By Kevin Woodhouse
“Even at a time of budget constraints, we need to invest in these children and their families,” said Carole Mercier.
The CROM (West Montreal Preadaptation Centre) Parent’s Committee President was referring to the now 700 children and young adults on a waiting list that currently averages two years for treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Mercier told The Suburban that early intervention is key to success in later life. “At the pre-kindergarten level (ages three to five), when more intervention is done at that level, less support is needed in later years.”
Recently, CROM released a press release praising the appointments of Gaetan Barrette as Health Minister and Minister Delegate to Rehabilitation, Youth Protection and Public Health, Lucie Charlebois while seeking the $12.2 million requested last March when the waiting list was at 500.
“We will be bringing the new ministers up to speed on the issue as well as contacting our local MNAs to bring the issue forward,” said Mercier. “Prevention in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders can save the government money later on.
“If a child gets a diagnosis at the age of three and only gets treatment at five, the window of opportunity is gone as that kind of service is no longer available for that age group,” said Mercier. “Some parents even have to wait for their children to get a diagnosis. Autism is increasing and there needs to be more services available.”
Former CROM employee Don Prashker, whose three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Rylee has been diagnosed with ASD, told The Suburban that he and his wife spend more than $600 every week for special services including experts and therapy visits.
To cover the costs of private care, Prashker left his job and began his own business. He has learned from other parents with children diagnosed with ASD that in order to cover the private services, “they have had to re-mortgage their homes, borrow from mom and dad or from a third party lender.”
“I’m hoping the government will start moving faster on this issue and hopefully the money will surface,” Prashker said. “The number of children being diagnosed with ASD is changing again to one in every 65 births. This is becoming a national crisis and the government needs to be proactive because the once children grow up, they will need a lifetime of care giving.”
Rylee is a happy child but is non-verbal. Recently, she gave the Prashker family a fright when Don, his wife and two other children were calling for her but she did not respond. “We started to get worried and then we found her under the kitchen table. You worry about her and that’s a 24/7 fear.”
Prashker has visited a financial planner and has estimated Rylee’s care will require a million dollars over her lifetime because “she will not be able to employ herself. If treatment is received early, kids have a chance to be better productive members of society.”
“We will keep working on this underfunding issue for as long as it takes to get resolved,” said Mercier.
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