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December 19, 2003

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, December 19, 2003

Disabled twins helped convince Arnold Disabled twins helped convince Arnold (December 19, 2003)

Protest from local residents, hundreds others, may help save Lanterman Act

by Bill D'Agostino

For years, twins Zachary and Nathan Krumbein of Palo Alto were in their own world -- lost even to their parents.

Two years ago, the 10-year-olds finally emerged from the fog of their mild autism, aided by two local programs. The program is funded by a landmark state law that provides access to much-needed services for the developmentally disabled. So when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed suspending the law to cope with the state's budget crisis, the Krumbein family joined hundreds of others in Sacramento last week to protest.

"This is a monstrous idea," Yoko Noba, the twins' mother, said Wednesday. "We are going back to the Dark Ages."

The protests appear to have been successful. Schwarzenegger -- "stung" by a mountain of such criticisms - rescinded the proposal Wednesday.

The law, known as the Lanterman Act, was signed by former Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1969 ensuring a myriad of services for any disabled person who needs them. In essence it guarantees that the state will fund enough programs so that disabled persons aren't denied assistance because of endless waiting lists and enrollment caps.

It proved to be a lifeline for Zachary and Nathan, who found the help they required at two Palo Alto programs: Achievekids, a special school for the developmentally disabled, and Community Association for Rehabilitation (CAR), which offers after school recreation and other respite services. The kids, who were enrolled in public school special-ed classes, needed more individualized attention.

"None of the special-ed classes ever worked -- either for them learning or for them behaving well," the twins' father, Fred, said.

Since they weren't improving, the boys were nearly too much for their parents to handle alone. "I was a prisoner," Noba recalled. "Sometimes, I felt prison would be better because I would have time to think."

After enrolling in the two programs, the twins behavior markedly improved. They can now cross streets and go shopping by themselves, interact better with others, their parents noted.

"Their real natures came out," Noba said. "They feel they are respected."

If Schwarzenegger doesn't rescind the proposal, families with such children born next year would sit on long waiting lists.

Programs such as CAR, built to provide such respite and care for its currently 220 families, would have been hurt by the proposal since 60 percent of its funding comes from the act.

"The damage that these proposed cuts would do is huge," said Lynda Steele, CAR's executive director. "If that goes away, all of the work that we've all been doing over all these years will just be destroyed."

Email Bill D'Agostino at bdagostino@paweekly.com


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