National Autism and Special Needs Strategy

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Whereas, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition recognized in the DSM V affecting 1 in 68 Canadian children, and can be treated by healthcare professionals,

Whereas, the costs of raising and appropriately supporting a child with autism are beyond the means of most Canadians to appropriately fund out of pocket,

Whereas, evidence-based, intensive, early intervention has proven to be effective in the treatment and positive long-term outcomes for children with an ASD diagnosis,

Whereas, the patchwork of federal and provincial programs to support families of a child or children with a diagnosis are neither sufficient, nor accessible to the majority of Canadians, and can and do change at the whim of any government at any time,

Whereas, one of the greatest challenges and stressors families face is in major life transitions (from daycare to school, from middle-school to high school, from high school to post-secondary education and from post-secondary to adulthood and ideally the world of work), much needed transition supports are missing or insufficient,

Whereas, autism services are currently funded through ministries of children’s services rather than through provincial/territorial health insurance plans, further complicating access and leaving these services unprotected from political interventions with each new government mandate,

Whereas, children and adults with an ASD diagnosis are a particularly vulnerable group,

Whereas, the Senate of Canada published “Pay now or pay later: Autism families in crisis” in 2007 and recognized the need for a national autism strategy and little action has been taken to date,

Whereas, educational institutions do not regularly, consistently and systematically allow healthcare professionals into the educational environment to appropriately support children with special needs and this siloed approach to care and childhood development is negatively impacting not only children with a diagnosis but also other children in fully inclusive classes,

Whereas, the disability tax credit is a policy instrument used as a means to access more services than simple tax relief, the Canada Revenue Agency is in a conflict of interest to determine eligibility and also collect taxes simultaneously,

Be it resolved, that we the undersigned demand the federal Government of Canada create a National Autism and Special Needs Strategy that is appropriately funded in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and consistent, needs-based services are delivered to children and adults with autism and special needs in a timely way nation-wide reflective of our Canadian commitment to human rights, protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

These commitments should include but may not be limited to the following:

1.       Seeking multi-partisan support for the strategy.

2.       Enshrining evidence-based therapies for autism treatment such as applied behaviour analysis, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, and physiotherapy into the Canada Health Act.

3.       Modifying the disability tax credit to recognize autism as a lifelong condition and move eligibility assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency to Employment and Social Development Canada.

4.       Modifying the RDSP to recognize that families with a child with autism cannot afford to both invest in an RDSP and an RESP, and permit withdrawals from the RDSP without penalty for post-secondary education.

5.       Creating a national ombudsman and/or tribunal for autism and special needs that can investigate and when government actors fail to provide the needs committed to under this strategy, apply appropriate penalties.

6.       Creating bridge programs for daycare to school, middle-school to high-school, high-school to post-secondary education (or adulthood), post-secondary education to the world of work available to all people with autism.

7.       Creating or expanding a housing support program for vulnerable groups such as those with autism or special needs.

8.       Creating a caregiver allowance for high needs children to support families that may require one or both parents to leave work and stay home to care for their children.

9.       Regulating providers federally that may provide autism therapy services where not already regulated.

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