MEDIA ADVISORY - January 31, 2011: Parents of children with autism mark a sad anniversary

VICTORIA, Jan. 30 /CNW/ - On January 31, 2011, parents of children with autism will mark a sad anniversary. January 31, 2010 was the last day of the government's Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) programs for children with autism in BC. Prior to Minister Polak's decision to cut this successful program, 70 children in BC were receiving life transforming therapy each year. Today, the program is gone. Neither science, amazing results in children's lives, pleas from parents, months of protests, or tax savings from such programs in other jurisdictions changed government's mind.

Last year, parents stood in the cold and rain on the steps of the B.C. Legislature holding a candlelight vigil. They were joined by family and friends. They stood alongside MLAs who had worked hard to keep the program alive. They spoke quietly with dedicated therapists who had done so much for their children, who were now without jobs. Anyone with 11 minutes to spare can view that vigil. Parents' emotional statements on the impact this program had on the lives of their children are past the half way mark -

Today, parent Hollie Davis says, "We are extremely fortunate our therapist stayed in this line of work. Our son has continued to make progress through our therapist's amazing efforts, but they are fighting an uphill battle. Therapy must be done at home rather than at his old center. Our son has lost the benefit of socializing with his peers. Autism is a social disorder, and this is a real loss. We are really seeing this now that he has entered school."

Chris McIntosh, an adult with Asperger's Syndrome, said, "Arts programs have had $7 million dollars of funding restored under a new Minister. This is good news. The arts are a critical part of a healthy society. Liberal leadership candidates say slashing gaming grants to thousands of charities and non-profit groups must be reversed. This is extremely heartening to hear. Charities leverage scarce dollars to provide valuable services far beyond the ability to buy these services in any other manner. But when will it be the turn of children with autism? When will a specific commitment be made to them?"

Maurine Karagianis, NDP Critic for Children and Family Development and Child Care, stated, "Despite the MCFD Minister's assurances last year, services for children with autism are still inadequate. Parents are left waiting so long for funding it is threatening their ability to hire therapists, and there are six to nine month wait lists for initial evaluations. By all counts this government is failing families and children with autism."

Parent Cher Sherwood recalls, "Having two children on the spectrum, it was devastating when the EIBI program was cut. I saw the life-giving changes in my 5 year old son, and what my younger son would go without. I saw what children on the waiting list would never get, and what children new to this program had ripped from them."

Marriages have broken up over the last year. Children have been asked not to attend preschool where they were doing well. FAIR is saddened that future children will not get the benefits of early intensive therapy. This will lessen their chances of successfully transitioning into elementary, middle and high schools, colleges, and into the job market. Divorce, joblessness and suicide rates are much higher among those on the autism spectrum. Early intensive therapy increases the chances of those on the spectrum living meaningful and productive lives as adults.

SOURCE Fighting Autism Intervention Reductions (FAIR)

For further information:

and to find out how you can help:

Chris McIntosh                        Cell: 250-588-3061,
Hollie Davis     Cell: 250-882-6450

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