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Government shutdown threatens new SWFL autism pilot program

Sara Belsole

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Government shutdown threatens new SWFL autism pilot program

CREATED Oct. 9, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. - For Debbie Umphries, being a mom can be tough.
"It's a constant stress," Umphries said.
That's because her 14-year-old son Timothy is autistic.
"We have been on the autism roller coaster for almost 13 years now and it's been quite a rough ride," Umphries said.
In 2008, Florida became the fourth state to allow insurance to cover behavioral treatments for kids with autism, like Timothy. 
The money is there, but now there's a new problem.
"What we've found is that services are lacking in Southwest Florida," Umphries said.
That's where Tammie Baker and Sharon Boyd come in. Earlier this year, the two moms, who both have autistic sons, decided to take matters into their own hands.
"We were just getting so frustrated and we just didn't see help coming from everywhere else," Baker said.
They started Parents in Action, Inc., a non-profit that helps train behavioral assistants to go into homes and work with autistic children. They filed their federal paperwork in April and have been waiting patiently. 
But then the government shut down.
"Now it's definitely not moving, and without that, you can't get grants, you can't get donations from foundations," Baker said.
So Baker and Boyd turned to the Web, setting up online fundraising. Their goal is to raise $30,000 and they hope they can get off the ground with the community's help because waiting on the Feds isn't an option.
"It's not fair to the kids, they have waited so long, to wait enough more, we can't take it, we're going to fix this," Baker said.
For more information on Parents in Action, log onto and to donate, head over to