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Autistic kids need services, not bricks: parents

“They are throwing money out the door for bricks and mortar at the same time they are cutting funds for direct service for kids with autism,” an angry Dawn Steele told the Tyee on September 30.

Steele, a founding member of Moms on the Move, an informal group of parents and professionals concerned about children on the autism spectrum, was responding to news that the provincial government is still “notionally” committed to putting $20M into the creation of a new autism centre in Vancouver.

“That was a throne speech commitment and we’re going to honor it,” Coleman told Public Eye Online. None of the money “notionally” committed to this capital project, Coleman said, would be re-directed to restore the five million dollars in funding for intensive early intervention autism treatment programs recently cancelled by his ministry.

“The centre would be a nice resource,” Steele told the Tyee, “but what people really want is therapy for their kids, near to home, day-in and day-out. There is such a desperate need for expanding access to therapy.”

Moms on the Move conducted an on line poll of parents and service providers last year, Steele said, and well over 90 per cent of the more than 500 respondents said they strongly preferred that any new spending be used “…to expand severely stressed services for all ages and groups vs. For a new building.”

Steele said a Vancouver-based centre, which would be “an empty shell with no therapy or services provided,” was a bad investment when compared with the proven impacts of intensive early intervention for children with autism as well as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other conditions that respond well to intensive therapy.

“If Premier Campbell can afford $20 million for 'bricks and mortar' that won’t provide a single hour of treatment to our kids, MOMS believes he can afford to save existing autism programs that deliver actual, life-changing treatment. Further, MOMS urges the Premier to immediately commit a further $20 million to start offering equivalent services to thousands of BC children with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, FASD, Acquired Brain Injury and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. All continue to be excluded from government-funded early intervention that could be equally effective and provide huge lifelong savings. Such a move could also pre-empt looming court challenges,” Steele said.

Tom Sandborn reports on health policy and labour issues for the Tyee.

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