Autism StrategyPublished on 3 June 2015 Your Question Period by Senator Jim Munson
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Hon. Jim Munson:
Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The question comes from our own Senate Liberal “Your Question Period” initiative. It was submitted by Kathleen O’Grady, an Ottawa-based political and media strategist, author and academic whose articles about autism have been published by many news outlets across the continent. She writes:
Autism is reaching alarming rates in Canada, yet the services to help our children are not there in most parts of the country, despite expert claims that early intervention is key. A few bright spots exist in the country, so in the community it is not uncommon to hear about families in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes uprooting their families to move to Alberta or B.C. where there are often better and more flexible autism services for their children. In other words, we have medical migrants WITHIN our country, leaving jobs, other family behind, just to get the services that they are entitled to by the Canada Health Act.
So instead of this unfair, fragmented and inadequate response to a national crisis — the autism crisis in our country — why don’t we have a national autism strategy in place?
I have a supplementary question. With all due respect to the leader, spending money and having a national vision are two different things, but I want to thank him for that response. His government has taken steps but not quite enough, as far as I’m concerned.
This is a supplementary from Ms. O’Grady. She says:
When kids with autism get the early interventions they need — speech therapy, behavioural therapy, occupational therapy — they can learn and thrive. We have the evidence to prove it. This saves governments at all levels countless thousands of dollars per child as they do better in school, adapt better in the community, and go on to lead a more integrated life in our communities.
In other words, it makes both ethical and economic sense to have flexible, integrated and comprehensive services for kids with autism all across our country — so what’s the federal government doing about it?