Thursday, October 28, 2010
Why a National Autism Strategy Is Not a Panacea
Autism advocates in Canada have been working to develop a so-called "National Autism Strategy". The latest has been announced by the Autism Society of Canada as part of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance. Another pillar of this strategy lies in bill C-360, which will not pass the House of Commons. The bill is designed to ensure ABA and IBI are considered "medically necessary" as part of medicare and thus must be funded in each province. In 2007, the Senate of Canada produced a report on autism services in Canada, making a number of recommendations.
Notwithstanding the issue of adult supports for people with autism (post-education period), most efforts tend to go into school-age or younger children with autism. I will not comment on adult supports since I am not well informed of the issues, beyond anecdotal evidence from parents claiming that they are terribly inadequate.
In Canada, education and medical care are constitutionally controlled by the provinces. Some provinces welcome money from the federal government with strings attached, but some do not (notably Quebec and Alberta). The only way for the federal government to directly help families affected by autism is through the federal spending power, which basically means giving money directly to parents, or giving money to other levels of government but only if the rules set out by the federal government are met.
Without going into all of the politics, this is very difficult given the current configuration of parliament. There is also the issue of singling out autism spectrum disorders as deserving of money but ignoring other disabilities. This is defensible in that the costs of IBI/ABA treatments are high, but then, not all parents with children who have autism use these methods or agree with them.
I am not going to say "no" to more support to families impacted with autism. But attempting to force standards on treatment and detection (medical responsibility) or educational standards on the provinces will not work well. The best we can hope for is more money in the system, hopefully more directed to parents to use as they see fit.