New Bill to Address Special Needs

Autism is the most common neurological disorder that affects children in our nation. Currently, one in every 200 people in Canada has been
diagnosed with some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If we look specifically at children, this number jumps up to one in 165, or .6 per cent of all children. Throughout Algoma-Manitoulin Kapuskasing, diagnoses are increasing- just as they are world-wide, and it is about time we begin to develop an effective strategy on this issue that affects so many children and families.

With such a high number of people being affected by ASDs such as autism, Rett’s Syndrome, and Asperger’s Syndrome, it seems odd that the Federal government has yet to develop a strong national policy to assist with these.

That is why I am glad to announce that my colleague Glenn Thibeault, MP for Sudbury, introduced a bill that would see the development of a National Autism Strategy. The bill was seconded by Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, who has extensive experience working with the autism community. If passed, the bill would see a much-needed national strategy to help with the increasing demands of people coping with ASDs.

The National Autism Strategy would put into effect a number of policies that would help alleviate some of the hardships that families of individuals with ASDs face. The bill would establish national standards for the treatment of ASDs, along with the cooperation provincial governments. It would allow for the study of funding arrangements for the care of those who cope with ASDs, which would include transferring federal funds to help provinces provide treatment, education, and professional training for those with ASDs. It would see the creation of a national medical surveillance program that would be managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. And it would provide an estimate for how much funding would be required for the treatment of ASDs.

There is a saying within the autism community: “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you have met one person with autism.” This sentiment sums up how vast ASDs range in terms of symptoms. No two children who develop autism will have the same symptoms. Those who have been diagnosed with autism will often have difficulty with social interactions and communication skills, anything from the inability to recognize body language and tones of voice, to the inability to speak. Many will develop routine behaviours, such as only liking certain types of foods or only wishing to get dressed in a certain order. There are many, many variations as to what constitutes behaviour common to autistic children, and the development of a National Autism Strategy would provide a stronger framework to help those with ASDs.