Dad says feds need to step up to help autistic kids
Brian Rimpilainen, left, with his eight-year-old autistic son Logan share some play time Saturday at Wilmot Park. Rimpilainen is expected to travel to Ottawa today to observe as Parliament debates an autism bill
OTTAWA - A Fredericton father plans to listen carefully from a seat in the gallery at the House of Commons today as MPs debate a motion for a national strategy to help autistic children.
Brian Rimpilainen, who has an autistic son, says the federal government should take a leadership role in establishing national standards and funding a national strategy to help families of autistic children. Therapy for some autistic children can cost as much as $70,000 a year.
Rimpilainen, a 36-year-old communications lineman with the Armed Forces, said his trip to Ottawa is a concrete way to show support for Fredericton Liberal Andy Scott's four-part motion to establish a national strategy for autism spectrum disorder.
Rimpilainen's eight-year-old son Logan has mild autism that required two years of intensive therapy after he was diagnosed at age three. At $15 an hour and 40 hours a week, the cost can be enormous. But Rimpilainen said it was worth it. Logan is now in Grade 3 and doing well at school.
He also has an assigned teacher's assistant for his special needs, although the assistant still lacks the specific training for autistic children, Rimpilainen said. "When my child was diagnosed, it was up to us to find services and information. As for funding, there was no funding at the time. My child actually missed out by two years because they had not decided what to do with the funding," he said.
Currently the federal government is conducting research into autism and providing some tax relief for families of autistic children, but won't entertain a national strategy because health care is a provincial jurisdiction.
As a result, the quality of services varies across Canada. In New Brunswick, families get help until the child turns six, while in Alberta families are helped until the child turns 18.
Rimpilainen has no time for the jurisdiction argument. "There is a role that the government can play to show leadership. Certain things can be done to improve services across Canada," he said. "They can provide the leadership to form a strategy with the guidance of the provincial needs."
As a result, a neurological disorder that affects one in 166 children is subject to a patchwork of programs. "There has not been any real commitment to address the issues of providing services to the children. There has been a little bit of study and information put out, but as to providing therapy to the children and supports to the child and family, not much has been done.
"I would like to see the national strategy come into effect where all provinces would be able to receive some sort of standard toward the delivery and services that are offered across Canada." The positions the political parties took during the first hour of debate Oct. 27 on Scott's motion would see it defeated. The Liberals and the New Democrats supported it, while the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives opposed it because it intrudes into provincial jurisdiction.
Still, there have been negotiations between the Liberals and the Conservatives to see if it can be amended on the floor during debate so the governing Conservatives can back it. After the second hour of debate in the House of Commons today, there will be a vote on the motion Tuesday, Dec. 5.