a sensory walk through the building.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Family has seen firsthand the impact of staffing shortages

Re “Social services staffing crisis hits neediest” (Page A1, Oct. 3): As parents of an adult with autism who resides in a group home, we’ve seen firsthand how staffing shortages have grown to crisis proportions. Caring for adults with developmental disabilities is a demanding job for uncompetitive pay. Without additional federal and state funding to raise salaries permanently, we are losing the best people. And as Katie Johnston’s article points out, many adults with disabilities have been shut out of services because of insufficient staff or transportation.

Thank you for shining a light on this hidden societal problem. It needs to be brought to the attention of our federal and state legislators and the general public.


Mary and Peter Wallan


Crisis is affecting children and adults with developmental disabilities

Katie Johnston’s article on the crisis in human services agency staffing is to be applauded. While adults with development disabilities feel the pain, what many don’t realize is the suffering of children from the critical shortage of teachers and funding for special education. Special education schools across the state are freezing enrollments, dropping students, and cutting back services.

Special education schools play a vital role in the life of children with autism, providing specialized educational and behavior supports and, in some cases, 24-7 supervised care. Parents are not equipped to teach children with severe autism, whose behavior and lack of communication skills make them a danger to themselves or others.

Autism affects 1 in 54 children, up significantly from an estimated 1 in 2,500 in 1997. Yet the number of special education teachers is not keeping pace with the demand. Autism services in the United States cost more than $260 billion a year, more than the combined costs of stroke and hypertension. Yet there is a startling lack of state and federal support toward people going into careers in special education and autism.


More investment in higher salaries, mentorship, and professional development is needed to ensure that children with autism receive the best care and education.

L. Vincent Strully Jr.

Founder and CEO

The New England Center for Children