Autism Reality

Four Strong Autism Winds


Four strong winds that blow slowly
Seven seas that run high
All these things that don’t change come what may
Now our good times are all gone
And I’m bound for moving on
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

Guess I’ll go out to Alberta
Weather’s good there in the Fall
Got some friends that I can go to workin’ for
Still I wish you’d change your mind
If I asked you one more time
But we’ve been thru that a hundred times or more

– Ian Tyson

Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds is viewed by many as Canada’s unofficial national anthem, a tale of Canadian migration to Alberta in search of work. Today Alberta continues to draw Canadians in search of work. But it is also a magnet attracting Canadian families with autistic children in search of its government funded autism treatment. In neighboring Saskatchewan meanwhile government funding for autism is virtually non-existent.

In Parliament the Scott-Stoffer private member’s motion calling for a National Autism strategy to deal with this national health crisis was passed while the Shawn Murphy bill seeking inclusion of autism treatment under medicare was defeated by the Harper Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois on spurious jurisdictional arguments. Canada would not have a national medicare system at all if this feeble rationalization was employed consistently. Indeed why do we even have a federal Health Minister, at present Tony Clement, if the federal government has no role to play in health issues? The reality is that prior to the election of the Harper Conservatives Canadians had long recognized the need for federal provincial cooperation to address health issues of national magnitude that might be beyond the ability of smaller or poorer provinces to address.

To most Canadians the hundreds of studies documenting the effectiveness of ABA in treating autism should be enough to justify extending a federal hand to ensure that Canadians do not have to move to Alberta to seek treatment for their autistic children. To most Canadians the fact that 47-50% of autistic children can be rendered indistinguishable from their peers by school age, with intensive behavioral intervention, would be enough to justify federal involvement. For most Canadians the improvement in quality of life, the increased ability to communicate, to function in society, to avoid self injurious behavior would be compelling motivations justifying an effective national autism strategy. Since Stephen Harper is Prime Minister though a different argument, one which does not rely upon empathy or compassion, must be found – studies show that autism treatment saves governments very substantial sums of money, in reduced government services, over the life of an autistic person.

How about it Mr. Harper, how about offering a real national autism strategy to address Canada’s autism crisis? You have clearly said no. Still I wish you’d change your mind, if I asked you one more time.


Autism funding drawing parents to Alberta

Last Updated: Monday, January 16, 2006 | 9:37 AM MT

CBC News

Alberta’s coverage of an intensive therapy for children with autism is prompting some families to move to the province to receive additional care for their children.

“I used to see easily a kid a month that came to Alberta for autism services,” Calgary pediatrician Dr. Neil Cooper said. “Probably it’s been 10 years that we’ve been in this office that we’ve seen kids come from other provinces, mostly because of the funding.”

The therapy – known as intensive behavioural intervention – is time consuming and expensive, but parents like Kim and Mike Stafford say it’s worth it.

The Moose Jaw couple moved to Calgary 18 months ago because Alberta’s health care system pays for the therapy, which they say has led to a big difference in their son.

When six-year-old Trey was diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder which can be accompanied by severe problems with social interactions and language, three years ago, it seemed he had retreated into his own world, his parents say.

However, since he’s been involved in intensive behavioural intervention, his progress has been remarkable, they say.

For example, although now Trey spends part of each morning spelling words, he could barely even say them a year ago, Kim Stafford said.

“Now he knows all the kids’ names in his class. He can write down the names, he can spell them. It’s really wonderful to see,” she added.

The treatment involves speech therapy, physiotherapy, music and games – between 20 to 30 hours per week. It costs around $60,000 per year.

The Saskatchewan Health Department would only pay for one hour a week, which the Staffords say was inadequate, so they moved to Alberta. Almost immediately, Trey began receiving the full 30 hours, the Staffords said.

Roger Carriere, executive director of the Saskatchewan Health Department’s community care branch, said the therapy is expensive and there are questions about its effectiveness. He also noted there are many other priorities competing for Saskatchewan’s health dollars.

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May 31, 2007 Posted by | aba, Alberta, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, bloc quebecois, Canada Health Act, Conservative Party, Saskatchewan, Stephen Harper, Tony Clement | 1 Comment

Autism Symposium Cancelled – Harper’s Book of Dirty Tricks Page 2

The Harper Conservative government strategy to address the Autism health crisis in Canada is beyond pathetic; it is wretched. It is nothing more than a ploy from the now infamous Conservative Party Book of Dirty Tricks.

The Harper Conservatives’ autism strategy was announced in November 2006 by Health Minister Tony Clement and consisted of a web page and a stakeholder symposium to be held in 2007. Yes there were other elements – sort of. A research chair was mentioned – sort of. The Harper conservatives pledged to begin exploring the establishment of a research chair focusing on effective treatment and intervention for ASD. They also pledged to launch a consultation process on the feasibility of developing an ASD surveillance program through the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to help shape appropriate ASD programming and research. I wonder which generation of Canadians will be around to see whether an ASD surveillance program, whatever that is, is determined to be feasible?

Of course there is the pledge to address Canada’s autism health crisis by designating a bureaucracy within a bureacracy, the pledge to designate the Health Policy Branch of Health Canada as the ASD lead for actions related to ASD at the Federal Health Portfolio level. Health Canada itself of course is the federal government Department charged with responsibility over health matters which the Harper Conservatives tell us [ignoring the development over decades of cooperative federalism] is a matter entirely within provincial constitutional jurisdiction. Gee, the policy branch of the federal department responsible for a matter which the Conservatives claim is entirely within provincial jurisdiction will be designated as the lead branch of that department for actions related to ASD at the federal level. WOW!!

Then there is the autism web site promised by Health Minister Clement. Personally I believe it to be the least informative autism site on the internet. But that may be a bit harsh. There may be autism web sites that are still “under construction” and actually say nothing at all. Judge for yourself:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dc-ma/autism/index_e.html

Then there is the “stakeholders” symposium promised to be held in 2007. As one who has been an autism activist for the last 8 years in New Brunswick I recoil at the use of the word “stakeholder”. It sounds like a property interest in a commercial transaction. I am an autism activist because of my profoundly autistic son. He, with his brother, are the joys of our life but they are not “stakes” in a poker game. And government typically defines the stakeholder concept broadly to include any group that might be useful in pushing the government’s own agenda. Careful selection of a few stakeholder groups for government funding and support invariably results in useful tools for creating division and weakness in the disability community whose issues are being addressed, allowing government to divide, delay and deny provision of necessary services.

I was asked by the Autism Society New Brunswick to participate as the ASNB representative at the autism stakeholders symposium which was scheduled to take place mid-June 2007 in Ottawa. I contacted the Canadian Institute for Health Research to register for the event and was told that the federal government wanted the Autism Society Canada, the federal organization of which ANSB is a member, to forward the names of participants for the autism symposium. Thus the provincial body, the ASNB, could not forward names directly of representatives for a national symposium to address an issue which, according to Stephen Harper, Tony Clement and Edmonton area MP Mike “Bigfoot” Lake [Conservative Party autism spokesman and Autism Dad]is entirely within provincial jurisdiction. The Autism Society Canada put my name forward at the request of ASNB and I waited to receive my invitation. I had been told the invitations would be sent out two weeks ago. When I followed up last week I was informed by CIHR that the symposium was being discussed at a more senior level and that so many names were put forward that it was necessary to arrange a new larger location. In the meantime I had become aware that prominent, no nonsense autism activists like Andrew Kavchak in Ottawa and the FEAT-BC folks had also been put forward as participants in the national autism stakeholders symposium. Last week it was formally announced that the symposium was “postponed” to an unspecified date in the fall.

I do not believe the excuse that the Government of Canada could not find a large enough room to accommodate a national symposium of autism representatives by mid-June. The federal government is THE consumer of services for such activities in the National Capital Region and has a lot of purchasing/bargaining power. There is a substantial industry in the region which thrives on hosting such events and the capacity has been developed for these purposes. The federal government itself owns a good chunk of the national capital real estate and surely has the facility to itself host a symposium.

The Harper Conservative government became increasingly aware that activists such as yours truly, Andrew Kavchak, some FEAT-BC reps, and some of the family members involved in the Auton and Deskin-Wynberg autism cases were coming to Ottawa to participate in the national autism symposium and they wanted no part of it. That is the more plausible explanation for the postponement/cancellation of the symposium. The whole national autism “strategy” could have been lifted from page 1 of the Harper Book of Dirty Tricks recently exposed and which directs Conservative MP’s to to obstruct the progress of parliamentary committees, including stacking such commitee proceedings with witnesses who would support the Harper Conservatives’ agenda. The page was turned to page 2 when the only pledge of any merit, the national autism stakeholders symposium was “postponed” until the fall of 2007. IF the symposium does proceed in the fall you can be sure that every effort will be made by the party of Harper and Clement to ensure that the voices of serious autism activists will not be present and will not be heard. As dictated in Harper’s Book of Dirty Tricks only sponsored, docile autism representatives supportive of the Conservative Party agenda will be invited. … Continued on Page 3, Harper’s Book of Dirty Tricks.

May 20, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, Autism Society Canada, Autism Society New Brunswick, CIHR, Dirty Tricks, FEAT, national autim strategy, Prime Minister Harper, Tony Clement | Leave a comment

Autism Advocacy – Tony Clement Loses Composure, Lashes Out

The Honorable Tony Clement Canadian Health Minister has lost his composure and lashed out at FEAT-BC because of its plans to hold him accountable for his inaction in addressing Canada’s autism crisis. Mr. Clement expressed his outrage that the FEAT organization would actually organize to bring about his electoral defeat. Mr. Clement accused the FEAT group of being extremists for wanting to amend the Canada Health Act to ensure funding for autism treatment across Canada. Apparently the Liberal and NDP MP’s who voted for that precise measure are also extremists in Mr. Clement’s narrow view. In expressing his outrage Mr. Clement also declared that he is “the hardest-working minister autism advocates have ever had“. How Tony Clement has the audacity to make such a clearly nonsense claims is beyond me. After defeating the motion which would have provided universal coverage for autism treatment in Canada Mr. Clement’s government provided ZERO dollars, $0, for autism in its recent budget. Mr. Clement works very hard at doing what he is told by Stephen Harper but there is no evidence that he has so much as lifted a finger to help the cause of autistic children and adults.

The hardest-working minister autism advocates have ever had? That claim is a stinker if ever there was one Mr. Clement.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=c1cddc05-246f-4e9c-9455-be53df75eeb3

April 22, 2007 Posted by | autism advocacy, autism awareness, autism disorder, autism treatment, election, FEAT, FEAT BC, Stephen Harper, Tony Clement | Leave a comment

Autism Advocacy in Impending Federal Election


FEAT-BC, which has been at the forefront of autism advocacy in Canada, has heard the message from the Supreme Court of Canada. With two SCC decisions in Auton and Deskin-Wynberg denying the courts as effective avenues for seeking equality protection for autistic children in hand the time is now for political action and FEAT-BC is prepared to jump into the fray – again. The strategy recognizes the need for an effective concentration of effort and resources by targeting ridings of vulnerable politicians who have acted against the cause of autism in Canada. As the attached article from MacLean’s illustrates, FEAT-BC is very interested in one Tony Clement, the federal Health Minister who has fought against Federal government help for autistic persons in Canada , and who did not win by much in his last election.

Watch Out Tony! What goes around comes around!

Warning to low-hanging politicians

Parents of autistic kids take aim at Tony Clement

JOHN GEDDES | April 23, 2007 |

Imagine a Tory who won a seat in the last election by only a few votes. Who would such an MP least want to have to fight, alongside the usual opposition rivals, to survive in the coming campaign? How about enraged, well-organized parents who accuse Ottawa of failing to assure their children of essential medical care?

They might not know it yet, but this unsettling scenario faces certain carefully targeted Conservatives. Parents of autistic children plan to take aim at selected government MPs who squeaked in last time by two per cent of the vote or less. And the most vulnerable MP of all could be the architect of the federal autism policy that has the parents so upset — Health Minister Tony Clement, who won his Ontario riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka last time by a mere 29 votes.

Autism groups are cagey about revealing details of their plan of attack before an election is on. But one Ontario activist told Maclean’s, “Clement is like a pear ready to drop from the tree.” B.C.’s Families for Early Autism Treatment was active in a few closely fought B.C. ridings in 2006. Some of the group’s core members, including director Jean Lewis, are scheduled to attend a meeting in Halifax on May 26 to pass along tactical lessons to East Coast parents of autistic children.

But if Stephen Harper’s minority falls before then, the B.C. firebrands plan to cancel their Halifax event and make a campaign detour to Ontario of up to two weeks. “We will certainly be in Parry Sound-Muskoka,” Lewis said. The B.C. group and their allies demand federal action to extend medicare coverage to full early autism treatment, which can cost $35,000 a year for young children.

Successive federal Liberal and Tory governments have held that deciding what conditions are insured is up to the provinces. Lewis says autism activists will back individual candidates who support their position, but not parties. “When the Liberals were in power,” she said, “they were as pathetic as the Conservatives are now.”

http://tinyurl.com/2d9965

April 20, 2007 Posted by | autism advocacy, autism disorder, autism health, autism treatment, Canada Health Act, FEAT BC, Jean Lewis, Stephen Harper, Tony Clement | Leave a comment