Thursday, September 16, 2010

BC Government continues to fail children with autism

Hollie and Cooper
Today is the one year anniversary of a fateful decision. On Sept. 16, 2009, Mary Polak, the Minister for Children and Family Development, announced she was cutting early intensive therapy (EIBI) for children with autism.

EIBI has decades of proven research behind it. Children with autism who receive it are better able to lead fulfilling lives and become productive members of society.

Given that EIBI likely reduces the lifetime costs of supporting individuals with autism by 65%, this decision was short-sighted. This cut will end up costing us all more money in the long-term.


But it is the human toll that is most distressing. At the time of the announcement, we raised our concern that the cut would significantly harm children with autism…but we were ignored. Immediate cost-cutting was the order of the day.

And now, one year later, the avoidable harm to children with autism has become a painful reality.

Parents of children with autism in Saanich South, like Nicole Strong and Hollie Davis, tell me that children who were just beginning to speak with the help of EIBI have now become non-communicative, children that were toilet-trained are now wearing diapers again and children who were in preschools and daycares are now too disruptive to attend.

One of Gordon Campbell’s ‘great goals’ was to build the best system of support in Canada for our most vulnerable children. The heart-ache I see in Saanich South tells me that this is another broken promise. And In fact, Alberta has fewer children with autism but spends twice as much helping them.

I know how difficult it is for the government to admit they’ve made a mistake and change course, but a little humility is not too much to ask when our most vulnerable children are crying out for help.

Today I join with parents of children with autism and urge the government to restore funding to EIBI programmes. To help out or for more information, please contact bcautism@gmail.com.

Click here to read an op-ed on this issue in today's Times Colonist.

Lana, MLA Saanich South