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Proactive Parents Face Autism Care Shortage in Ontario

April 13, 2014

Ontarians are pleased with the development of autism therapies but dissatisfied with the scarcity of treatment services available.

The Star reports that, “Parents spoke of confusion trying to navigate a convoluted system, lack of transparency about wait lists and how agencies make decisions about who is eligible for treatment and how long they get it.” Parents frequently feel “…panicked, overwhelmed and distrustful, according to the 21-page report, prepared for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services by consulting firm Strategic Science Inc. of Toronto.”

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To put it plainly, there are not enough autism specialists and advocacy groups to provide services for children with these special needs. This is cause for concern. But regardless of the gaps, shortages, and limits, parents of children with autism need to maintain a “can-do” attitude.

The Star’s Autism Project documents, “…a chronic shortage of services for toddlers, school-age kids, teens and young adults.” Rates of occurrence on the autism spectrum have risen to 1 in 88 children. Additionally, The Star quotes parents as getting in debt (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars) due to hiring private instructor-therapists to work with their children. This stressing the point that Ontario’s autism services model needs to change.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to be denied services or told that there is a three year waitlist for services. This is a critical time because early-intervention during a child’s window of neuroplasticity shows the greatest benefit in the long run. At this moment, parents and caregivers need to fully commit to raising their children and help them cope with special needs. For instance, many mothers have opted not to return to the workforce after having one or two children, electing instead to stay in the home with their children and learn how to provide autism therapy.

At this point, the best alternative may be for parents themselves to take intensive IBI/ABA courses at a local college for behavioural therapies and interventions for children with autism. Consider this, the new graduate can begin working with his or her child and become certified to help other children as well. This plan ensures that:

• The graduate’s child receives the best therapy available.
• Parents of children with autism can save money on autism therapy.
• A stay-at-home parent can begin offering these services to other families (perhaps by opening a daycare at home).
• It will ease the shortage of Ontario’s trained IBI/ABA professionals.
• It ensures Ontario continues to have a strong grassroots network of therapists and policy advocates for children on the autism spectrum.

Kids have been challenging their parents’ expectations of themselves since the dawn of time; no matter how advanced and civilized our society becomes, grappling with the reality of a child’s issues in the home calls for creative problem-solving.

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