The picture above is from Conor's 2nd Birthday on February 2, 1998. The next day we received his autism disorder diagnosis, described initially as Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, six months after various tests and six months after requesting medical attention because we did not understand his lack of development and we were concerned. Shortly thereafter as his deficits became more obvious and pronounced the diagnois was changed to Autistic Disorder now part of the DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder. An age 2 diagnosis was rare in those days.
Conor at 3. Over the first year, post autism diagnosis, we had attended at the very limited information sessions provided to families with autistic children by the Province of New Brunswick. We had also heard much rhetoric about just accepting your child as he is, accepting his autism, be happy. Then I attended a parents group meeting (in the pre government funded Autism Community centre days) At the meeting I found myself surprised to be lectured directly and sternly, by Dawn Bowie, the mother of an autistic child who also happened to be a registered nurse). From those meetings and connections with other concerned parents in Moncton, Miramichi, Oromocto, Fredericton, and a Saint John family (Heather and Don Chamberlain) began a parent advocacy movement that resulted in an April 1, 2003 announcement of funding for unspecified autism services by then Health Minister Elvy Robichaud. By the end of the Lord government's term the UNB-CEL autism program had been established with early intervention centres. Autism training began for teacher aides and resource teachers and under the Graham government more were trained. An ill considered decision to close the Stan Cassidy tertiary care team who worked with autistic children under the age of 16 was reversed ... again as a result of advocacy led by parents.
Conor, still our happy boy, is now 18 and will require decent adult autism care
for the rest of his life once his parents grow old and pass on.
I am asking in this post for all families with autistic children and adults to consider voting tomorrow for the NDP. I make this request in order to encourage you to vote for MLA's in the legislature who are committed to advocating for a badly needed adult autism care facility. Beginning in 1999 parents advocated with some success for early autism intervention and autism trained teacher aides and resource teachers. Progress in adult autism care has been virtually non existent with autistic adults shipped out of province in some cases, to the Regional Psychiatric Hospital in Campbellton and some have resided for periods of time at least on general hospital wards.
The fight for adult autism care in NB will not become any easier with the election of one of the 2 parties, Red or Blue, that have governed NB during my entire life and during the last 15 years of autism advocacy. But at least if some NDP voices are elected, unlike the Blues and Reds, we will have voices from a party that has publicly committed in its election platform to an adult autism facility.
If you are voting tomorrow, I respectfully ask you to please consider voting NDP.