Sunday, August 09, 2009

National Autism Strategy Fredericton Flashback October 18, 2003

The struggle for a REAL National Autism Strategy has been waged for many years across Canada.

In Fredericton, New Brunswick representatives of a group called FACE, the Family Autism Centre for Education, met shortly after being formed, with Fredericton area MP Andy Scott to begin discussions about autism and ask for his assistance in seeking a national approach to dealing with Canada's autism crisis. I had the honor of being one of those early representatives meeting with "Andy" as he has been known here in Fredericton.

On October 18, 2003, at a high profile event at the Fredericton Farmer's Market which included guest speaker and former Premier Frank McKenna, amongst others, Andy Scott dedicated himself to pushing then Prime Minister Martin to implement a federal autism program as set out in this excerpt from a Tali Folkins article in the NB Telegraph-Journal, October 20, 2003:

"Fredericton MP Andy Scott said Saturday he has been lobbying prime- minister-to-be Paul Martin for a federal program to help young children with autism. "I desperately want a national autism strategy - and let me just assure you that Paul Martin knows it," Mr. Scott told supporters at a party celebrating his 10th anniversary as an MP in Fredericton Saturday evening.

Early work by therapists with young autistic children, Mr. Scott said, can make a big difference in their capacity to lead fulfilling lives as adults - and can save money in the long run. But the costs of starting such early intervention programs are high and should be borne directly by Ottawa rather than each individual province, he said. "We have responses and therapies and so on that I genuinely believe can work," he said. "You're going to save millions of dollars over the lifetime of an autistic adult. If you can get in at the front end, you can make enormous progress.

"But it's very expensive, and there's not a lot of stuff being added to Medicare, generally - that's why we have catastrophic drug problems and other things," he said. "In the province of New Brunswick, P.E.I., or even Quebec or Ontario it's very, very expensive. The feds are going to have to step up to the plate." "

Andy was ultimately successful, with NDP MP Peter Stoffer, in getting a motion passed, during the current reign of Prime Minister Harper, which acknowledges the need for a national autism strategy but it does not begin to address the funding issues needed to ensure access to effective evidence based interventions such as ABA for autistic children regardless of where they live in Canada. Nor is anything in place to address the needs of Canada's rapidly growing autistic adult population, including the need for multi-level residential care facilities for the more severely affected by autism disorders.

The fight for a National Autism Strategy in Canada has been ongoing for several years. Here in New Brunswick it long pre-dates Andy Scott's 2003 announcement. At present we have a mediocre web site, a sham National Autism Symposium with parent activists excluded and national health bureaucrats that dole out research funding to researchers who do little or nothing to help advance our knowledge of environmental causes of autism or possible treatments. And there is not even mention of the need to flow funds to ensure that autistic persons across Canada who need decent residential care receive it regardless of which province they live in.

It has been, and will continue to be, a long struggle but we must not quit. We must keep fighting. We have to keep fighting for a REAL National Autism Strategy for autistic Canadians.

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