Monday, January 28, 2008

Autism Waiting Lists In Alberta

The disparity in funding for autism treatment in Canada has, in the past, led some families with autistic children to move to oil rich Alberta, which has substantial government funding available for autistic children. But the availability of better funding has not translated into better services in all cases as children are stuck on lengthy waiting lists awaiting assessment. In Situation critical for autistic children Nicki Thomas of Sun Media reports on the critical shortage of staff and funding threatening the futures of autistic children in Edmonton. Terri Duncan of Children's Autism Services of Edmonton indicates that there are staffing shortages everywhere in Alberta and children are waiting up to a year for assessment. That year is a critically important year lost for autistic children in need of treatment:

Duncan said if autism isn't detected and treated early on, disruptive behaviour - like hitting, kicking and biting - develop from an inability to communicate effectively.

"Those behaviours can make lives really difficult and hard to deal with," she said.

"We would be able to take a lot more children off the waiting list if we had more qualified, trained staff," Duncan said.

Many credible studies and reviews of professional literature have confirmed that early ABA intervention is critically important for achieving the best possible outcome for autistic children. Lengthy waiting lists for assessment deprive autistic children of a better future.

In New Brunswick many, including me, have thought that a medical doctor is the only professional who can diagnose autism disorders. I was informed though that Psychologists can also make the initial autism diagnosis.

New Brunswick, Alberta, or anywhere else in Canada, it would seem that an important step in addressing the autism crisis, a crisis which is very real for families of children with autism, is to take steps to educate GP's in diagnosing autism. The tools being made available now by the American Academy of Pediatrics and similar organizations should be used by all doctors and psychologists to ensure autistic children receive early ABA treatment during the important early years without time being squandered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The situation in the US is not any better. When working at the University of Michigan (home of the ADOS creator) the waiting list for an ADOS evaluation was several months long. Now at Pittsburgh the situation is similar, and not only for an ADOS, but for any basic assessment. And these are places with significant number of clinicians trained and certified to do the ADOS. I assume the waiting lists in more rural areas is probably worse.