Autism Reality

Autism Plea – Keep Our Autistic Children Home in New Brunswick

Daily Gleaner (Fredericton NB)

Published Wednesday May 23rd, 2007
Appeared on page C7

Keep autistic children in the province

This is a letter to Premier Shawn Graham.

I am a father of a 13-year-old autistic boy. We had to fight for services for our son from the day he was born: to get diagnosed, to get Applied Behavioural Analysis therapy (before it was mandatory), to get teacher’s aides in the classroom, to keep him in school, and to get hospital treatment when his compulsion to bite and pinch got to the point where he was covered in wounds and bruises.

I am afraid my wife and I do not have much fight left in us these days. Our son has lived under constant supervision 24 hours a day for the last year. Two workers stay in our home with him during the day (two are needed to restrain him during his rages). While we commend them for all they have done, the workers are merely a Band-Aid solution.

Our only option at this point is to send our son out of country to the U.S. for treatment that he desperately needs.

Services at the two facilities, in Maine or Boston, will cost the government $200,000 to $300,000 a year. Right now my son is costing the government $15,000 to $20,000 a month because of the government’s lack of direction when it comes to older autistic children.

My question to you, Mr. Graham, is that it may have been cost effective at one time to send these children away (out of sight, out of mind). But now with it being 1 in 150 children being diagnosed within the autism spectrum disorder, maybe we should re-evaluate the direction our province is going in.

I realize that there may be no other recourse for my son but to be sent to these facilities in the U.S. for treatment.

I hope in the future we may be able to prevent our children from having to leave Canada to get the services they so desperately need.

Stephen Robbins

Woodstock, N.B.

May 23, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism treatment, New Brunswick | Leave a comment

Ultimate Autism Reality Check – Autistic Children Become Adults

414 Bay Street,
Saint John, NB

Much of the autism discussion found on the internet does not seem directed at the very real concerns of families raising autistic children. Little of it provides practical assistance for the very real challenges facing families with an autistic child to raise and care for. The same is also true for the mainstream media. Despite all the attention generated by Autism Awareness Month in the US and the good efforts by the people at Autism Speaks, Oprah Winfrey and the View, there is very little coverage of, discussion of, or even acknowledgment of the realities of life that await autistic children, particularly those with severe intellectual, communication and behavioral deficits when they grow older, when they become youths and adults.

In New Brunswick Canada our residential care and treatment capacity is extremely limited. Information is not readily available to autism organizations about what facilities and services do exist. Requests for feedback sent to residential care home operators by the New Brunswick Autism Society went unanswered by the owners of those facilities. Government officials generally engage in the time honored tactics of delay and divide the autism community and lumber on with the same inadequate resources currently available.

In New Brunswick youths and adults who reside in residential care facilities will be cared for by staff with little or no training in autism or behavior management techniques. When frustrations and conflict arise from strained relations between untrained staff and persons with autism spectrum disorders there is no one to take the side, or offer the perspective of, the autistic youth or adult. Assault charges then follow against the autistic youth or adult who is supposedly being cared for in the residence.

In New Brunswick a year and a half ago an autistic youth was sent to reside on the grounds of the Miramichi Correctional facility. He had been convicted of no crime or offence. He was sent there because the Province of New Brunswick lacked the residential care or facilities in which he could live and receive treatment. Ultimately he was sent out of the province, out of the country, to a facility in the State of Maine.

New Brunswick has a central mental health facility in which persons with a variety of mental illnesses reside. The facility does have a psychologist on staff but the facts of life for an autistic person living in that facility are not pretty. I have visited that facility in the past with a father who told of arriving on short notice and finding his adult autistic son, barely clothed, in an isolation room with a hard wet floor. When we arrived we found exactly the same situation. There is little in the way of recreational programs or activities organized for severely autistic adults.

It might be different in other provinces and states in North America. Living in New Brunswick Canada this is the future that awaits severely autistic children as they age. As the father of an autistic son, now 11 years old, I can not ignore that future. It is the ultimate autism reality check.

April 12, 2007 Posted by | adult residential care, autism disorder, autism reality, autism speaks, autism treatment, New Brunswick, Oprah, the view | 4 Comments

Autism Dad’s Concerns About Role of Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons

Following is a letter I forwarded to the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons. New Brunswick has just spent the last few 2-3 years reviewing its inclusive education system which has focussed on mainstream classroom inclusion for all students. As mentioned in the letter this approach does not work for ALL students including some autistic students such as my son. Our Education Department HAS provided for exceptions for students such as my son,providing an alternate learning environment and when available trained Teachers’ Aides. The Department is now working to improve the deficit of trained personnel to work with our many autistic school children. But it makes no sense to engage in a review and make services available if educators and parents are pressured to place all children in the mainstream classroom regardless of whether they are well served by such placement.

Sent: March 28, 2007 11:43 AM
Subject: Inclusive Education Quiz

March 28 2007

Mr. Randy Dickinson and
Mr. Gary Comeau
Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons

Re “Quiz Contest Promotes Inclusive Education in New Brunswick (07/03/22)”

I am the father of an 11 year old profoundly autistic boy. I participated both as an individual parent and as the representative of two provincial autism organizations at different stages of the Mackay Inclusive Education review process. I currently sit as the Autism Society New Brunswick representative on the Ministerial Committee on Inclusive Education.

At this time, I express my own personal views, in stating that I take exception to the use of the office and resources of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons to promote one view of the merits of a full inclusion system in New Brunswick schools. There are many diverging points of view with respect to the emphasis on mainstream classroom inclusion for all students regardless of disability or ability.

Some profoundly autistic children are overwhelmed by classroom environment stimulation and require a quieter learning environment where they learn a different curriculum by different teaching methods than children their own age. Other disability organizations have also expressed some reservations about the over emphasis on full mainstream inclusive education. One of the great disadvantages of the inclusion revolution which has dominated New Brunswick schools for the past 30 years has been the lost of specialized expertise in teaching children with specific disabilities a problem which is currently being addressed for autistic children by the training of Teachers’ Aides and Resource Teachers at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program.

Reducing these complex issues to a quiz format with correct answers being those which support the status quo emphasis on mainstream classroom inclusion for all is, in my view, an inappropriate use of public resources of your office.


Harold L Doherty

March 28, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism education, inclusion, New Brunswick, Wayne MacKay | Leave a comment

Full Classroom Inclusion for All is Discriminatory

Yude Henteleff QC is a distinguished lawyer and human rights expert whose detailed resume would represent a life time of accomplishment for several individuals. He is a founding member of a prominent law firm, has been legal counsel for Autism and Learning Disability Associations, been active as a mediator in human rights disputes, served on the Canadian Human Rights Commission and named to the Order of Canada. In November, 2004 he presented a paper at the Canadian Association for Community Living National Summit on Inclusive Education, Ottawa in which he asked “why full inclusion is being advanced in certain areas as the only way to effectively meet the diverse needs of all children with special needs.” Mr. Henteleff provided a number of reasons for the emphasis on full classroom inclusion – including government cost consciousness. Full classroom inclusion is cheaper than providing a continuum of choices to accommodate all the needs of individual students with various disabilities. Mr. Henteleff also reviewed Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Law, Granovsky, Mercier and Eaton and concluded that “Imposing a standard, namely that the inclusive classroom meets all needs, is a perception not based on reality and is stereotypical. In other words, the standard takes the position that one environment meets the needs of all special needs children. By its very nature, such a standard is discriminatory,”

Henteleff, Y. (2004). The fully inclusive classroom is only one of the right ways to meet the best interests of the special needs child. Paper presented at the CACL National Summit on
Inclusive Education, Ottawa, Ontario.

As the parent of a profoundly autistic 11 year old son I concur with Mr. Henteleff’s conclusion. Conor is environmentally sensitive with severe communication deficits. Fortunately for my son when he returned from school with self inflicted bite marks on his wrists and hands the school and district officials were conscientious and cooperative in working out an accommodation to meet his needs. He has been educated in a separate quiet location and brought in to the mainstream classroom for limited periods of defined activity to interact with other students who also visit his area for interactive periods such as “reading buddies”. Some other New Brunswick students with disabilities who might learn better in other or a mixed environment have not always been so fortunate.

As New Brunswick continues its review of inclusive education the advocates of the philosophy of full mainstream classroom inclusion for all continue their very aggressive lobbying to maintain the dominance of their philosophy over an evidence based accommodation of the needs of individual students with disabilities. The New Brunswick Association for Community Living performs many good deeds for persons with disabilities. It is also well financed and well connected in our province and advocates relentlessly for the view that all children benefit from full mainstream classroom inclusion. They have been the “partner and stakeholder of choice” for the Department of Education over recent decades. When the Mackay Inclusion Review development workshop days for teachers were held recently it was conducted as a partnership between the Department and the NBACL. Requests by the Autism Society to participate as an equal partner were ignored. The keynote speaker was Gordon Porter the distinguished Chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission who was himself a driving force behind the adoption in New Brunswick education circles of the philosophy of full mainstream classroom inclusion for all. The NBACL hands out awards to teachers who exemplify “best practices” in inclusive education – meaning practices consistent with the NBACL view of full classroom inclusion. At present, the NBACL is aggressively lobbying politicians to protect the status quo of the full classroom inclusion model.

I know that the NBACL leaders are good people with good intentions. I ask them to consider my son’s experience and those of other profoundly autistic children and the possibility that the aggressive promotion of the mainstream clasroom for all philosophy has created a presumption in favour of the mainstream classroom that is at odds with reality, is discriminatory and in some cases harmful to the child. Parents and educators should have choices available as they work out the best ways to accommodate and educate children with a diverse range of disabilities and needs. They should not be forced into an environment which is unhealthy and counter productive for them.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism education, Autism Society New Brunswick, choice, discrimination, Henteleff, Human Rights, inclusion, Mackay, New Brunswick, New Brunswick Association for Community Living | 1 Comment

Blogging Beautiful New Brunswick

I am very happy to live in New Brunswick. For many reasons.

The fight for advances for autistic children and adults is a difficult one at the best of times but civility, as is keeping with life in New Brunswick, almost always prevails. Another valuable part of living in New Brunswick is the sheer beauty of our province. The New Brunswick Blog Roll lists several photo sites which focus on New Brunswick’s beauty and they are always worth taking time to view. In no particular order, some of these sites which I visit are:

Bay of Fundy Blog

Photos: Varying Seasons

New Brunswick Photos

Oromocto Watershed

ERIC CARR photography

Nature Tales and Camera Trails

A few of my amateur photos from the Fredericton area, Nashwaaksis actually, are set out above. (Click to enlarge)

February 9, 2007 Posted by | advocacy, autism, civility, natural beauty, New Brunswick, photos | 2 Comments

Good Autism News in New Brunswick Throne Speech

Premier Graham’s first throne speech today contained good news for students with autism in New Brunswick schools. During the election campaign Mr. Graham made a very specific promise to provide autism training at UNB-CEL autism intervention program to 100 TA’s and Resource teachers. The wait for confirmation of that commitment has been nerve racking but the Throne Speech contains good news in the form of a plan which will be announced this session to increase the number of trained autism support workers in the system. This is of course a very general statement but it means a lot to have such a commitment made in the throne speech. Parents will remain vigilant. We have no choice, we have been let down before and our children can not afford more setbacks on their learning journeys. But today is a good day for New Brunswick school students with autism – a very good day.

“Your government earned the trust of New Brunswickers by outlining the Charter for Change which will form the basis for many of the initiatives that will be introduced in the coming months. The cornerstones of the Charter for Change are the Three Es – education, energy and economic development.

Your government will work with New Brunswick’s teachers, District Education Councils and academic institutions to build the best education system in Canada. This year, your government will release a new Plan for Education. The Minister of Education has been consulting with teachers, District Education Councils, parents and students on this action plan of new ideas and programs to begin transforming our schools.

This year, your government will begin its commitment to implement the MacKay Report recommendations for improving our inclusive education system and meeting the diverse needs of all our students . The Minister of Education will appear before the Standing Committee on Education in order to initiate the discussion on how to ensure that each child in New Brunswick has the chance to reach his or her full potential.

Your government will further demonstrate its commitment to inclusive education by ensuring that new hope is given to children with autism. A plan will be announced this session to increase the number of trained autism support workers in the system.

Your government understands the importance of a school to the community around it. Your government will move forward on a new community schools policy that will enhance the quality of education in rural and urban communities alike by transforming schools into true centres of learning for the whole community.

Truly innovative change will be driven by teachers and your government will announce new measures to support our best teachers and principals in being leaders in innovative education.

During the upcoming session, your government will unveil a new accountability agenda for improving results for early literacy and exceptional learners.

The Departments of Education and Family and Community Services will work jointly and in partnership with stakeholders to develop a long-term plan for child care and early learning.”

February 6, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism support workers, eduction, New Brunswick, Premier Shawn Graham, Throne Speech | Leave a comment

School for Autistic Children in New York

In New York a school for autistic kids is opening. The school will feature an evidence based, ABA approach, using discrete trial training and also utilizing elements of speech language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, PECS and some elements of TEACCH. The classrooms will be adapted with special computers, monitors and programs. This school appears to be an extension of a successful pre-school program offered by the same HeartShare school. This is an amazing development that is highly unlikely to ever occur in any school district in the Province of New Brunswick.

In New Brunswick over the past 30 years the education of all children has been dominated by a philosophy that dictates mainstream classroom inclusion for all students regardless of their disabilities or abilities. There are exceptions. Some districts and schools have cooperated with parents and allowed autistic children,particularly severely autistic children such as my son, to receive the greatest part of his learning in a separate area with visits from classmates for activities such as reading buddies and with Conor visiting the mainstream classroom for specific defined activities for limited periods of time. By and large though in New Brunswick’s education system educators and parents are pressured to place all children in a mainstream classroom whether it is suitable for them or not.

At major events such as the teachers development workshop which was held to review the MacKay Inclusion review process the Department of Education partnered with the New Brunswick Association for Community Living which aggressively promotes the philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all students. Requests by the Autism Society New Brunswick to participate as a partner in the workshop were rejected by the Department of Education notwithstanding the number of autistic children in New Brunswick schools and the severity of the challenges posed in educating them. The NBACL philosophy of total mainstream inclusion is also promoted by the presentation by that organization of awards to teachers who exemplify what the NBACL considers to be best inclusion practices. The mainstream classroom philosophy for all is also well represented by NBACL participation on the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons and in the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission whose current chair, Dr. Gordon Porter, was instrumental in the implementation of the mainstream classroom for all philosophy in New Brunswick schools and is touted as an expert on the inclusion of students with a disability into regular classes on the commission web site.

With such an entrenched mindset in favor of the mainstream classroom inclusion philosophy I am thankful that school and district educators have, at least to date, cooperated with us in creating an alternative learning arrangement for my son. In the big picture though the emphasis on classroom inclusion has kept many children in the mainstream classroom even when it is not suitable for them. It also makes it extremely unlikely that an option such as a school for autistic school children will ever see the light of day in the Province of New Brunswick.

New school for autistic kids


You hear it again and again—the incidence of autism is on the rise. In fact, according to the latest statistics, 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autism and reported cases are growing at a rate of 10-17 percent each year.

With all these children needing services, HeartShare Human Services of New York is proud to be responding to the needs of the community by opening its new HeartShare School. This program is for school-age children with autism and mental retardation from all five boroughs.

Located at St. Finbar’s School, 138 Bay 20th Street in Bensonhurst, children ages 5 through 14 are eligible for services.

Scheduled to open in February, this program is unique to Brooklyn in that it will primarily follow the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach with the emphasis on discreet trial learning. Some components of the TEACCH methodology and Picture Exchange Communication System will also be used.

Started at the urging of parents who had gone to NY State Senator Martin Golden to seek ABA-based educational services for their children, the program will have five classrooms, each structured with class-room style learning and speech, occupational and physical therapies.

Additionally, each classroom will have adapted computers, touch screen monitors and specialized program software that addresses the learning needs of children with disabilities.

“HeartShare has had a great deal of success teaching children with autism in our four pre-school programs,” noted President and CEO William R. Guarinello. “That is why parents turned to us to start a program for older children. There were no appropriate educational services in Brooklyn for many of these families.”

Golden stated, “I am excited that as a partner with HeartShare Human Services, the dreams of the parents who have approached me seeking the best educational opportunities for their autistic children right here in our community will come true. For too long, Brooklyn’s autistic community has been underserved despite the rising numbers of those diagnosed. In that notion, we are going to provide at St. Finbar’s School a state of the art school that is ready to teach the autistic children of our community. We have done a unique and important thing in the planning and establishment of this school. In doing so, we will make better the lives of many now and in the future, for through HeartShare, they will receive an excellent and solid education.”

When at full capacity, The HeartShare School will provide full-day educational services to 48 children. “We still have open placements,” said Carol Verdi, vice president of Educational Services at HeartShare.

“Children from all five boroughs are eligible, but must be on the Pending Needs list through the Central Base Support Team within the New York City Department of Education. HeartShare is excited about the opening of this new program to meet the needs of students in the community.

“Families have been an integral part of the planning process,” said Verdi, “and we will ensure that they remain involved as we move forward.”

For more information about The HeartShare School, contact HeartShare Human Services at 718-323-2877 or visit

February 2, 2007 Posted by | aba, ASNB, autism disorder, autism education, inclusion, mainstreaming, NBACL, New Brunswick, New York, schools | 1 Comment

The Blogger Has Been Blogged

Early this week I sat down for a coffee at the Second Cup with well known New Brunswick blogger, political activist and pain in the neck Charles LeBlanc. I arrived early and waited with my camera concealed below the table. As Charles approached I snapped the photo above. The Blogger has been blogged!!!

I met Charles a few years ago through my autism advocacy. Charles was already known as an ADHD activist who brought to public attention the issue of over prescription of Ritalin for New Brunswick school students. He also pitched in on behalf of autism, attending rallies, putting up posters and helping with our Christmas parade float on one cold, wet, windy day in Fredericton. His blogging is often over the top in style and substance and has been known to infuriate some. But Charles also raises issues that the main stream media are reluctant to feature. As CBC reporter Robert Jones pointed out in a segment which aired the night before commencement of Charles’s trial on obstruction of justice charges arising out of the Atlantica conference protest, Charles blog site features pictures of the homeless and disadvantaged and brings their issues to public attention. Friends of mine in government tell me that many politicians and civil servants read Charles’ blog site regularly. In Charles the poor and disadvantaged in New Brunswick have a voice by which they can speak to power and have their issues heard.

Well done Charles. Keep up the good work.

February 1, 2007 Posted by | activism, ADHD, Atlantica, autism disorder, blogging, CBC, Charles LeBlanc, Fredericton, New Brunswick, ritalin | 3 Comments

New Brunswick School District 17 Autism Update – Much More Must Be Done

New Brunswick School District 17 has received an update on its existing program for teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The items focused on in the press release are certainly positive developments but they have been in place for some time now and are really only a small first step. The teachers aides who actually deliver the programs and work directly with autistic students require training at the UNB-CEL, and the Resource Teachers who supervise and assist with plan development on a regular basis also require training. That was the idea behind the commitment from Liberal leader Shawn Graham, now Premier Graham, during the recent election campaign to train 100 TA’s and Resource Teachers per year in New Brunswick for the next four years. District 17 should be applauded for following up on its existing program but much work remains to be done and Premier Graham’s training commitment must be followed through if this generation of New Brunswick autisic students are to receive a real education.

School autism plan enhanced


Published Wednesday January 24th, 2007
Appeared on page A2

District 17 Education Council says it’s pleased with the progress of its new programs and teaching methods for children with autism spectrum disorders.

The council received a update on its service-delivery model at a DEC meeting Tuesday.

“Before this year, we had resource teachers who worked with a huge variety of children, and they were stretched very thin,” said Supt. Marilyn Ball.

“The Department of Education partnered with UNB to develop a training program for staff members and from that it became clear we needed to put a program in place specifically for autistic children.”

The district has since added three resource teachers for autism who are trained solely to work with autistic children. They travel between all the school in the district, working with teacher assistants and resource teachers to ensure all autistic children are getting the best education possible.

Their goal is to develop programming specific to each individual child since the symptoms and difficulties of autism can have a wide range.

Sandra Bulmer was one of the first to receive the training that is offered by the University of New Brunswick and paid for by the department.

She now works as one of the psychologists for the district.

She said they’ve surveyed schools and written files on each child that has been diagnosed as autistic.

From that, the resource teachers have identified the specific needs of each of the 48 children.

January 24, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism disorder, autism education, New Brunswick, Premier Graham, schools, training, UN-CEL | Leave a comment

Jason Oldford Testifies Before the Canadian Senate Committee Studying Autism Funding In Canada

Jason Oldford is a person with autism who served on the Board of Directors of the Autism Society of New Brunswick for several years where he played a key role. On December 6, 2006 Jason Oldford testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology which was meeting to consider the inquiry on the issue of funding for the treatment of autism in Canada. Jason’s testimony was recorded in Hansard:

Jason Oldford, as an individual: I am honoured to address this committee. I was diagnosed with autism in 1974 when not much was known about it. I will tell you a bit about myself. I will not take long. I have quite a few things to say about funding for treatment.

I still have a few weaknesses with my autism. Eye contact is one of them. My social skills are not perfect. They are not up there with a typical person either.

On the plus side, my language developed normally. I was able to read by the age of three. I know trivial matters that other people would not dream of knowing. I tend to interpret things literally sometimes.

I have two university degrees and I attended public school with all the other children. I was not put in a special education class.

The reason I accepted the invitation to appear before this committee was to tell you what I would like to see. I would like to see severely autistic people become more like me, or more like others like me, to become more high-functioning. It can happen. I believe it.

There are about 100,000 people affected by some form of autism across Canada. When their parents received the diagnosis, immediately the research started looking for a treatment. They came across this ABA, applied behavioural analysis. It is the only evidence-based treatment that is available. The only drawback is that it is expensive. They cannot afford it. For that reason, they go to the respective provincial governments and try to get them to do it. It has not worked out the way they planned.

Autism is a life-long disorder. There is no cure. There are several treatments. Only one is evidence-based. There is no cure.

The key is early intervention, early diagnosis, and early detection. If treatment is started immediately upon diagnosis, or soon thereafter, within three or four years a child could enter school and perhaps not need ABA. He could go on, get a high school diploma, get university degrees, and be able to contribute to society.

I was pleased yesterday when I heard that the House of Commons had passed motion M-172, for a national autism strategy. I turned 36 yesterday. That news would rank up there with one of the best birthday presents I could receive.

The provinces worry about resources and having to live within their means. I understand the provinces have to live within their means. That is where the federal government comes in and helps out. If the federal and provincial governments put their heads together and work this thing out, a solution can be reached in the autism treatment situation we have in this country, in every province and territory.

There is a concern about having autism treatment funded under medicare. I am in favour of that. Ultimately, it is up to the provinces and territories. Each one has its respective medicare plan. Should any provinces decide not to fund this treatment under medicare, not only do I think they are making a mistake, I think they should find some place in their respective budgets to fund that treatment.

You also come to the issue of education. We need therapists certified in ABA. We need people in our schools trained to deliver ABA to autistic students. We need enough so that there are no waiting lists.

I have heard stories about people who have tried to get into speech and occupational therapy; some have told me were on a waiting list for months or years. Others are still on waiting lists. That is a problem that needs to be addressed and solved.

ABA is an expensive treatment. You have probably heard the figure $60,000 per year per child. It is derived from 52 weeks a year at 40 hours a week at $30 an hour.

Parents put themselves on the verge of bankruptcy when they have to pay for that treatment out of pocket. I certainly understand the situation they are in. I am amazed they can cover the treatment they need for their child and still pay the bills. How they do it, I do not know. Somehow, they get it done.

Early intervention, detection and diagnosis, can lead the way to a child’s achieving his or her full potential, to become productive in society. If Ottawa and the provinces work together, we could have a solution.

As was mentioned, ABA is not perfect. According to studies, only 47 per cent of those tested were indistinguishable, but 47 per cent is a lot better than zero.

If provinces and the territories and the federal government all work together on this, it will lead to solutions. None of the world’s problems was ever solved by arguing; none of the world’s problems was ever solved by doing nothing; none of the world’s problems was ever solved by worrying.

If Ottawa can get together with the provinces and territories and come away with a solution — and I am confident that they can; I am confident that they can accomplish this — just think of how many children will not be in group homes or institutions. Think of how many children will be able to contribute to society if they get this treatment. With the provinces and Ottawa working together, I know that can happen.


Mr. Oldford: Yes, I was recommending federal leadership with the federal government and the provinces agreeing on something to fund evidence-based treatments. The bill that was passed yesterday talked about evidence-based standards. That is good. It talks about developing innovative funding methods, and that is good too. I read an explanation that said that that means that the provinces, territories and federal government discuss how to fund evidence-based treatment.

The only evidence-based treatment that currently exists is ABA, but there may be more to come. Judging by what I have read, I think that sooner rather than later ABA will have company in the evidence-based treatments category. If any other evidence-based treatments were to come up I would support those, too, especially if they cost less than ABA does.

The governments must agree on how to fund a treatment that is proven to be scientifically validated and evidence-based.

Mr. Oldford: I agree with every word that Ms. Harrisson. I do not have any statistics on the number of adults that are autistic, that are in group homes or that are in institutions. I would say that a small number of autistic adults are in group homes or in institutions. I could be wrong, but I do not think there are that many.

When you read about autism, you read about autistic children. Autism is diagnosed during childhood. Some of the higher functioning types of autism can be diagnosed in adolescence or even adulthood.

Adults still need treatment. In the last session one of the things they discussed was age restrictions. I do not think there is any need to have them; they are discriminatory. Once a child turns five or six years old and still needs treatment, they should not be cut off. They should still get the treatment. If someone is diagnosed as an adult and needs treatment, they should get the treatment.

Getting back to housing, as I mentioned earlier, whoever works with autistic people in group homes and institutions has to have the proper training and has to know how to deal with autism. If they do not, it is not a good situation. There is also a need for proper housing for people with autism, not just in my home province of New Brunswick, but in every province across Canada.

The Chairman: Do most people with ASD live at home with parents or do many live on their own?

Mr. Oldford: I would say a good number of them live with their parents. I lived with my parents until this past July when my brother and I bought a house. I would think that most autistic people do live at home.

That brings us to another issue: employment. When they become adults, most people with autism are either unemployed or underemployed, which is the reason they live with their parents or in group homes. They do not make enough money to be self-sufficient. It is a bad situation. That should be discussed, too, when they discuss the treatment issue.


Senator Munson: There seem to be more and more diagnoses of autism; one in 166 is the new figure. With these diagnoses, we either pay now or later, and pay big later. We will have the statistics on homes like this if this keeps up this way. Do you agree?

Mr. Oldford: I would have to agree with that. I have heard people fighting for treatment telling the governments that, as you said, Senator Munson, the governments can pay now or pay later. We understand this treatment is expensive, but if you pay for it now, look at the return you will get on your investment. The people with autism will get out in the real world and get jobs, and that will stimulate the economy. Or you can pay later, which means they will go into group homes and it will cost the taxpayers a lot of money in the long run to keep them there.


Mr. Oldford: We do need more autism awareness. As Mr. Hooker has mentioned, many people look at us as low-functioning people because they view autism that way. They see it on television and read about it in the papers. They think, “Boy, I am glad I do not have a child like that.” Even in the most severe cases, autism is not the end of the world.

One way to promote awareness is through columns in newspapers and television appearances, as Mr. Hooker said. I would add that perhaps more people with autism spectrum disorder could be invited to speak at conferences. One of the measures that the government announced last week in its autism strategy was that there would be a national autism symposium next year. At that national symposium I would like nothing better than to see people with autism being invited to speak.

Mr. Oldford: Education is required for teachers and employers. However, as for team work, people with autism prefer to work alone. Sometimes when you put people with autism into a team setting they can become a bit temperamental and a bit hot under the collar. It could be because the other team members do not agree with the suggestions, or for other reasons. On the school front, there have been stories about even the most high-functioning students becoming aggressive. It is not their nature but it happens when they are frustrated at not being able to communicate their feelings appropriately. In many cases, teachers will send those students to the principal’s office, put them on detention, suspend them from school or send them home for the day, which is an inconvenience these days for parents because in most families, both parents work outside the home.

Employer and teacher education is needed when it comes to autism and how to deal with it. They need to know how to deal with situations that arise that could be caused by the autism.

Mr. Oldford: Sometimes I do find myself in a situation of the type you mentioned. More often than not, it is advising parents of autistic children. Basically, all I give them is words of encouragement. I am in no position to tell them how to raise their children.

There is quite a large autistic population, even in a small province like New Brunswick. The only advice I give them is just do not give up the fight.

January 23, 2007 Posted by | aba, ASNB, autism, autism disorder, autism education, employment, evidence based, health care, New Brunswick, residential care, treatment | Leave a comment