SIU autism program surviving budget cuts - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

SIU autism program surviving budget cuts

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CARBONDALE -- Program leaders at SIU's Rehabilitation Institute said they'll continue to provide programs to support people with autism, with or without state money.

Thomas Ticheur, who works at a restaurant in downtown Carbondale, said he doesn't mind paying taxes if the money goes toward programs like autism services.

"I feel like if we can just help out by a little bit by giving not even one-percent of our money we make lot of our taxes, I'm more than happy to participate," said Ticheur.

In a round of belt-tightening after the 2-year budget crisis, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner reportedly proposed a cut of 5-percent to programs like autism services provided by the SIU Rehabilitation Institute.

"Funding has been unpredictable in recent years both in terms of its timing and availability," said Dr. Ruth Anne Rehfeldt.

Dr. Rehfeldt works closely with SIU's Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. She said despite budget cuts, the program has found a way to continue to serve the community, adding additional funding will always help. 

"We have a lot of different avenues that we're exploring so that we can continue to provide this important service to the community," Dr. Rehfeldt said. 

Program leaders want to become more financially independent. One step toward that involves putting graduate students to work, more.

"My life changed when I came here," said Sebastian Garcia, a graduate student from Bogota, Colombia. "I learn from them how to develop the skills, interact with them, and how to create a better world for them."

Garcia said he hopes the programs will continue as he plans to take what he's learned back to Colombia.

"So having funding, cut or not cut, we'll continue to support our partnership with the community," Dr. Rehfeldt said.

And if more programs make similar moves, taxpayers say perhaps some of their money can go to other things and hold off future increases.

"I don't mind at all, because if I make money and I can help someone with a small amount, why not do it?" Ticheur said. 

Other taxpayers told News 3 they find themselves right in the middle. They said they hate to see programs lose money, but something's got to give.

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