The lack of government-subsidized services for autism has already pushed some families to leave Quebec.
Others are considering a possible class action lawsuit against the government for failing to provide basic therapy for their children.
Now, the largest autism foundation in the province has joined in the fight.
“We really believe the time has come for the government to step up to the plate and help this population,” Miriam Foundation President Warren Greenstone said.
An estimated 150,000 Quebecers have autism spectrum disorder or an intellectual disability. Statistics show 54 per cent of them aren’t getting the help they need.
The Miriam Foundation helps fills the gap by funding much-needed private programs for children with autism. It has also launched a recent letter-writing campaign calling on Quebecers to take action by contacting elected officials.
“We felt it was time to get the public involved and to push the government, force the government, to provide the necessary funding for this population which, in our opinion, is much overdue,” Greenstone said.
The Gold Centre offers children with autism 20 hours a week of therapy for $32,000 a year. While many parents can’t afford it, others find a way.
“We know parents who are mortgaging their houses to put their children in the private services because they just don’t want to wait for a spot that may never come,” Greenstone said.
After waiting for services for more than two years, Anna Bisakowski got sick of relying on the government for help. The Baie d’Urfé mother of three spends more than $2,000 a month on specialized therapies for her five-year-old son Simon.
“If he didn’t get any therapy, he would be robbed of being fully functional later on in life,” Bisakowski said. “Quebec does not care about special needs kids. They do not care about kids who are on the spectrum.”
The Miriam Foundation is urging the Quebec government to inject an extra $60 million a year to keep up with the growing demand for autism diagnoses and services. It would likely take much more to tackle the critical waiting lists.
“In other provinces in Canada, the provincial governments are providing funding to the families so they can go out and buy the services directly,” Greenstone said.
“Ideally, if that could happen, that would be a huge win for parents in Quebec.”