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EXCLUSIVE: Quebec autism action plan on hold, family gears up for legal fight

Scarce social services for autistic Quebecers
WATCH ABOVE: A Montreal family forced to crowd fund for speech therapy for six-year-old Charlotte Kuhn, who has autism, is building a case against the Quebec government. Global’s Anne Leclair sits down with Quebec’s minister for social services, who insists her long-overdue action-plan is coming soon.

A Montreal family forced to crowd fund for speech therapy for six-year-old Charlotte Kuhn, who has autism, is building a case against the Quebec government.

The girl was on numerous waiting lists for government-subsidized services and now, a malpractice lawyer is claiming Quebec failed to provide basic care.

“Any delays is detrimental to the patient because we are wasting time,” lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard said.

Charlotte has autism spectrum disorder and has spent most of her life waiting for services.

READ MORE: Montreal family feels forced to leave Quebec to access autism services

Last fall, her family claimed they were told she was too old to be considered a priority.

“We have no faith in these treatment centres. We’ve tried contacting them, they don’t get back to us. We need to take action now. We needed the financial resources yesterday,” Charlotte’s father Sam Kuhn said.

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Lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard has agreed to take on the legal fight against the Quebec government.

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

He said it is appalling that Charlotte’s twin sister is getting subsidized speech therapy for a mild language disorder but Charlotte, who is non-verbal, doesn’t seem to qualify for any kind of help.

“Are we talking about discrimination? Are we talking about malpractice or mismanagement from the manager of the waiting list? They are all possibilities,” Ménard said.

Lawyers are in the process of finalizing their legal arguments for the case and are even considering a class action lawsuit.

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

Lucie Charlebois, the Quebec minister responsible for social services, had promised late last year to table a province-wide action plan for autism, but she now admits her team is still working on it.

“We are going to put the action plan in place soon, I can tell you that and I know that I promised they should have it before December, but it was not possible,” Charlebois said.

“I prefer to take a few weeks more, but have a good action plan.”

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WATCH BELOW: A struggle for services

Charlebois insists her new action plan will be worth the wait.

Yet many, including Ménard, claim anything at this point is too little too late.

“It’s surprising that we still have no plan,” Ménard said.

He wants to see an action plan with a strong emphasis on early diagnosis and access to intensive treatment for those who need it.

READ MORE: Cry for help for girl with autism prompts outpouring of support, calls for legal action

Charlotte is getting some help now after private donors responded to her parents’ call for help.

“I’m hopeful because of all the support we got from Ménard’s office and the Quebec people who gave us the resources for Charlotte,” said Sam Kuhn, the girl’s father.

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“Otherwise we’d just be sitting in the dark like so many other families in Quebec right now.”