Quebec parents demand more help for autistic children

QUEBEC CITY – Martyne Chabot believes her life is more difficult than it should be, not because her six-year-old son is autistic but because he isn’t getting the help he’s entitled to according to the Supreme Court.

“You know it’s not only our right, it’s an absolute necessity for my son,” she told Global News.

“We need a specialized class for our son because he has very specific needs.”

Chabot brought her list of grievances to the National Assembly.

She was accompanied by other struggling parents with special-needs children, such as Montreal blogger Vanessa Sicotte.

“The waiting lists are very long.”

Sicotte said she paid for her three and a half year-old son, Teddy, to get professional help early on.

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“For us to go private was really the solution,” she said.

“Had we waited a year and a half for the public system to give us only a diagnosis – we haven’t had any services yet, we only just got a diagnosis – he’d be five, we’d be today so it wasn’t acceptable to us.”

Between 2005 and 2011, according to the Régie des rentes figures, the number of autistic children in Quebec jumped from 3,400 to more than 7,300.

“The increase can be explained by many factors, notably better detection,” said Marie-Joëlle Langevin, a social worker at Autism Quebec.

For parents, the increase in the number of cases means longer wait times at every stage, from the diagnosis to preparing the child for school to fighting to keep services once at the school.

“It makes me feel sad because it’s a continuous battle with those school commissions to prove your point, that you need more classes,” said another parent, Michel Labonté.

The Supreme Court said in 2012 that it’s not a luxury to give those children the proper schooling that they should receive.

“When you have a child, what you want for them is the best that’s in the world. And when the system doesn’t allow you for that, it’s exhausting but you also feel your child is being ostracized, and that’s a terrible feeling for a parent,” added Sicotte.

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When CAQ Education Critic Jean-François Roberge brought up the issue in Question Period, the Social Services Minister said parents should approach non-profit organizations.

Newly sworn-in Education Minister François Blais said he’s reading up on the file.

That’s little comfort for Martyne Chabot, whose son is still waiting to get the education he deserves.

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