‘I don’t know what else to do’: Parents of children with autism fight for therapy funding
Parents of children with autism protested outside the offices of Quebec Youth Protection Minister Lucie Charlebois on Tuesday, arguing that waitlists to get training and therapy are too long.
A dozen parents took part in the protest, including Sam Kuhn, who is in his second week of showing up for several hours each day to demonstrate.
“I don’t know what else to do,” said Kuhn. “I can’t afford therapy for my child. I’m at an end.”
Kuhn says he doesn’t know how else to get help for his daughter Charlotte, The seven-year-old girl has autism and he has long struggled to get the government to speed up the way it diagnoses and provides treatment for the condition.
“I can’t afford therapy for my child so I’m at an end. I don’t know what to do. I know that Charlotte would prosper, would do wonderfully, with therapy and so I have to do everything as a father that I can do to get my child the help that she needs,” said Kuhn.
In 2016, he told CTV that his daughter had become a low priority for behavioural and speech therapy because she had entered kindergarten.
Following a complaint to the ombudspeople at both the Intellectual Deficiency Readaptation Centre (CRDIQ) and the Western Montreal Readaptation Centre (CROM), last year Charlotte received three months of occupational therapy that Kuhn described as “miraculous.”
But now that she has turned seven, Kuhn said his daughter has been taken off the list for government-funded speech therapy.
Other parents at the protest say they’ve experienced similar frustrations.
“My daughter is ten and she has never received any speech therapy and she can’t speak,” said mother Reetta Hasanen.
Hasanen says the government hasn’t provided a fraction of the care her child, who is severely disabled, needs.
“I can’t believe that this city and province are letting our most vulnerable kids and adults down like this,” she said.
Also standing outside Charlebois’s office Tuesday were members of parents’ group Autism Montreal.
“The reality is that the funding that is so minute that it can’t address the needs of everybody,” said Electra Dalamagas, of Autism Montreal. The group believes older children are missing out on the government’s action plan.
“They’re trying to get rid of clients, get rid of individuals so to give services to younger children. It shouldn’t be one at the expense of the other. These are people who will need services their entire life span,” she said.
Charlebois addressed the parents’ concerns Tuesday, saying that children were assessed according to their age and their needs.
“I know that we’re doing better,” she said. “Is it improved all the way? I don’t think so.”
Kuhn said he will continue to protest until someone hears him.