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EXCLUSIVE: Montreal parents claim autistic daughter denied basic therapy

Click to play video 'Parents of autistic child desperate for help' Parents of autistic child desperate for help
WATCH ABOVE: Five-year-old Charlotte Kuhn has severe autism and is in desperate need for help, but she's been on a waiting list for over a year. As Global's Anne Leclair reports, the family blames budget cuts for what they call the lack of health services.

Charlotte Kuhn, 5, lives with severe autism.

She started showing signs at the age of 18 months and ever since her parents have been desperate for help.

“Our daughter has been on numerous waiting lists for four years waiting for therapy to treat her severe autism,” said Lynn Buchanan, Charlotte’s mother.

Charlotte is non-verbal and the family has been forced to turn to crowdfunding to pay for much-needed speech therapy.

“I’m absolutely outraged. We’ve been trying for years to get her help. Every single door has been slammed shut on us,” Buchanan said.

“We have watched our daughter lose words and interest in other forms of communication.  It is heartbreaking for us to see her fall behind while we continue to wait, and have been waiting for years, for services we had been told that our child was entitled to by Quebec government.”

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Last year, the family received a letter from the West Montreal Regional Health Board promising specialized services sometime “soon.”

“She is severely speech delayed and currently speaks about five words,” Buchanan explained.

“Charlotte qualified for the 20 hours a week therapy.”

The family was told Charlotte was of “high priority” because she was under the age of six, but now those rules have changed and she’s been taken off the list completely.

“We don’t know whether she’ll even be able to speak. There’s huge potential, you know, but we haven’t been able to see anybody,” said Sam Kuhn, Charlotte’s father.

Charlotte’s twin sister, who was recently diagnosed with a speech delay, already has access to speech therapy through the local CLSC, but the family was told children with autism can only access specialized services through the regional health boards.

“For God’s sake, don’t abandon them when they turn five. Don’t take a kid who was high priority on a waiting list then put her low priority,” said Kuhn.

“She should be even higher priority now.”

The minister in charge of social services, Lucie Charlebois, admitted access needs to be improved, and promised to address concerns in a new action plan by the end of the year.

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The family will be outside Saint-Henri metro Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 8:30 a.m. to collect donations for Charlotte’s therapy.

They are hoping to raise $6,000 to pay for six months of basic speech therapy, which includes an initial assessment and two one-hour sessions per week.