Liberals demand more action on autism in children

James McLeod
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After a few minutes of debating with the Liberals during question period, Health Minister Susan Sullivan recited more statistics about autism treatment for children.

“Statistics don’t diagnose kids,” Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce shouted at her.

Sullivan kept describing what the government is doing to deal with autism in children, and the Liberals kept insisting that whatever it is, it’s not working.

“In November 2013, there were 379 children on a wait list to be diagnosed with autism at the Janeway. Eastern Health said last week that the wait list is so long because there is too little staff and physician resources to meet the need,” Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said. “Why haven’t the sufficient resources been provided by government to deal with these long wait lists?”

Sullivan said that a lot has, in fact, been done.

“He’s right that the numbers of children who are presenting with autism are growing,” she said. “So we’re working to meet those needs, and that is precisely why we have a 20 per cent increase in the number of physiotherapy positions, that we have a 30 per cent increase in the number of occupational therapy position, that we have a 29 per cent increase in the number of speech language pathology positions and that we have a 14 per cent increase in the number of audiologist positions, Mr. Speaker.”

Sullivan said the government is spending more than $10 million per year on autism services, and it is talking to Eastern Health about ways to reduce the wait lists.

“The member opposite makes it sound as if we have been standing still and doing nothing, and yet I have given statistic after statistic, and I’ve talked about the differences that have been made,” she said.

But Parsons told The Telegram the bottom line is that children still have to wait years for an autism diagnosis, and then even more time to get treatment.

“It takes almost two years to see a speech language pathologist in some parts of this province. Two years. Can you imagine telling a parent with a son with a broken leg, ‘Go home and take care of him and bring him back in two years,’” he said.

Parsons is the father of a young child, and he said that in those early years, treatment and support is more important than ever.

“Just the changes I see in my child on a week-to-week basis while I’m gone down here, it’s amazing. Those really are the development formative years,” he said. “So if we’re letting them go three and four years and they’re not getting the treatment and the help they need, it’s just not a good situation.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Janeway

Geographic location: Eastern Health

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