Monday, July 28, 2008

St. Amant and the Need for a REAL National Autism Strategy

In Autism treatment attracts family CTV reports the story of two doctors, Dr. Leif Sigurdson, a reconstructive surgeon, and his wife Dr. Leanne van Amstel, a radiologist. who are moving their family from Nova Scotia to Winnipeg so that their autistic son can access Applied Behavioral Analysis treatment at the Winnipeg's St. Amant program. As described on its web site:

St. Amant is a comprehensive resource for Manitobans with a developmental disability, acquired brain injury and autism. A non-profit corporation, St. Amant offers a wide range of programming, services and care to support individuals with a developmental disability, acquired brain injury or autism and their families.

Services include a large main residence, more than 50 community sites and homes, a research centre, a school and a daycare. Among other services, St. Amant offers an effective program for children with autism and for families who care for an individual with a developmental disability at home.

The Harper Conservatives, instead of dealing with Canada's Autism Crisis, have simply staged a national "Autism Symposium". It was a bad joke, postponed initially to avoid participation by parents advocating for funded ABA treatment for their children. The Symposium was nothing more than an effort to downplay ABA through carefully selected participants and a "facilitated" (directed) discussion. The American Academy of Pediatrics Management of Children with Autism Disorders report released the week before the Symposium, exhaustively researched and professionally written, highlighted the overwhelming body of evidence in support of the effectiveness of ABA in treating autism and put to shame the bogus National Autism Symposium staged by the Harper Conservatives.

The Sigurdson/van Amstel family is not the first to move across Canada seeking effective, ABA treatment, for an autistic child. While Stephen Harper, Tony Clement and Mike Lake run away from Canada's autism crisis, many families who are informed, and able to relocate, are going where effective evidence based treatment is available for their autistic children. In the case of the Sigurdson/van Amstel family Nova Scotia loses two medical professionals they can sorely afford to lose.

Canada's National Autism Crisis is directly affecting the autistic children being deprived of effective treatment solely because of where there families live. In some cases it is also resulting in the loss of essential medical resources for local communities.


Anonymous said...

Our nation does need to fund ABA therapy for autistic children of all ages. The province of New Brunswick recognizes the need for this therapy at the preschool level, but unfortunately has deemed it enough. Once a NB child reaches kindergarten, all therapy services stop! That is not right. My son really progressed with his ABA therapy, but then I was left to fend for myself to find and fund private therapy at $400 per month. Being a single mother on an extremely limited budget, this caused an extreme financial hardship! Autism is here, it is real and it needs to be treated... therapeutically and with respect!

Unknown said...


In NB your child can still continue with ABA in the school. There have been approximately 300 TA's who have received the same training as the pre-school Autism Support Workers thru the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program and a number of Resource Teachers have received the Clinical Supervisor course from UNB-CEL. If you want to fight for an autism trained TA it would help to get all the professional support you can including anyone who has worked with your child, a pscyhologist's recommendation or pediatrician's recommendation etc in writing if you can.

Harold Doherty