In NB No Progress for Autism Residential Care Since 2005
New Brunswick parents of young autistic children enjoying the benefits of early autism intervention in our province should not be complacent. The benefits their children now receive will not always continue as their children grow older. Many will not receive educational help from assistants and teachers with quality autism specific training. Those severely affected by autism will find a total lack of residential care and treatment options as they become youths and young adults. The most severely affected will live out their days, if they are lucky, in the psychiatric hospital in northwestern New Brunswick.
My son Conor is severely affected by his Autistic Disorder and profound developmental delays. Fortunately for him his development has been assisted by the provision of UNB-CEL Autism trained education assistants and resource teachers. Unfortunately for him he is growing older and bigger and he lives in New Brunswick which has simply refused to take an intelligent, informed and honest approach to addressing the residential care and treatment needs of autistic youth and adults.
Conor is now approaching 16 and is a very solid 6 feet tall. Like many youth with autism the changes of life that accompany adolescence and adult hood have had an impact on his development. Sleep is difficult for him at times and he suffers from some seizure activity. What this means, as he grows older, and his parents grow grayer, softer and weaker is that ultimately he will need residential care and treatment on a permanent basis. Unfortunately New Brunswick has chosen to ignore the real challenges of youths and adults severely affected by autism.
A failed and non evidence based community inclusion philosophy has prevented New Brunswick from filling the gap between group homes with inadequate security and no autism expertise and the psychiatric hospital in Campbellton. The community inclusion dinosaurs, those in the NB Ombudsman's office and the NB Human Rights Commission, those that advise and direct the current government on inclusion issues, those that fought for the closing of a school for developmentally challenged children decades ago, raise the specter of that school and tell parents concerned about modern realities that we should be thankful for what we have. They solved their specific problems problem decades ago when men walked on the moon and have entrenched a simplistic faith in community inclusion cliches as solutions to all developmental challenges. Orders of Canada and Orders of New Brunswick ribbons adorn their chests and no further progress is permitted.
No serious effort to provide a modernized residential care and treatment facility for youth and adults severely affected by autism and related developmental disorders has been made since an autistic 13 year old was sent to the grounds of a New Brunswick youth "correctional" facility six years ago. PR spokespersons for whatever the department of social developmental is called today insist that the issue is being examined as they have for the past several years. But nothing is done.
Meanwhile another old horror story, the Centracare building in Saint John, remains available ... unfortunately. This building essentially housed a psychiatric care facility where persons with various mental health disorders lived without any serious treatment options beyond the usual pharmaceuticals. It's Saint John location ensured that the behavioral interventions being developed at UNB-CEL autism training in Fredericton would not be made available to any autistic residents in the facility. Saint John is, and has been, the bastion of opposition to any modernized autism interventions in New Brunswick.
The leaders of the so called community autism approach in Saint John resisted the development of NB's successful early autism intervention system. They fought against provision of autism trained education assistants and individualized learning environments for autistic students for whom the classroom is not the appropriate learning environment. One of their most prominent leaders even went on CBC radio and applauded a decision to close the Stan Cassidy autism team that provided tertiary care services to autistic children with serious challenges including very serious self injurious behaviors. Fortunately parents in other parts of New Brunswick voiced their opposition and, after a serious review, the decision to close the Stan Cassidy autism team was reversed by then Health Minister Brad Green who is now a justice of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.
Despite some success with early intervention in New Brunswick, and to a much lesser extent in education, NB has still done nothing, six years after a youth with autism was sent to a NB jail facility, to provide a centrally located, modernized autistic residential care and treatment facility for autistic youths and adults who need permanent care and treatment. Six years after the Miramichi jail incident no progress has been made, no serious planning has even begun. The dinosaurs who opposed any serious attempts to address the need for modern adult autism residential care and treatment still rule with their rigid philosophy. The same contrived "community consultations" are taking place with no outcome of value to address the adult autism care challenges.
Parents of those severely affected by autism in this province must wake up. We must act again and act loudly if we want changes to be made, if we want a place for our children to live in safety and dignity when we are old or deceased. The inclusion cliches will not help our adult children. They need reality based solutions.