How bright is the Sunshine State when it comes to autism?
Weekend BBA+ class with Professor Robert Hogner
That’s the question students in the Business in Society class, part of their BBA+ Weekend program in the College of Business Administration, asked in their required community service project.
The answer: Not very.
Although the conclusion takes a mere two words, arriving at it involved months of research: heart-wrenching interviews with ten Florida families who have an autistic child, or in one instance, two of them; details on the more humane legislation in a sampling of other states—Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and Tennessee; a summary of Federal provisions; and an overview of the impact and response across the globe based on information gathered on ways Australia, Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom support families facing the challenge of raising autistic children.
Project succeeds through teamwork and communication.
Each group of students in BBA+ programs engages in a community service project, part of the college’s commitment to creating business leaders with social consciences. This marks the first project to move into the arena of policy making, but not the first to deal with autism.
“I suggested that the class could develop a public-policy proposal in an area where, as a community, we are obviously failing each other.”
—Robert Hogner, associate professor, Department of Management and International Business, coordinator of the college’s Civic Engagement Initiative, and Business in Society instructor
“A previous group focused on autism when a classmate whose son has the disability proposed a project to raise nearly $20,000 to buy specially outfitted computers for Project Thrive, the Infant & Toddler Stimulation Program of ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens of South Florida),” said Robert Hogner, associate professor, Department of Management and International Business, coordinator of the college’s Civic Engagement Initiative, and Business in Society instructor. “‘Spark for ARC’ sensitized many of us to the situation families with an autistic child face. This semester, when the subject of autism came up again, I suggested that the class could develop a public-policy proposal in an area where, as a community, we are obviously failing each other.”
The 23 students broke into four teams—interviews, statistics, domestic laws, and foreign laws and statistics—with team leaders in close communication with Carlos Bustamante, network operations administrator, Vista Health Plans, whom the group delegated as project coordinator. It was Bustamante’s description of his autistic nephew, and the financial and emotional struggles faced by his sister, that got the class interested in the subject.
Report takes detailed look at hard—and sobering—facts.
Beyond the narratives about the difficulties faced by the families, the forty-page report the class produced includes charts and tables that distill the wide range of information they assembled. For example, they explored the economic impact that short-term legislative neglect will have in the long run as parents exit the workforce to care for the children, or as society fails to give their children the necessary support to enable them to live independently. The students examined insurance companies: what they cover and, more significantly, what they don’t. And, they looked at trends to see if autism is on the rise.
In addition to interviewing families, the class invited two mothers of autistic children to visit—one who works and one who doesn’t—to describe the pressures and conflicts each choice creates. Also, class member Karen Smester, benefit eligibility analyst, ADP TotalSource, Inc., designed a shirt for the group carrying the powerful message, “We speak for autism.”
This experiment in a different kind of community service project enabled the students to use their business skills to explore the subject thoroughly and come up with workable solutions. It won’t stop there.
“We will deliver our proposal—which outlines better insurance coverage and bills for autism awareness—to members of the Florida legislature.”
—Carlos Bustamante, network operations administrator for Vista Health Plans, project coordinator
“We will deliver our proposal—which outlines better insurance coverage and bills for autism awareness—to members of the Florida legislature,” Bustamante said.
To view the class’s report, visit http://business.fiu.edu/pdf/AUTISM_REPORT.pdf.