Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Place for Conor: Karissa Donkin of the Aquinian Examines Adult Autism Resources, or Lack Thereof, in New Brunswick

Karissa Donkin, a St. Thomas University journalism student, has produced an excellent article on adult autism services in New Brunswick.  The article includes an interview with me and reports on a meeting Ms Donkin had with me and Conor at the Second Cup outlet in Kings Place, Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her article presents both the joy of Conor and the challenges his Autistic Disorder presents as Conor approaches adulthood.  

Apart from our meeting Ms Donkin obtained information from New Brunswick's prominent autism expert Paul McDonnell, Ph.D, clinical psychologist and professor emeritus (psychology) about the need for autism services.  He comments in the article about the gap in residential care services for autistic adults in New Brunswick.

Ms Donkin's article completes the picture with some significant commentary by Department of Social Development spokesman Mark Barbour:

"There is a need for more specialized services for autistic youth and adults, whose behaviours or conditions are severely impaired. 

These individuals require services and supports designed to specifically meet their high care needs.

The province wants to build an autism residential facility which would provide permanent care for severely autistic adults who can't live on their own, Barbour said."
The comments from Mr. Barbour come as a pleasant surprise to me.  I have been involved in several meetings with representatives of government departments including Social Development over the years.  While they have always listened respectfully, and asked relevant questions, they have never really indicated an intention to take any serious action, in the form of an adult autism residential facility, to address the gap in adult autism residential care in New Brunswick.  Congratulations, and thank you, to Ms Donkin for her excellent journalism in reporting this information.

I hope the province is serious about their intentions to build a permanent care adult autism facility. I hope their intentions are not sabotaged by the austerity era in which we are now enmeshed or by the failed rhetoric of the community cliche movement which assures us, contrary to all facts, that the group home system will take care of all autistic adult needs.

I also hope that politics does not enter into the location of such a facility if it is in fact established.  Fredericton is  a central location,  is where New Brunswick's autism service delivery model was born, and is where resources such as the the University of New Brunswick psychology department, UNB-CEL Autism Intervention training program and the Stan Cassidy pediatric autism tertiary care team are located,  all of which have been crucial to New Brunswick becoming a recognized model for autism service delivery. The expertise available in Fredericton will be vital to providing the training and expertise needed for an adult autism residential care facility.  The Fredericton environment is also less urbanized than Moncton or Saint John and provides ample opportunities for everyone, including autistic persons and their family members, to enjoy a natural outdoor lifestyle.

Regardless, I thank Karissa Donkin, and the Aquinian,  for some excellent, informative journalism on a subject which is very close to my heart.


Anonymous said...

I wish you the very best luck for your family. It took our family many years to get our adult daughter in an appropriate situation.

She still lives at home, and is now in a regular day program which is for life, whether she is moved to a group home setting or our last resort "an institutionalized setting".

This day program is for the most impacted individuals with autism. It appears to be going well, as she attends this day program with adults as old as in their 70s. I hope you find a similar situation in New Brunswick. Conor is very handsome, god bless.

michael said...

Whenever I see a picture of Conor, I am amazed at the resemblance I see to Phoenix. I cannot put my finger on it as he is only four, but I think its the smile on his face and in his eyes. Its like it comes from some deeper knowledge that we are not party too.

Cameron said...

Keep on it Harold we'll get it done.