Friday, September 28, 2007

Autism: A Medical Condition

An autism conference featuring doctors and researchers organized by Autism Canada and featuring Dr. Martha Herbert, Dr. Derrick MacFabe and Dr. Wendy Edwards will take place this Saturday at the University of Ottawa. As the title indicates the focus will be on autism as a medical condition. Gord McDougall at 580 CFRA has commented that "governments have been reluctant to tie autism to health issues, because that would commit them to spending money from the already stretched health envelope." Mr. McDougall's comment is absolutely right.

8 years ago the lead Minister on autism issues being examined by a government of New Brunswick InterDepartmental Committee on Autism Services was the Health Minister. When funding for autism specific services was first announced it was by the Health Minister. Then the programs and leadership on the autism portfolio were transferred to the Department of Family and Community Services. The Province of New Brunswick, like other governments, did not want to acknowledge that autism interventions, particularly Applied Behaviour Analysis sought by so many parents of autistic children, were health care treatments. Autism interventions were characterized as family services to avoid having them characterized as health care treatments and reduce the possibility that a court might order them to be funded under Canada's medicare scheme. As it turned out they needn't have worried. The Auton decision was such that, medical treatment or not, Provinces would not be obligated to fund them under Medicare.

The conference this weekend will focus on autism as a medical condition, biomedical treatments , " the shift in autism paradigm to a whole-body systems approach" and current research.
The Autism Canada web site sets out the full particulars, invites registration on their web site and identifies their target audience as parents, agencies, school personnel, medical professionals, basic research scientists and others dedicated to improving the quality of life for those with ASD.

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