Nova Scotia takes aim to reduce wait times for students needing assessments

Click to play video: 'Parents say investment in psychological assessments ‘too late’' Parents say investment in psychological assessments ‘too late’
WATCH: The Nova Scotia government is taking steps to reduce student wait times for psychological assessments but some parents say it has taken too long. Global’s Jennifer Grudic reports – Apr 6, 2017

The Nova Scotia government says it is taking steps to reduce wait times for students needing psychological assessments.

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The province says $974,000 will be spent to get more psychologists to address the needs of the more than 300 students on referral lists.

Education Minister Karen Casey says the plan, which includes a new partnership with Mount Saint Vincent University, is aimed at helping all elementary and high school students.

The partnership will also involve four master’s students from the university who will conduct assessments as part of their training.

Psychological assessments and consultation help teachers recommend programming for students with learning and behavioural challenges.

“We are cutting waits for this very important service,” Casey said in a statement. “We are helping students who need it most.”

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Melissa Lively of West Chezzettcook is just one of hundreds of parents in Nova Scotia waiting for their child to receive a psychological assessment.

“It’s been almost four years now since we’ve started this journey,” Lively said.

“It’s really disheartening for me and my husband, my son, he knows he’s not on par with his peers.”

She said school is a challenge for her seven-year-old son as they await a formal diagnosis for what they believe is a form of autism.

“He was having outbursts and crying, because obviously he couldn’t communicate that well, he wasn’t very social, he was having breakdowns almost on a daily basis for the first six months of school,” she said.

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She said while she is pleased the provincial government is taking a step towards fixing the apparent lack of psychologists available to students, there is much more that needs to be done for children like her son.

“While the announcement may be good news to some people, it’s a little too late for me,” said Lively.

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“We’re still waiting for a psychologist to do a real assessment with him. We’ve been recommended to go through a private psychologist, and by me, that’s not the right way to go.”

She said she believes in turning to private psychologists for assessments, it’s telling the government they don’t need to hire anyone else.

There is currently one psychologist for every 1,800 students in Nova Scotia

With files from Jennifer Grudic, Global News

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