Autism is now believed to affect one out of every 68 children in Canada.
Much of that increase can be attributed to doctors who are more alert to the signs of autism and diagnosing children at an earlier age.
But an early diagnosis also improves outcomes, often dramatically.
That’s the source of a great deal of frustration in B.C., with parents who can’t afford to pay for a private assessment having to wait many months in the public system.
By the time her daughter was 20 months old, Andrea Kennedy was already an expert on navigating the extreme roller coaster ride that comes with having a child with autism.
Holly’s older brother had just been diagnosed and the Port Moody mom knew an early diagnosis was the key to getting both her children early intervention.
Kennedy would have waited a year to get her son in for the government-funded assessment, so she opted to pay for a private diagnosis instead, at a cost of around $3,000 to $4,000 per child.
Right now, the median wait time for an assessment in BC is eight months. But many parents say they’re still waiting a year or more later.
There are more than 1,500 children in the province either waiting to be assessed or in the middle of the process but Health Minister Terry Lake defends those numbers, says they’ve increased the amount of funding for assessments and there’s already been improvements.
For the public, the potential cost of delayed treatment is in the millions of dollars, per child for a lifetime of support. And unfortunately for many families, the wait for a diagnosis is just the beginning.
— with files from Elaine Yong, Global News