Allow Unused 2020 ASD Funds to Carry-Forward to 2021

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Dear Mr. John Horgan,

I am representing a number of parents with children who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder whose therapies have been impacted/discontinued due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I represent a group of parents who have children that are turning 6 years of age who do not fall under the category of children whose 6th birthday occurs before August 31st. There are also those children who are over 6 years of age that have also been negatively impacted by this pandemic; who would also benefit from carrying over the residual funds from 2020. 

I would like to share my son’s story which mirrors the story of people who are parents to children with ASD. My son was diagnosed with severe speech delay and on the Autism spectrum in November 2019. This was after we went for a private assessment after waiting for over a year on the waitlist for a publically funded assessment via Sunnyhill. By this point, my career and health had already been affected by the escalating unsafe behaviours from my son. We were approved for funding in January 2020 and I was able to put together a support team by late February 2020. However, despite positive changes with hiring a Behavioral Interventionist to spend time with my son at preschool; this only lasted 2 weeks before services were shut down. Over this past year, my son has had only one 30 minute Zoom session with his Behaviour Consultant per week. His speech therapy sessions were cancelled as the Centre for Child Development was closed. By the time they offered Zoom sessions for my son, he was discharged from their services as he was starting Kindergarten. My son continues to struggle with receptive and expressive speech. At times, when he is frustrated and unable to adequately express himself he now displays self-injurious behaviours. These behaviors emerged during this past year when he was not able to attend preschool or therapy.

I would like to reference a study that was on the CBC radio today, which compared the effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health with children who lived through natural disasters. The research suggests that there are long-term negative outcomes in these children’s mental health that carry over to adulthood. I can only postulate that the effects of the pandemic on children like my son to be far more dire.

Consequently, I would like to propose on behalf of many other parents similar to my situation, that as part of the restart plan for BC, to grant permission for not only those children who are/were 5 years old in 2020; but also those over 6 years of age; to bea able to carry over their unused portions of ASD funding into the end of 2021 so that our children may have the funds to access core therapy services that were not available this past year due to the pandemic. I have heard from parents whose children do not respond well to video-based therapy sessions, to those who constantly have had to rebook their sessions due to recurrent flu/cold-like symptoms in their children or the therapists themselves. With the start of Kindergarten and the varying methods of delivery; social distancing in the classrooms; masked faces that prevent facials expressions to be seen and learned; it is concerning when one considers the negative effects on our children who have vulnerabilities more than the average child. 

It has been a challenging year for many, but I would like to bring to light that for parents who have children on the spectrum; who have been working from home whilst caring for and keeping their children safe; trying to fill the gap from lack of therapy; and now facing the fact that our children whose conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic will lose funding for the very services they need that are now re-opening; all these factors combined will further burden the education system; the mental healthcare services and most importantly, the futures of these children. I work in healthcare, particularly in mental health for many years. I work primarily in the community and have worked with adults and older adults in mental health. There is nothing more than how I wish to see that the clients I encounter, received the help they crucially needed as a child, which would have produced very different outcomes for them as adults.  
I have enclosed a petition signed by myself and other parents of children with ASD, to request consideration to extend the funding period for any unused portions of 2020 ASD funding into 2021 as part of the BC Restart Plan. 

Your kindness and consideration is greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank you for keeping our province safe and in order over the past year.

Kind regards,
Jaime Lam