Children face lengthy waits for autism treatment
Finding and paying for childcare is a constant struggle for many young families, but those with autistic children have an added burden.
And while some free resources are available, eligible families say the wait times are far too long, leading to an overwhelming experience.
Jadie Beaudin is the mother of Kaleb, a Cambridge five-year-old with autism. After undergoing tests in Mississauga, the Beaudins were told Kaleb was eligible for intense behaviour intervention (IBI) therapy – but with only 30 IBI spaces locally, Kaleb had to go on a wait list.
There are 44 children currently on the wait list for KidsAbility, which looks after children in Waterloo Region and Wellington County, with an average wait time of two years. Even though Kaleb is finally starting with KidsAbility in January, Jadie questions whether he should have received treatment even earlier.
“Anything you read about autism, you read early intervention is the key,” she says. “You just feel like you’re wasting time and you don’t know what to do.”
Private therapy is also available, but with costs running as high as $60,000 per year, it’s out of the reach of the Beaudins and most other families.
“We have good jobs and it’s not enough,” says Jadie. “The worst part is knowing there’s treatment out there, and you can’t have it.”
Officials with Autism Ontario agree. Amanda Bell, the president of the group’s Waterloo chapter says IBI treatment is only effective at a minimum of 20 hours per week.
“If you multiply that by $75, $150, $200 an hour, that’s a lot of money for parents to be paying out of pocket,” she says.
Two years ago, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten pledged an extra $25 million annually to help families dealing with autism.
She also promised to form a committee of autism experts by the end of 2011, but that committee was never formed, and as of today, all the positions remain vacant.
In an email to CTV Kitchener, Broten’s office says progress has been made toward establishing the committee and the minister remains committed to the program.
Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy, a cabinet colleague of Broten’s, says more needs to be done.
“There are still waiting lists and there is still a need for more resources,” he says.