Autism Funding Falls flat

Neilburg couple says new money from Sask. government would be better spent on education

Posted By Allison Wall
Posted August 19, 2010

The Saskatchewan government is stepping up with a $2.5 million increase in funding for people dealing with autism spectrum disorder, money one Neilburg family says should be aimed towards the education system.

Late last week, the government announced Saskatchewan residents with autism spectrum disorders and their families will soon benefit from the funding announced in the spring budget, which will support a three-year pilot project to enhance frontline services for children and youth, respite care, seasonal programming and the development of a training program for individuals working with autism spectrum disorder.

“Our government recognizes that autism is a growing concern for many families across the province,” said Health Minister Don McMorris. “We are committed to working with health regions, service providers, families and communities to enhance supports and services in order to provide those with autism the best quality of life possible.”

The funding is in addition to $3 million base annualized funding provided in the 2008-2009 budget and the supports already in place for autism services
in health education and social services.

But Roxanne and David Becotte, of Neilburg, have struggled with the lack of autism services since their son D.J. was diagnosed seven years ago at the age of three, and say little has changed since that time.

“I haven’t seen anything more than what I’ve gotten right from the beginning,” said Roxanne, adding the funding would be best spent in the education system.

“As far as the families themselves, yeah, we could all use money, but I think education is where it really needs to be,” she said. “School is a big part
of any child’s life.”

It takes up 12 years, 10 months out of the year, so education is where I think it should be spent. It should be spent on either training people to help
them or programming.”

Roxanne said regular occupational therapy, along with speech and language therapy and one-on-one assistance helps those suffering from autism spectrum disorders.

“That’s one thing we do not have enough of is speech and language in our school systems,” she said. “D.J. maybe sees one three times a year. It’s not enough.

“It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time and money to be able to help them,” said Roxanne.” Once they get that help, it helps. They start to get it.”

While Roxanne said D.J.’s school is wonderful, Saskatchewan is lagging behind in autism funding.

“Between Saskatchewan and Alberta, Saskatchewan is way behind, and they need to step up.”

As well, $100,000 was also set aside for the development of a certification program, which the Ministry of Health is leading in consultation and collaboration with stakeholders, health regions, the Autism Resource Centre and Autism Services. It is set to begin in January 2011.

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