Re: Liberals laud autism support, June 3.
I read the article with some dismay and extreme concern and will be expressing those concerns to the Liberal party and others.
Meanwhile, I think the public should become aware of some important facts.
We have many children who have needs and for whom we should be advocating for services.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex condition that impacts normal brain development and affects a person’s social relationships, communication, interests and behaviour. Autism is a ‘complex neurodevelopmental disorder,’ as are: attention deficit hyperactive disorder, developmental co-ordination disorder, learning disabilities, speech and language disorders, intellectual disabilities and others.
Additionally, there are children with medical syndromes caused by chromosomal abnormalities with sensory impairments impacting their vision or hearing.
All these children need appropriate intervention and services.
The fight for funding for autism has been effective, and B.C. provides parents $22,000 per year for children under the age of six, and $6,000 a year from six to 19 years of age. Additionally, the Ministry of Education provides extra funding in the amount of $18,800 a year for those diagnosed with autism and some other diagnoses.
Now, the fight needs to be broadened.
At this time, one in 68 children in Canada are diagnosed with ASD, but there are up to 15 per cent of the children who have complex neurodevelopmental disorders, many with needs as great.
A recent study completed at MIT analyzed the rate of diagnosis of ASD in North America. The startling finding is that by 2025, one-half will be diagnosed with ASD if the diagnosis continues at the same rate as between 2002 and 2012.
At the same time, the numbers of children diagnosed with intellectual disability and some other complex conditions have decreased at the same rate. This might be interpreted that the diagnosis of ASD has become more acceptable, and thus it has become the diagnosis of choice because it alone is attached to direct funding and supports.
The problem with the continued pursuit of “money for autism only” is that the spectrum has become so broad it is nearly meaningless. Knowing a child is diagnosed with ASD tells you just about nothing, as the range of cognitive ability is from those who are intellectually disabled and non-verbal to those who are intellectually gifted and highly successful academically.
The provision of intervention is not based on need but on a label, so everyone who gets ASD get the same funding.
Little is asked about the capacity of the health-care budget to fund one-half of the children at the level of funding – previously at $40,000 to $60,000 per year – while the remaining children who do not obtain the ASD diagnosis get nothing. The situation is wrong!
I, for one, will continue to fight for appropriate intervention for all children – not through the health-care budget, as these children are healthy, but through Ministry of Children and Families and Ministry of Education, because these children need to be ‘taught’ not ‘treated.’
Dr. Suzanne Jacobsen, Surrey