September 17, 2009

B.C. cuts funds for autism treatment program

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B.C. Minister of Children and Families Mary Polak is cutting funding for an early intervention program for autistic children across seven B.C. communities, reports Lindsay Kines of the Times Colonist. The intensive program focused on 70 preschool children who received more one-on-one attention than their slightly older counterparts, a situation Polak said was unfair to the other 800 children under age six with autism in the province.
“We were not seeing any appreciable improvement in the outcomes for those kids,” Polak says.

The preschool children each receive $70,000 per year in treatment funds, which Polak is slashing to $20,000 per child to put them on par with the other children. The plan also cuts 39 jobs from the Queen Alexandra Centre where the intensive program takes place.

Nicole Strong, whose son Isaac has autism, says he benefitted immensely from the intensive program. She disagreed with Polak’s statement that the extra $50,000 in treatment per year didn’t make a difference.

“For them to say that there would be no appreciable difference when you actually get 13 hours more of therapy [a week] is ridiculous,” Strong says.

Strong also says children who go through the intensive program are much more able to deal with school and stressful situations than those who haven’t.

2 thoughts on “B.C. cuts funds for autism treatment program

  1. You know we are living in dark days indeed when the government begins dismantling the therapy funding for helpless children. I suppose it is a smart move by the government as these children can’t voice their concern over the negative impact this will have on their future and huge increase in cost it will later have to society.

    Is this the type of government we voted for?

    Approximately one in a 150 boys is diagnosed with Autism and this continues to rise at an increasing rate.

    In a recent 50 million dollar Lotto 6/49 jackpot, the odds were one in 13,983,816. Hundreds of thousands of parents bet on this jackpot. Your odds are considerably better with an Autism diagnosis.

    Save your lottery money, you will need it if your child is diagnosed.

    The government of British Columbia offers these families $20,000/year to cover therapy up to the age of six. Therapy costs approximately $80,000/year. This therapy is scientifically proven to be effective and is well documented. This means families who have a child who has been diagnosed with Autism have to find $60,000 from somewhere. This is often debt.

    Most of these parents divorce. Selling the family house to fund therapy is common. The sale of most items of value to generate funds for therapy is a given. A life of guilt and depression is to be expected. Alienation from friends and family will occur.

    Their life as they knew it is now over.

    If they are lucky their child won’t bolt and get lost for days. If they’re lucky their child will learn to refrain from self damaging behavior. If they’re lucky, their child will learn not to throw up after eating. If they’re lucky, their child will learn to speak a few words. If they’re lucky their child will not be teased, ridiculed, beaten up and harassed on a daily basis at school. If they’re lucky their child will graduate from high school.

    Most won’t be that lucky.

    Last week, without any consultation or warning, the Mary Polak (Minister of Family and Children Development) pulled the rug out from under these parents who are already enduring so much by eliminating their ability to control these funds. The government, who have consistently failed to understand the needs of these families has taken it upon itself to eliminate the option to do Direct Funding (direct from the parents to the service providers) and has instead dictated that these parents have to tow the line of mandated Invoice Funding where the government pays the service providers. This will increase overhead costs, delay the payments, reduce the quality of care and will make paying these service providers extremely difficult therefore reducing the amount of usable funds and discouraging assistance.

    The frustration in the Autism community lies in the fact that these parents, who are on the brink of financial collapse, already spent precious funds to fight the government in the courts a few years ago to protect their children and won the Auton lawsuit (Auton vs BC Gov). The government at that time did finally put Direct Individualized Funding into place. This allowed parents to fund their child’s ABA programs and since that time parents have built a strong, quality base of ABA service providers that is making a real difference to these children. The ABA program takes a child who would otherwise be lifelong financial burden on the society and in many cases makes him/her self sufficient.

    In these financial times are we prepared to sacrifice the children? Do we want to go down this low moral road? Are we prepared to make the small amount of funds these parents receive that much less and that much more difficult to put into action? Why is the government spending more tax money just to make it difficult for these parents?

    For all that is good and decent, please spare the children.