Two-tiered level of services for people living with autism spectrum disorder

Unfortunately, for parents with children on the spectrum, in Newfoundland and Labrador your child’s development and future hinge on your ability to foot the bill for help.

He enjoys his time with the speech language pathologist (SLP). Twice a month they playfully go through learning the nuances and subtleties of what it means to communicate. The clinic is caring, competent, concerned and professional. And private. There is no funding available for this level of care from third-party sources. The money must come from the clientele.

Friends who are not wealthy also avail of speech language pathologists for their children. Their children rely on third party financial support and see a speech language pathologist once a year, if at all. I have noticed that my son has improved dramatically in comparison to his autistic peers in communication. Perhaps 24 hours of SLP a year is better than one hour a year.

His friends deserve as much of an opportunity to thrive to the level of their capacity as he does. But their parents do have to prioritize food, housing, clothing, and other such luxuries ahead of SLP. My wife and I have been professionals for a combined total of 40 years and SLP breaks us financially. But without it we are told he would be substantially delayed in his ability to communicate. To me this translates as ‘making friends’. He is a wonderful young man and he has friends. His ASD peers are wonderful kids and they deserve to have friends as well.

Our friends work and pay taxes. I wonder what they think about this disparity. There are services available until children have finished the third grade. After that, any services that could help a child realize their potential, would need other financial sources to be obtained. In our case that translates into obtaining what is available in the open market. In the case of many of our friends it translates into ‘too bad’.

And that is in reference to the SLP alone. The same applies to occupational therapy, academic tutoring, special clothing, furniture, mechanical aids and plain old counselling. It is ‘too bad’ that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has appeared on the horizon as the greatest epidemic in the 21st century—at least in areas that have reliable records of such things—because the plethora of needs for people in the spectrum far outstrips what publicly funded healthcare provides.

He will be finishing school in a few years and he has plans for his future. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be impossible. It’s a good thing he has supports, as no one gets anywhere on their own. No one.

And then there are the health needs of the parents. No one comes out of this unscathed. But they can come out of it un-helped. That can’t help. Especially when our friends will always put the well-being of their children ahead of their own.

I wonder if we paid into something like a health care plan, could everyone get that help? Like you can get water and sewer via taxes. Who can we talk to about that I wonder?

John Brown (Bay Roberts)

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