AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DEVELOPMENTAL MEDICINE & DENTISTRY
BY H. BARRY WALDMAN DDS, MPH, PHD, STEVEN P. PERLMAN DDS, MSCD, DHL (HON) AND MATTHEW COOKE, DDS, MD, MPH
“Don’t ask taxpayers to support disabled children: When I was 10 years old, I chose to be child-free because I knew that I would not make a good parent, and at 38 I’m still content with my choice… Parenthood is a choice, not a divine right, and all choices have consequences. Expecting parents of special needs children do have a legal option to caring for these children – abortion… Technology today can accurately display most fetal disabilities within the first trimester of pregnancy. This power gives parents an opportunity to research and discuss whether to continue with the pregnancy. The only parents of special-needs children whom I have sympathy for are those who were pregnant before technology could show the disability…” 1
(See reference for the entire commentary)
Rummaging through old files turned up the above editorial from the year 2000 that appeared in The Hartford Courant. A short review using the Google search engine brought our attention to the following response that appeared a week later in the newspaper.
“I am a parent of a 10- year-old son with Down syndrome… she dramatically overstates the ability of technology to predict fetal disabilities. (She) fails to address the thousands of children who start their lives as healthy babies, and become disabled because of illness, accident or environmental factors… (She might be) more compassionate on this issue if she were to realize her lucky status of being a member of the temporarily non-disabled population. If she were to become disabled in a car accident or experience brain damage from a stroke, would she want society to discard her because her damaged person has no worth?… Progress in society should not be judged only by the size of edifices or the advancement of technology. A society’s ability to care for its disabled members is a supreme test of the godliness of that community…” 2
(See reference for the entire commentary)
In 2013, more than 53 million adults (22.2% of the adult U.S. population) reported one or more disabilities; ranging from: 16.5% in Idaho to 31.4% in Mississippi and Tennessee, and 31.5% in Alabama.
More than 39 million children and adults reported severe disabilities, 12.6% of the total population; ranging progressively from:
• 0.8% for children less than five years of age, to
• 36.4% for adults age 65+ years, and
• 55.8% for senior 80+years. 3-5
Note: the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reports only hearing and vision difficulties for children less than five years of age.
THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE!
Health care expenditures associated with disability: In 2006, $397.8 billion were expended for all U.S. adults. Expenditures for people in institutions, such as nursing facilities, were the largest category disability associated heath care expenditures.
• $118.9 billion for the Medicare population
• $161 billion for Medicaid recipients
• $117.8 billion for the privately insured and uninsured populations.
• State expenditures ranging from $598 million in Wyoming to $40.1 billion in New York.
For the total U.S. adult population, 26.7% of health care expenditures were associated with disability, with the proportion by state ranging from 16.9% in Hawaii to 32.8% in New York.
• 38.1% for Medicare expenditures,
• 67.7% for Medicaid expenditures and
• 12.5% for nonpublic health care expenditures were associated with disability. 6.7
Special education expenditures associated with disability
Approximately 12% of K-12 public education budgets in past years were allocated to special education. The cost per student was about 2.3 times the cost of regular education. Total federal appropriations increased from approximately $252 million in 1977-78 to $7.5 billion in 2002-03. 8 About 8% of special education funds came from the federal government, 56% from state governments and the remainder from local school districts. 9
And healthcare and education are only two of the categories of the added expenses needed for the care and support of individuals with disabilities!
DO WE GET OUR MONEY’S WORTH?
Individuals With a Disability They did what?
Alexander Graham Bell • Learning disability • Telephone
Thomas Alva Edison • Learning disability • Electric light, phonograph, Slightly deaf Cinematic camera, etc, etc
Albert Einstein • Asperger’s syndrome • Dyslexic • Atomic physicist
Henry Ford • Dyslexic • Motor car development Assembly line manufacture
Stephen Hawking • Motor neuron disease • Astronomical physicist
Isaac Newton • Epilepsy, stutter • Physicist, astronomer, mathematician
Leonardo DaVinci • Dyslexic • Artist, inventor
Some more famous people with a wide range of disabilities
Buzz Aldrin, Andrea Bocelli, Louis Braille, George Burns, Cher, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Tom Cruise, John Denver, Walt Disney, Harrison Ford, Danny Glover, Whoopie Goldberg, Magic Johnson, Billy Joel, Helen Keller, Franklin Roosevelt, Ben Stiller Woodrow Wilson 10,11… Do we really need to go on with this endless list?
MILLIONS AND BILLIONS
Maybe that’s the way our government measures things. Families use different parameters to evaluate their lives. The joy is the face of a child and his/her parents as the new addition to their family is able to overcome a new barrier, able to take those first steps, learn the first words, giggle and understand their growing abilities; that’s immeasurable. And then there are seniors with their limitations, able to share the pleasures of one more generation. Now multiply these individual moments of joy by the hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities and the millions of older members of our communities. That’s how we need to measure our investment of millions and billions .
“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Last speech of Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, 1977 12•
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
H. Barry Waldman, DDS, MPH, PhD – Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of General Dentistry at Stony Brook University, NY; E-mail: email@example.com
Steven P. Perlman, DDS, MScD, DHL (Hon) is Global Clinical Director, Special Olympics, Special Smiles and Clinical Professor of Pediatric Dentistry, The Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Private pediatric dentistry practice – Lynn MA.
Matthew Cooke, DDS, MD, MPH is Associate Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology & Pediatric Dentistry University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Pittsburgh PA; Assistant Clinical Professor, Departments of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Pediatric Dentistry Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Richmond, VA.
1. Killingly TMB. Don’t Ask Taxpayers To Support Disabled Children. The Hartford Courant. March 11, 2000. Web site: http://articles.courant.com/2000- 03-11/news/0003110050_1_parents-special-needs-taxpayers Accessed August 12, 2015.
2. Glick-Vernon SR. Judge society on how it treats the disabled. The Hartford Courant. March 18, 2000. Web site: http://articles.courant.com/2000-03-18/news/0003200702_1_disabled-child-disabledbabies-disabled-members Accessed August 12, 2015.
3. Cornell University. Disability statistics. Web site: http://www.disabilitystatistics.org/reports/acs.cfm? statistic=1 Accessed August 12, 2015.
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associated with disability. Public Health Reports, 2010;125(1):44-51.
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8. Parrish T, Harr J, Wolman J, et al. State Special Education Finance Systems, 1999-2000 Part II:
Special Education Revenues and Expenditures. March 2004. Web site: http://www.csef-air.org/publications/
csef/state/statepart2.pdf Accessed August 13, 2015.
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for Students with Disabilities, 1996;6(1):121-138.
10. Famous scientists and inventors with disabilities. Web site: http://www.reddisability.org/famousdisabled/DisFamScience.htm Accessed August 13, 2015.
11. Famous people with disabilities. Web site: http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/article_0060.shtml Accessed August 13, 2015.
12. Askville by Amazon. Web site: http://askville.amazon.com/measure-civilization-treats-weakestmembers-accurate-quote/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=4718239 Accessed August 13, 2015.