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Montreal family feels forced to leave Quebec to access autism services

Click to play video 'Moving to Ontario for autism services' Moving to Ontario for autism services
WATCH ABOVE: Families say they are being forced to move from Quebec to Ontario so their autistic children can receive the health services they desperately need. As Global's Anne Leclair reports, one expert from Autism Canada argues the province is lacking in services.

A family living in Rigaud, Que., says they’re being forced to move to Ontario to access specialized services for their four-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism in July 2015.

His family was told the boy would have to wait up to three years to access regular speech therapy in Quebec, so they opted to travel to Ontario.

“In January of this year a spot became open in Hawkesbury for public services so that was nice,” Caleb’s mother Alanna Spicer said.

READ MORE: Parents of autistic children in Quebec struggle for access to health services

For the past 10 months, Caleb has been receiving weekly specialized therapies that were not available to him in his own province. And for now, the Quebec government is covering the costs.

“We just give the medicare card and they fill in all the forms and we’ve never had to pay anything our of pocket at all,” Spicer said.

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Caleb’s mother claims it’s the CLSC Vaudreuil that encouraged her to put her son’s name on the waiting list in Ontario and that half of the families receiving services in Hawkesbury are also from Quebec.

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The local health board (CISSS Montérégie-Ouest) denies that it refers patients to Ontario.

Part of the problem lies in language, according to Caleb’s family.

“We were told more than once that we live in a French area it was harder to have access to English services,” Spicer said.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Montreal parents claim autistic daughter denied basic therapy

A lack of services is a problem faced by many families across the country. Several provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta are known to have shorter waiting lists and more options for children with autism, leading many families to go where the services are available.

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“Families are feeling stressed and unsupported and they will do almost anything to find the support that they need and that includes moving from province to province,” Lucie Stephens from Autism Canada said.

Caleb’s family has already put their house up for sale, hoping to move closer to Hawkesbury to access even more services.

“Once he becomes school age, they offer a lot more transition support in school and things like that,” Spicer said.

While it’s frustrating for families to have to leave the province, they feel fortunate to have that option.

“We’re happy at the end of the day that we can get the help but it is definitely frustrating to have to put that much more effort into it and go elsewhere when we know that there’s other things closer by.”