A group of parents and autism-rights advocates took to the streets on Tuesday to speak out about inadequate support and a lack of autism services for children of all ages.
Parents argue that the province’s autism action plan pales in comparison to what Ontario is offering. Still, the social services minister stands by Quebec’s autism action plan and insists that it’s working.
“I see some results now in some regions, there’s a lot of improvement,” Public Health and Social Services Minister Lucie Charlebois said. “Do we have more work to do? Of course, but we won’t solve all the things in one year — it’s an action plan for five years.”
But parents who are protesting claim they haven’t seen any improvements. In fact, many argue that access to services has worsened since the action plan was unveiled close to one year ago.
“We don’t see better access to services, we don’t see waiting lists being addressed, what we are witnessing is attempts to try to close dossiers, attempts to deem people too handicapped to receive services,” Autism Montreal’s family intervention specialist Electra Dalamagas said.
The protest started with one parent last week after his seven-year-old non-verbal child Charlotte was kicked off the waiting list for speech therapy.
Autism-rights advocates claim Quebec’s $29-million action plan is nothing compared to Ontario’s investment of $330 million for children with autism.
“It’s a drop in the bucket,” Dalamagas said. “It’s unethical and it’s wrong to deprive people of basic rehab services.”
One mother who would have liked to take part in the protest was busy caring for her 28-year-old son Joshua whose day centre services will soon be cut.
He’s been on the waiting list for subsidized housing for close to a decade and his mother is calling on the minister to stop cutting services.
“I feel she thinks a child who is handicapped should vegetate, should not be seen in a society, should not be heard,” said Joshua’s mother Toby Benlolo.
Charlesbois acknowledges the lack of services is taking its toll on parents and admits her plan isn’t perfect. However, she denies the parents’ claims that people are being systematically kicked off waiting lists.
“We’re not kicking off anybody and if it’s the case, please call the ministry because it’s not supposed to be like that.”