Autism Reality

Dear Prime Minister Harper – Autism and You; An Open Letter Asking You to Open Your Mind, Open Your Heart



Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you as the father of a severely autistic 11 year old boy living in Fredericton, New Brunswick and as an autism advocate for the past 8 years here in New Brunswick. Recently I was disappointed, bitterly disappointed, by two actions by your very tightly controlled government – the rejection of MP Shawn Murphy’s motion to amend the Canada Health Act to ensure autistic children, wherever they reside in Canada, would receive government funded treatment for their autism. Canada as a nation has long ago rejected the notion that accidents of geography should determine whether Canadians receive life sustaining or life enhancing medical treatment.

The arguments about constitutional jurisdiction advanced in justification are specious and you sir, with all due respect, know that. Canada has long operated on the basis of a model of cooperative federalism which has developed many legislative tools to ensure that narrow constitutional boundaries do not impair the quality of life in this great country. I will mention no specific examples because there are far too many for this to be a serious issue of contention.

Autism is a serious neurological disorder borne by 1 in 150 Canadians by currently accepted estimates. It also impacts on the lives of parents, siblings, grandparents and other caregivers. There is no known cure but there is a widely acknowledged, evidence based treatment available, Applied Behavioural Analysis, or ABA, which is supported by literally hundreds of studies, including recent studies, which document the effectiveness of ABA in improving the IQ, the linguistic skills and comprehension, the ability to function in the real world, of children with autism. In my son’s case, even with the limited ABA therapy which was available in New Brunswick at the time because of a shortage of trained personnel, he has made tremendous gains. From a child who could only scream and tantrum he became a child who can communicate using words, who is reading, albeit at a level below his chronological age, and who in fact almost daily pulls out books on his own initiative to real aloud for his own enjoyment. This is the ABA which parents seek across Canada, the USA and the world for their autistic children.

There are those who oppose ABA based on personal preferences, outdated and ill founded misconceptions about what ABA involves and quite simply on the basis of paranoid, conspiratorial beliefs that somehow they as human beings, as functioning adults, will be deprived of their personalities if someone else’s autistic children are taught fundamental living skills by use of ABA. They make stretched and tortured arguments about ABA turning children into robots. This is nonsense as they happy joyful pictures of my son which I will provide a link for in this letter can rebut with finality. They also make disingenuous attacks on the studies which have documented ABA based gains for autistic children ignoring the fact that literally hundreds of such studies exist all showing substantial gains. Critics also focus on costs of providing ABA ignoring the studies that have shown the huge financial savings to government in reduction of service provision over the lives of autistic persons who have benefited from ABA.

I do not actually expect you to personally read this email Prime Minister. I hope though that a conscientious staffer or, through the marvel that is the internet, a family member or friend, will see fit to read this and implore you to take action on behalf of Canadians with autism. You can make a difference in the lives of 1 in 150 Canadians Prime Minister. You can make a difference in the lives of their loved ones and care givers and you can save Canadian governments enormous sums by reducing the level of services required as a result of early intensive ABA intervention.

Please open your mind Prime Minister, open your heart, and do the right thing.

Respectfully,

Harold L Doherty
Fredericton New Brunswick

May 9, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavioural Analysis, autism disorder, autism treatment, Canada Health Act, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | 3 Comments

Autism Therapy Must Be Funded

Fredericton’s Daily Gleaner has long been supportive of the cause of autism in New Brunswick and once again it has stepped up to the plate with an editorial calling on the Liberal government of Shawn Graham to fund autism therapy past the current 5 year age cut off and into the school years. Not just because Premier Shawn Graham promised to train 100 TA’s and Resource teachers a year at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program but also because it is a good investment which will defray the costs to society of additional care for autistic children as they age and costs incurred by the stresses leading to marital breakdown. The Gleaner has offered sound advice. Hopefully, Premier Shawn Graham will heed such advice and honor the commitment he made as part of his campaign to become Premier.

Autism therapy must be funded

Published Wednesday April 25th, 2007
Appeared on page B7

Parents of autistic children are in a race against time. It’s a race in which they are heavily handicapped with too many burdens to carry, too much worry on their shoulders and far too many roles to fulfill.

They must be not just mother, father and all the chauffeuring, chefing, cleaning, dressing and boo boo-kissing that entails but also teacher, social co-ordinator, mentor and the many other functions needed to help their autistic child cope.

And as the province has failed to fulfill its promise of funding training for support workers for autistic children, parents must also play the part of fundraiser to pay for the special treatment that can literally change an autistic child’s life.

The Liberal government promised to pay for autism intervention training for 100 teacher’s assistants and resource teachers a year for four years. That would help autistic children have a chance at working with a specially trained teacher’s assistant.

Currently, applied behavioural analysis intervention therapy is the most popular and successful therapy for autistic children. It’s a program of intense therapy which, when started early on, can help autistic children reach their full potential.

The government funds the therapy for pre-school age children, but once the child enters kindergarten, the funding stops.

And then there is nothing.

So desperate parents struggle to pay for the therapy which can cost more than $50,000 a year. And that means holding benefit dances and any other fund-raising event they can think of on top of all their other tasks.

Election promises aside, funding this therapy is a good investment. Autistic children who grows up to be severely autistic adults not only have a low quality of life, they cost the system more money. Helping autistic children reach their full potential, translates to autistic adults who will be better able to care for themselves.

Doing whatever is necessary to support parents of autistic children is also a good investment. When parents are exhausted and stretched to their limit, the whole family suffers. Marriages break down, other children come off the rails, some drop out of school. There’s a whole slew of expensive problems that go with family breakdown.

Among the Liberal government’s election promises was a little one about self-sufficiency, one that’s getting all the attention. But if we are not all on the road to self-sufficiency — and that includes autistic children — none of us will get there.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavioural Analysis, autism awareness, autism disorder, Daily Gleaner, election promise, Premier Shawn Graham, UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program | 2 Comments

Autism Realities in the African American Community


AUTISM FINDS A HOME IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY: And All is Not Well.

By Donna Ross Jones and Areva Martin, Esq.

(April 5, 2007)

(Los Angeles, CA) – What happens to children who have been diagnosed with autism or some other developmental disorder? They grow up. And, more often than not, somewhere along the way they get into trouble with the law.

An excellent case in point is the controversial July 2002 beating of 16 year-old Inglewood, CA resident, Donovan Jackson. When his father was admonished by local police for driving with expired license plates on his automobile, young Donovan was severely beaten and slammed head first onto the trunk of the police officer’s vehicle for supposedly not adhering to their commands. The incident was videotaped and it was later learned that the visibly confused and scared young man was developmentally disabled.

On any given day, approximately 130,000 youth reside in juvenile detention and correctional facilities nationwide. Studies have consistently shown that anywhere from 65 percent to 70 percent of these youth have a diagnosable mental health or developmental disorder. Approximately 25 percent are experiencing disorders so severe that their ability to function is severely impaired, according to data released by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice.

This situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice reports many of its juvenile justice facilities are inadequate in their response to the needs of developmentally disabled youth in their care. These and other reports have shed light on an issue that virtually went unnoticed for decades.

Even worse, as in most other areas of the justice system, African Americans are disproportionately represented. Comprising approximately 15 percent of the total national youth population, African American youth represent 40 percent of all juveniles in detention and 60 percent of young offenders serving time in adult state prisons.

In addition, according to the U.S. House of Representatives, many of these youth are detained or placed in the juvenile justice system for relatively minor offenses and end up in the system simply because of a lack of community-based service options. And, that’s where the problem starts.

Two years ago, we formed the Special Needs Network, Inc. (SNN) to bring attention to the epidemic of autism and other developmental disorders. Working on a grass roots level to create immediate- and long-term change for families, SNN continues to seek to raise awareness about developmental disabilities, especially in the African American community, and to offer resources and other ways to navigate through the bureaucratic red tape to obtain services.

Defined as a neurological condition that occurs in children 15 to 19 months of age, autism is a developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and socially interact with others. Four times more prevalent in males, autism is now considered a public health crisis that has reached epidemic proportions, along with other mental, physical, or learning disabilities.

Statistics released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that autism is more common than previously believed with one in 150 children being diagnosed on the autism spectrum versus one in 166 two years ago.

Mothers of autistic children ourselves, we were astounded at the difficulty in finding services for our children. We were equally astounded at the numbers of children of color being diagnosed, or misdiagnosed with autism and the fact that most of these children were being diagnosed two years later than the general populous.

We now know that the only scientifically proven way to guarantee positive outcomes for children with autism and other developmental disorders is early diagnosis and intensive early intervention. Called applied behavior analysis, this early intervention is a very systematic way to teach our children about how to cope with our environment and must begin at a very early stage when the brain is still developing. We have to teach them how to function our world.

Unfortunately, most children of color are not generally diagnosed until age five years, while others are diagnosed and begin treatment by age three years. Later diagnosis equals later treatment, coupled with the fact that people of color generally have fewer resources from the start.

To help combat the lack of special needs support services and resources, Special Needs Network, Inc. will host “Tools for Transformation: Two Days of Free Training, Resources and Advocacy for Families Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities” beginning at 8 a.m. on two Saturdays, April 14th and 21st in the Challengers Boys & Girls Club facility, 5029 S. Vermont Blvd.

In addition to free training for parents, professionals and community leaders by experts in the field, the two days will offer a free legislative breakfast, more than six hours of free training, a free resource fair, a free legal clinic, free lunch, free childcare, and a free medical update breakfast and transportation stipends for the first 50 families attending.

To register or obtain additional information call the Special Needs Network, Inc. at 323.692.7772 or visit its website at http://www.specialneedsnetwork.net.

NOTE: SNN co-founders include Areva Martin, Esq., Martin & Martin LLP (L.A.’s largest African American female-owned law firm), and Donna Ross Jones, president, Transition Music Corporation and featured as one of “50 Most Influential Women” by the Hollywood Reporter.

April 5, 2007 Posted by | African American Community, Applied Behavioural Analysis, autism disorder, Inc., Special Needs Network | Leave a comment

Grand Opening – Atlantic Behavioural Centre – Moncton, NB

Grand Opening Celebration

“Children become that which they do and
get better only at that which they practice.” – Aristotle.

You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of the Atlantic Behavioural Centre. The event will be held at our centre’s new location – 700 St George Blvd, Moncton – Saturday March 31st from 12:00 to 5:00 pm. We hope that you will join us in celebrating this new endeavor.

The Atlantic Behavioural Centre was established in 2005 as a private group that consists of a clinical team of administrators, clinical supervisors, psychologists, resource teachers, occupational therapist, behavior therapists, and volunteers. The Centre provides individualized educational programs based on researched principals of applied behaviour analysis to children with neurodevelopmental disorders, namely Autism Disorder and Asperger.

The clinic first opened its doors as a private practice in psychology in 1998 serving the needs of children, adolescents and their families in the South Eastern part of New Brunswick. Over the years, this practice has developed a specialization in the assessment and treatment of disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Language and Communication Disorders, Learning Disorders, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorders, Conduct Disorders, and other disorders of childhood development.

We are very pleased to be able to increase the services provided and are committed to raising the bar in the treatment of autism. We look forward to seeing you at our Grand Opening.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Durepos, M.A.Ps., L. Psych.
Clinical Director

March 21, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavioural Analysis, Aspergers' Syndrome, Atlantic Behavioural Centre, autism disorder, autism treatment | Leave a comment