VANCOUVER, Jan. 15, 2013 /CNW/ - British Columbians were dismayed to
learn from a CBC Go Public report this week that families with autistic
children are having to wait as long as two and a half years for crucial
speech language therapy.
Click here to read CBC's Go Public Report: "Child who doesn't speak waits 2½ years
Therapists who provide the assessments and therapy have been speaking
out for years.
Reid Johnson is President of the Health Sciences Association, the union
representing speech language therapists, autism behavioural
intervention specialists, and other highly-trained therapists whose
expertise assists special-needs children.
"Therapy programs across BC are doing the best they can, but they are
often under-resourced," he said. "As therapists, we know that study
after study has emphasized the importance of treating special-needs
kids as early as possible: the younger the child, the more capacity
they have to respond to effective treatment and therapy, and grow up to
live a full, independent life."
Therapy waiting list: Not just kids diagnosed with autism
"Kids diagnosed with autism need immediate and intensive therapy. But
it's not just children with autism who are waiting for therapy," he
said. "Thousands of children have just as much need for treatment, and
they are sitting on wait lists while their optimal window for treatment
gets smaller and smaller."
"Every time a newly diagnosed child has to be put on a wait list, it's
heartbreaking for the family and for the therapists," he said. "We know
that just in the Tri-Cities area of Metro Vancouver, there are 446
pre-school aged children who are waiting for therapy. That's just
Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody - and only looking at kids 5
years old or younger, who already have been assessed and diagnosed. How
many thousands are waiting all across BC?"
Johnson said advocates for special-needs children in BC have been
calling on the provincial government to stop cutting treatment funds
and establish adequate resources for therapy and support.
"In 2009, the BC government cut $3 million from treatment funds for
special needs kids, resulting in the elimination of one of the best
early intensive behavioural intervention programs in the country - at
Queen Alexandra Centre for Children on Vancouver Island."
Click here to review article "Provincial government eliminates autism intervention
"Children who don't receive timely therapy experience life-long
suffering. Put in financial terms, the current best estimate for
life-long supports for untreated kids with autism is $2 million per
child. A child who has had the benefit of intensive therapy will need
far fewer costly medical or mental health interventions and social
assistance later in life," he said.
"In recent years, the government has also cut funding for the
coordinating and training offices for infant development, Aboriginal
infant development, supported child development, and Aboriginal
supported child development. These are programs for the most vulnerable
children in BC," he said.
A speech language therapist from a Lower Mainland therapy program is
available to media.
SOURCE: Health Sciences Association of British Columbia
For further information:
Yukie Kurahashi 604.439.0994 (x526) / 1.800.663.2017 (x526)