Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Autism Therapy Must Be Funded

Fredericton's Daily Gleaner has long been supportive of the cause of autism in New Brunswick and once again it has stepped up to the plate with an editorial calling on the Liberal government of Shawn Graham to fund autism therapy past the current 5 year age cut off and into the school years. Not just because Premier Shawn Graham promised to train 100 TA's and Resource teachers a year at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program but also because it is a good investment which will defray the costs to society of additional care for autistic children as they age and costs incurred by the stresses leading to marital breakdown. The Gleaner has offered sound advice. Hopefully, Premier Shawn Graham will heed such advice and honor the commitment he made as part of his campaign to become Premier.

Autism therapy must be funded

Published Wednesday April 25th, 2007
Appeared on page B7

Parents of autistic children are in a race against time. It’s a race in which they are heavily handicapped with too many burdens to carry, too much worry on their shoulders and far too many roles to fulfill.

They must be not just mother, father and all the chauffeuring, chefing, cleaning, dressing and boo boo-kissing that entails but also teacher, social co-ordinator, mentor and the many other functions needed to help their autistic child cope.

And as the province has failed to fulfill its promise of funding training for support workers for autistic children, parents must also play the part of fundraiser to pay for the special treatment that can literally change an autistic child’s life.

The Liberal government promised to pay for autism intervention training for 100 teacher’s assistants and resource teachers a year for four years. That would help autistic children have a chance at working with a specially trained teacher’s assistant.

Currently, applied behavioural analysis intervention therapy is the most popular and successful therapy for autistic children. It’s a program of intense therapy which, when started early on, can help autistic children reach their full potential.

The government funds the therapy for pre-school age children, but once the child enters kindergarten, the funding stops.

And then there is nothing.

So desperate parents struggle to pay for the therapy which can cost more than $50,000 a year. And that means holding benefit dances and any other fund-raising event they can think of on top of all their other tasks.

Election promises aside, funding this therapy is a good investment. Autistic children who grows up to be severely autistic adults not only have a low quality of life, they cost the system more money. Helping autistic children reach their full potential, translates to autistic adults who will be better able to care for themselves.

Doing whatever is necessary to support parents of autistic children is also a good investment. When parents are exhausted and stretched to their limit, the whole family suffers. Marriages break down, other children come off the rails, some drop out of school. There’s a whole slew of expensive problems that go with family breakdown.

Among the Liberal government’s election promises was a little one about self-sufficiency, one that’s getting all the attention. But if we are not all on the road to self-sufficiency — and that includes autistic children — none of us will get there.


Angela Mouzakitis, BCBA said...

I've sat in meetings with parents and professionals discussing the future of a child, where therapist have told parents "but he is only seven...we have time on our side." Time is never on our side. I heard a child with autism compared to a house on fire, and it is the comparison that appears to make the most impact when I'm speaking with school districts regarding services they are prepared to provide. This child IS on fire, and we need to act fast. I was struck by the first paragraph and wanted to share in the frustration regarding the urgency.

Angela Mouzakitis, BCBA said...

This race against time is imperative. I have heard the comparison to a "house on fire", and we are racing against the damage that the fire can do. I have sat at meetings with parents and professionals (as a parent support) and have been told by districts "but he is only seven...we have so much time, time is on our side..." Time is not on our side. We are racing against time. Every moment is precious and every resource that we can access needs to be taken advantage of. I just wanted to share the frustration with educating administration about the urgency.