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Autism services waitlists eliminated, but only for some Nova Scotians 

An open letter to premier Stephen McNeil

click to enlarge Kristin Innes is a mother to Maxwell and Maisie, teacher, and owner-operator of Baby K Bandana Bibs. She has lived in Nova Scotia for 33 years and hopes to teach her children to advocate for themselves, and for a better Nova Scotia. You can read about her family’s journey at welcometoasd.blogspot.ca.
  • Kristin Innes is a mother to Maxwell and Maisie, teacher, and owner-operator of Baby K Bandana Bibs. She has lived in Nova Scotia for 33 years and hopes to teach her children to advocate for themselves, and for a better Nova Scotia. You can read about her family’s journey at welcometoasd.blogspot.ca.


Dear Premier McNeil,

In your recent budget you announced increased spending for behavioural intervention services for children with Autism, such as the EIBI program. You mentioned that waitlists which existed for families when your government first came to power, didn’t exist anymore. Did you mean they’d been eliminated for those specific families? If so, that’s great! Fantastic, even! However, I’m extremely worried that your wording on this has led many to believe that waitlists don’t exist at all.

Not only are there still waitlists to access autism services, but they’re lengthy. The younger the child, the worse of a position we’re in. The children who are at risk of ‘aging out’ of their eligibility for the EIBI program are helped greatly by this funding. It’s allowing many of them to complete the one-year program before starting Primary late at age six; What it’s not doing is clearing the waitlist for the many children who are young, and impressionable, and WAITING.

Many families are at the mercy of the public system alone, with wait times hovering around a year just to be assessed and diagnosed. My son is not yet three, and we are fortunate to have medical coverage. We had him privately tested and formally diagnosed at only 33 months. We’ve been able to set up private Speech Language and Occupational Therapy.

As for public services, Nova Scotia Hearing & Speech could be months from now. What do families do when they can’t access private services? Unacceptable, especially during such formative years of rapid development. Nova Scotia Early Childhood Developmental Services (Developmental Interventionists) are currently only a few months wait with an ASD diagnosis, thankfully.

The wait for the IWK Autism team and EIBI could be between 14 and 18 months. I called the IWK to clarify, because when you said waitlists had been eliminated, it wasn’t clear that you meant for certain families only. I was told that EIBI is currently working on 2011 birthdates. My heart sank; Maxwell was born in 2013. Add the 14-18 month wait to 12 months in the program itself. Best case scenario, he’s in within 14 months and completes it JUST under the wire, able to start school with his same-aged peers. Any later, and we’ll have to delay starting school until he turns six like so many others before us. He’ll be a year behind his peers, in daycare for another year (a huge financial strain), not to mention the incredible toll that waiting this long for services has on his development and our family.

We shouldn’t have to wait over a year to troubleshoot solutions.

This is my perspective only, my family’s experience, and I don’t pretend to speak for anyone other than myself with regard to this. However, if you can’t take this one case study and use it as a reflection of what’s going on with other families across the province, in increasing numbers, then you need a serious wake-up call.

My husband and I are signing up for private Pivotal Response Training so that we can help our kid while we wait for access to public services. I’ll keep setting people straight when they say to me, “I thought the government eliminated waitlists?” In the future, please be extra cautious when you word things in such a way that they give false hope to families in need.

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Voice of the City is a platform for any and all Halifax individuals to share their diverse opinions and writings. The Coast does not necessarily endorse the views of those published. Our editors reserve the right to alter submissions for clarity, length and style. Want to appear in this section? Submissions can be sent to voice@thecoast.ca.

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