SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — The story of autism hits home for a downstate lawmaker who is a parent of a child who suffers from the disorder.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Dave Dahl reports, state Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) emphasizes that it’s important for parents to advocate.

“I know a lot of individuals who are in situations pursuing (individualized education programs), for instance. They really have to be not only knowledgeable of what their rights are – number one – but number two, they have to be a huge advocate on top of being a parent to continue to push for certain things,” Brady said, “because the school districts, with their cutbacks, are not maybe as willing to do some things in special ed. because it’s going to cost them more for that child.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Dave Dahl reports

Another lawmaker says Illinois is near the bottom – 47th among the states – in spending on the disabilities that include autism.

State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) leads a group of lawmakers and other advocates on autism issues. She points out how much the diagnostic criteria have changed over the years.

“Years ago, you would have a child that was 5 years old who couldn’t speak, and now they’re saying if by 18 months, if that child isn’t aware of their name when you call them – there’s just a few things that you can isolate right away – go back in to your doctor, ask him to look, because you can get into that special services that the state is providing, and it happens all the time,” she said.

The lawmakers spoke as part of an announcement celebrating Brianna’s Law. It was signed in late 2008 by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to ensure that everyone under age 21 would receive insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autistic spectrum disorders, up to $36,000 a year.

What should come next, the supporters say, is specific state money tied to autism.

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