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B.C.’s long waitlist for autism assessments, diagnosis continues to grow

Click to play video 'Staggering wait for autism diagnosis in B.C. still growing' Staggering wait for autism diagnosis in B.C. still growing
WATCH: One year after Global News reported that the wait for an official autism diagnosis in B.C. was a staggering 55 weeks, and after the NDP government promised to do something about it, the wait is even longer. Catherine Urquhart reports. Today's Global News Hour at 6 Health Matters is brought to you by Pharmasave.

One year ago, the wait for an autism assessment in B.C. averaged 55 weeks.

Despite efforts to speed up the process, that delay has now jumped to 60 weeks, with even longer waits in some regions of the province.

READ MORE: Autism, explained: What’s the spectrum and how it develops

New Westminster mom Therese Martin was told her two-year-old son Zachary would need to wait about two years before he could be assessed.

Click to play video 'Wait for autism assessment grows' Wait for autism assessment grows
Wait for autism assessment grows

“He’ll go around to all the children and be pushing them and pulling them and that kind of thing,” she said. “He does some repetitive behaviours as well.”

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The provincial government increased funding by more than $1 million, which allowed for additional assessments, but demand continued to soar.

READ MORE: ‘None of us saw this coming’; parents rally to save autism program in Kelowna

Last year, an extra 600 referrals were made, yet only about a 170 additional assessments were completed.

“We did respond in exactly the way we said, which was to significantly increase the number of assessments that cost anywhere between between $2,500 and $5,000 each,” Health Minister Adrian Dix told Global News.

“And we have to keep working on it, because clearly those wait times are too long for parents and for children.”

Click to play video 'Sensory-friendly shopping for people with autism' Sensory-friendly shopping for people with autism
Sensory-friendly shopping for people with autism

Martin says the delays are unacceptable, adding, “there has to be something that can be done to move up the waitlist for everybody that’s in the process right now.”

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She now plans to pay several thousand dollars for a private assessment so Zachary can finally get a diagnosis.