Wednesday, July 30, 2008

MFEAT Welcomes Nova Scotia Family Forced to Relocate to Manitoba to Access Pre-School Autism Treatment Program



28 July 2008

MFEAT welcomes to Manitoba Dr. Leif Sigurdson and his wife Dr. Leanne
van Amstel, parents of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and
medical migrants from Nova Scotia. As reported by CTV News last Sunday
the family made the drastic decision to leave their careers in Halifax
to access treatment for their three-year-old son, who was diagnosed
with ASD a year ago. Their son will receive 35 hours of therapy per
week in St. Amant's Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program. It is
unfortunate the family felt forced to relocate for sake of their
child, but as Manitoba residents they will finally have access to the
treatment their child needs to develop, while the province also gains
two highly specialized medical professionals.

The disruption in the lives of this new Manitoba family is the reality
facing many families caring for a child with ASD across Canada. While
ASD is a serious neurologic condition of unknown cause, decades of
studies have demonstrated that 25-35 hours of ABA per week
significantly improves the cognitive and communicative function of
children receiving it. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in its 2007
Clinical Report on managing ASD has written, "The effectiveness of
ABA-based intervention in ASDs has been well documented through 5
decades of research ... Children who receive early intensive behavioral
treatment have been shown to make substantial, sustained gains in IQ,
language, academic performance ...".

Jamie Rogers, MFEAT's Director of Communications can relate to the
cross-country move made by the family, "When our two boys were
diagnosed with ASD in BC in 2005 we were facing a debt of $80,000 per
year to secure 35 hours of ABA per week. So we decided to move to
Winnipeg to enrol in St Amant's program. We learned of other
out-of-province families in the program who waited tens of months
without services following diagnosis or who were offered nothing at
all. We are grateful to MFEAT for fighting to get the St Amant
Pre-School ABA program in place, which has paid off enormously for our
kids. No parent of a child with another serious medical condition has
to move provinces or go bankrupt to obtain treatments that are proven
effective, so why those with ASD? There is a Senate Standing Committee
Report telling the government that families with an ASD child in this
country are in a crisis that needs a national response, but it
collects dust while our children and families endure major hardships."

Founded in 1997, MFEAT is an advocacy and support group for families
with a child, sibling, or loved one diagnosed with Autism Spectrum
Disorder - a neurological condition that affects 1 in 150 children and
has no known cure. Following years of negotiation with MFEAT, in 2002
Manitoba introduced a permanent pre-school ABA program for Manitoba
families, the only one of its kind in Canada. MFEAT successfully
convinced the Manitoba Government to implement a school-age ABA
program, which was announced in June.

Media enquiries please contact:
Kevin Augustine, President MFEAT: 204-444-4169

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