OTTAWA – Autism is not a condition with an expiry date, so services available to families with autistic children should not end on the child’s 7th birthday. That is one of the messages the Sub-Committee on Neurological Diseases heard on Tuesday from Espanola resident, Dennis Lendrum.

Mr. Lendrum was invited to testify before the committee by Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP, Carol Hughes. The special study, focused on 5 neurological diseases: Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers and Parkinson, has heard from advocacy groups and the stories of Canadians who are seeking treatment and support beyond that which is available through public health and education. The committee’s terms of reference is to examine recent breakthroughs in research, future therapies, treatments, investment and supports necessary for the treatment of neurological diseases.

Mrs. Hughes said that autism is a condition with many possible treatments and stressed the need for governments to understand that.

“Autism is not a one-size fits all condition,” said Hughes. “It’s different from person to person and the resources required will be different as well.”

Support for autism differs from province to province and the committee heard that people have moved from Ontario to receive better support. Ontario publicly funds Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) services for children with autism through the Autism Intervention Program. The cost of IBI services is high. Witnesses recounted desperate measures they were forced to take to be able to keep autistic children in their programs.

“When you hear that people are re-mortgaging their house or cashing-in RRSPs it speaks to the sense of urgency people are experiencing,” said Hughes. “There are a lot of people who can’t wait for public services to improve and many more who can’t even afford that option.”
Mr. Lendrum recounted his experience, supporting his family as they try to do what is best for his autistic grandson. He told the committee Ontario’s IBI services stop on the child’s 7th birthday. He said that he is in touch with many families that are struggling with the same access and affordability issues.

“I came to tell the committee, from the information that I’ve been fed by parents, that we wanted the Canada Health Act to include autism in it,” said Lendrum. “But at the end of the day, I just want every child in Canada to be able to get treatment, or the education that they deserve equally across the country,”

The committee will meet into the New Year and then report their findings to the House of Commons.