A Montreal father is outraged after his daughter with autism has once again been kicked off the waiting list for subsidized speech therapy.
Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette promises that access to services will soon improve for children like Charlotte Kuhn, but the family claims the government is playing “cruel games” for political gain, to make it seem that waiting lists are getting shorter.
“I would say to the health minister to stop playing games with serious therapy that these children need,” Charlotte’s father Sam Kuhn said. “Of course wait lists are shortened because they’re playing these games.”
Charlotte Kuhn was supposed to get subsidized speech therapy sessions starting this month. But her father was just informed that now that she is seven years old, she no longer qualifies for one-on-one therapy.
“We’ve been told multiple times that she would be provided speech therapy,” Kuhn told Global News.
Charlotte’s family first made headlines in October 2016. Her parents were so desperate to help their non-verbal daughter that they launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay for private speech therapy. They raised $5,000 which covered six months of treatment. Medical malpractice lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard then stepped in to help the family force the government to provide the services they felt she was entitled to. In the fall, Charlotte was finally offered occupational therapy and her father claims he was told speech therapy would follow in February of this year.
“They’ve cut wait times because she was taken off the wait list because she turned seven, with zero speech therapy after having approached the government at 18 months,” Kuhn said.
Charlotte’s father is planning to protest outside the Minister of Health and Social Services office starting Tuesday. He’ll bring a hat and beg for money and insists he’ll stay there for as long as it takes.
At a news conference on Monday, the health minister referred the case to social services minister Lucie Charlebois and claims that a policy is in the works to help people with autism.
“This is a question that you have to address to my colleague not because I don’t want to answer but for the very reason that she will come up with a policy regarding that access to services,” said Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette. “There are better days ahead for them than there were before.”
In a statement to Global News late Monday afternoon, the CIUSSS du centre sud de Montréal explained that services for children with autism change after the age of seven and that the needs for school-aged children like Charlotte differ from the zero-to-six age group.
“During the transition towards the team for 7 year olds and more, a new educator assures the continuity of services and the interdisciplinary team intervenes based on the identified needs. This team includes educators, psycho-educators, speech and occupational therapists,” the statement reads.
Charlotte’s father feels his daughter is stuck in a political game with the odds stacked against the most vulnerable, voiceless members of society. He wishes the government’s surplus could reach the people who need it most.
“You’re incurring a surplus on the backs of kids and that’s immoral,” Kuhn said.