March 15, 2019 3:16 pm
Updated: March 15, 2019 5:27 pm

N.S. hiring 8 new specialists to work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

WATCH: More support is coming for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are experiencing serious behavioural issues. A new pilot project is creating teams that will be able to respond more quickly to the needs of those children. Alicia Draus reports.


The Nova Scotia government is hiring eight new specialists as part of the Brief Intensive Outreach Service program.

The specialists will be divided into two teams. One will be based in Cape Breton and the other will stay in Halifax. Each team will be comprised of a social worker, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist and psychologist.

The teams will work with young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are experiencing serious behavioural issues.

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“This type of community intervention and supports will go a long way to improving the care and reducing the pressures in other parts of our health care system, like emergency departments,” said Health Minister Randy Delorey.

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Patricia George-Zwicker was among those present for the announcement. She is on the autism spectrum herself, and knows first-hand how tough getting help can be.

“My family, trying to get help for me to figure out why I had been in such a crisis, brought me to the IWK, and unfortunately they didn’t have the resources and I was turned away, which just left us in further crisis,” she said.

“Knowing that there’s now this pilot program that is happening gives me some hope that we’re really making progress here.

Patricia George-Zwicker says the announcement is welcome news. When she was 14 she went to the IWK for help but was turned away.

Alicia Draus / Global News

The province is investing $800,000 annually in the new program which will be run by the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre.  Though the program is in part run through the Health Centre, the teams will be working with families in their own community whether it’s at their home or in the child’s school.

“There are some benefits for that because the youth are able to be in an environment where they spend most of the time, that they can be more comfortable in rather than going into an institutional type environment to receive those supports,” said Delorey.

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A parent of a child with ASD, Ally Garber says the new pilot is an excellent step forward but she says it’s important to acknowledge that some families in crisis will still require additional supports.

“There is going to be instances where inpatient facilities, in patient treatment is going to be required,” she said.

“Those four staff are not going to be able to be at a home around the clock, 24 hours a day.”

Garber says in addition to this project she would like to see the province put forward a larger provincial autism strategy.

“What happens to the children after they’re released from this program? How do they transition back to school? How do they transition back into the community?”



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