It can be isolating to raise a child with autism, especially if they are not officially diagnosed, but one Abbotsford mom is trying to change that with an online resource called Champions for Community Mental Wellness.
B.C. offers many services for youth who are diagnosed with autism, but some children don't show strong enough symptoms for a diagnosis until they are much older, and therefore can't access those services when they are young.
That service gap can leave parents overwhelmed, says Karen Copeland, whose son was not diagnosed with autism until he was 11.
"If you've got a child who isn't being supported as well as they could be in their school environment, or maybe their parents are being overwhelmed and not being supported, those issues tend to compound over time."
And even with a diagnosis accessing those services can be also be challenging, she notes.
"[Parents] are navigating up to three systems of care, through the Ministry of Child and Family Development, through the Ministry of Health, through the school," she said.
Late diagnosis delayed treatment
Copeland had suspected her son was autistic since he was five years old, but he kept passing assessments because his symptoms were subtle.
"We were told a lot of times, don't worry, he'll grow out of it."
She says counselors even told her that her son's issues with anxiety were a result of parenting.
"We were told a lot of times … this is a parenting issue — change your parenting."
Copeland started her blog to share her experience as a parent of a child with autism in Sept. 2014 and over time, it grew into a resource for parents of children with mental health issues all over the world.
She also hosts a closed Facebook group where parents can gain support and encouragement from each other right away.
Copeland is speaking on a youth mental health panel today at the University of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack.
With files from CBC Radio's The Early Edition.
To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Parent creates online resource for fellow families of children with mental health issues.