I am the father of a 13 year old boy with Autistic Disorder, assessed with profound developmental delays living in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I have addressed this email correspondence to Mr Ignatieff and Mr Layton as the leaders of the two parties, Liberal and NDP, that have recognized the need for a real National Autism Strategy. I have also copied some of the members of both parties in the House, and Senator Munson, who have made outstanding individual efforts on behalf of autistic children and adults in Canada and who have fought for a real National Autism Strategy.
The motion by Mr. Stoffer and our former Fredericton MP Andy Scott achieved recognition by the House of Commons of the need for a National Autism Strategy. Unfortunately the private members bill brought by Mr. Shawn Murphy from PEI which would have done so much to ensure that autistic children across Canada have real access to evidence based autism interventions was defeated notwithstanding the solid support demonstrated by both of your parties. I humbly ask that both the Liberal and NDP parties not give up on autistic children and adults and continue the fight for a real National Autism Strategy one that would see a federal government commitment to funding evidence based autism interventions and decent residential care for all Canadians with Autism Spectrum Disorders regardless of their province of residence.
Canadians have moved from province to province seeking appropriate help, particularly Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), for their children. Gains have been made by provincial action across Canada but there are huge gaps in the services available. As a New Brunswicker I am proud of what our province has done with relatively limited resources to help autistic children but much more needs to be done here, particularly for autistic youths and adults in need of decent residential care. Even a family with two medical professionals left Nova Scotia to seek ABA help for their autistic child in Manitoba. In Ontario, where I visited in the spring of 2008 as part of a national autism advocacy tour organized by our good friends from FEAT BC, more autistic children are languishing on waiting lists than are actually receiving treatment.
I remind you of the well informed comments of Ms Dhalla when she spoke on behalf of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, on October 27, 2006, in support of the Scott-Stoffer motion calling for a National Autism Strategy:
"We must make sure that regardless of where one lives in Canada, whether it is on the west coast, the east coast or in the Northwest Territories, all children who are affected by autism actually have the opportunity to receive the treatment they need throughout their lives until the age of 18.
I am sure this national strategy is going to ensure that we have the proper investment to do further research into whether there are other treatment options available and into how this type of condition can be prevented. We must invest in a comprehensive strategy to address this very complex disorder. (1420)
As I have mentioned, we know the cost is upwards of $70,000 per year, but we have to ensure we give the opportunity to these families so their children can obtain treatment and provide them with the quality of life they need. These families should be able to do this without having to mortgage their homes, or sell their cars, or go through those financial hardships. Many families that have been affected by autism simply cannot afford this treatment.?"
I ask that both the Liberal and NDP parties keep the need for a real National Autism Strategy in mind as you go forward and work toward a strategy which sees Canada invest in autistic children and adults regardless of their province or territory of residence. Canada is more than a place where one's health, one's quality of life depends entirely on jurisdictional boundaries. Our national health care scheme generally, which results in longer life expectancy and greater infant survival rates than that of our good neighbours to the south, is a testament to that fact.
Please do your best to ensure the enactment of a REAL National Autism Strategy for all autistic Canadians.
Harold L Doherty
Fredericton, New Brunswick