CONTRIBUTION · 15th September 2010
A year ago, September 16th, 2009, Minister Polak started cutting critical intensive therapy for children with autism in BC. The results for many have been devastating.
Autism is a neurological disorder. It affects the brain. It is a spectrum disorder. Those of us with it can have a wide range of both limitations and abilities. Typically we have debilitating difficulties with social relationships, which affects every aspect of our lives from childhood through our adult lives.
Many of us have good skills and abilities we are unable to put to use to generate a liveable income or to contribute to society. Many of us cannot get or hold jobs we are qualified for, due to our difficulties in social settings. This contributes to loneliness, depression and suicide.
I and others have been advocating government to fund intensive therapy for all children with autism, using any Established Treatment, as outlined in the National Autism Center’s National Standards Report.
Here are reasons why this is important to you.
10. Increase business competitiveness - We on the autism spectrum tend to form patterns quickly and early, which are hard to change. We tend to focus on things for long periods of time. We can work quickly and accurately for long hours. We can pay great attention to detail. Properly channelled these are assets to any employer or business. Channelling begins with early intensive therapy.
9. Decrease economic costs - If we form inappropriate patterns of behaviour, much suffering can result. Patterns of arguing, difficulty with change, and disruptive behaviour can take time, energy and resources to deal with. In extreme cases, we may form patterns of criminal behaviour that are hard to change. Violent crime or white collar crime costing millions can result.
8. Decrease costs as adults - New research in the UK estimates autism cost Britons 27 Billion Euros (40 Billion dollars) in health and social care provision, lost employment and family expenses. Children cost the system 2.7 billion. Adults cost 25 billion.
7. Protect your health and social services - On average it costs $3.2 million per child on the spectrum in services over our lifetime. These costs are reduced by 65% with early intensive therapy. With an estimated 900 children with autism in BC, ineffective therapy could lead to cost pressures of $2 billion.
6. The incidence of autism is rising - In the US, current estimates are that 1 in 91 children have autism. In the UK, studies from Cambridge estimate around 1 in 70 children are on the autism spectrum.
5. Protect your children’s education - Children receiving intensive therapy were entering preschool, kindergarten and the school system without aides. Some have regressed to the point they are being asked not to attend. Schools are experiencing their own cuts to special needs programs. This will affect the quality of everyone’s education.
4. Help families you know - You likely know a family affected by autism. You may not know them well. It’s hard for parents to socialize with the constant pressures of caring for children on the spectrum. If parents can get away, it will likely not be as a couple. One parent will have to stay home with the children. Finding a caregiver for children with autism is not easy. If one is found, the financial strain autism brings will make it hard to afford childcare. There is joy, but there is also heartache raising a child on the spectrum.
3. The affected family you know can’t do it alone - Professional expertise is needed to plan therapy. Training and experience are needed to deliver it effectively. Families take over on a 7 x 24 basis when professionals leave. They earn a living. They advocate daily, in many settings, for the services, care and understanding their children need and deserve.
2. There is an affordable solution - Based on experience in several US states, our government could fund intensive therapy for all children with autism for an extra $15 million.
Our government believes we can afford to give $2 billion to corporations through the HST. It is not credible to claim we cannot afford $15 million for children with autism, or to fund services for all special needs children.
1. It is right - Mahatma Ghandi said “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Is BC the greatest place on earth by this measure? We can be. Write your MLA. Join us at bcautism,,,gmail.com.
Chris McIntosh is an adult with Aspergers. He knows the challenges children on the spectrum will face as they grow up.