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GLOBAL NEWS - Critics cautiously optimistic as Quebec autism services get $29M

GLOBAL NEWS - Critics cautiously optimistic as Quebec autism services get $29M

Article published by Rachel Lau, March 21st, 2017

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A teacher works with students with autism.

The Quebec government has finally tabled its long-awaited action plan to improve autism services: $29 million will be injected every year over the next five years.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette made the announcement in Montreal Tuesday morning.

The plan is to shorten the wait lists for children under the age of five as well as to extend therapies and services to adults living with autism.

“Listen guys, it’s $29 million. It’s a lot of money,” insisted Social Services Minister Lucie Charlebois.

“I hope it will help parents breathe.”

The Miriam Foundation and parents of autistic children say they’re cautiously optimistic, having strongly deplored what they call the government’s lack of therapy funding in the past.

They say it looks great on paper, but only time will tell if the new money will really make a difference.

“Twenty-nine million dollars is not enough at all and I think Lucie wants to show parents they need a break. I need a break from my finances, not my kid,” said Anna Bisakowski, with Autism Alliance of Quebec.

“I don’t need babysitting or respite. I cannot sleep or breathe sometimes because we hope to continuously be able to afford my son’s therapy session that cost $2,000 a month.”

When asked why Quebec did not give more, Barrette was quick to blame the federal government for its cuts to health care.

“We have nothing to be ashamed on,” he insisted.

Bisakowski argued there is no mention of therapies that are “desperately needed” for children after the age of five, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech therapy and occupational therapy.

“Autistic children are all different and have different needs,” she told Global News.

“Their psychologist determines what custom therapies they need.”

Bisakowski explained the government also needs to focus on increasing the number of integrated aids in schools.

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