Some Manitoba families with autistic children say they might get turned away from a highly sought-after therapy program because they have been on a waiting list for so long, their children may end up being too old to qualify.
Families that want access to applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy for their children must wait roughly 1½ years on a list.
The program is available only to children under the age of five. With the waiting list so long, some children may end up being too old to qualify for ABA, meaning they would be turned away this September.
"I just can't imagine where kids are going to wind up without having ABA," said Guy Mercier, president of Manitoba Families for Effective Autism Treatment.
"Without ABA in my son's life, he wouldn't be where he is."
The ABA program gives children three years of intensive therapy, teaching them social skills and life skills before they enter kindergarten. It also provides support for five years while they are in school.
Samantha Bawtinheimer said she placed her 2½-year-old son, Noah, on the waiting list for ABA soon after he was diagnosed with autism last September.
Bawtinheimer said she is frustrated by how long it will take for Noah to get into the program.
"You're supposed to be there to protect them. You're supposed to be there to help him. I can only do so much," she said.
"I've done my research. I can't do it all. I still have to work, I have to provide for him. I can't do it all. I need their help."
Manitoba government officials told CBC News they are committed to increasing access to ABA, but only for children under the age of five.
Older children with autism have access to other supports, including speech language pathology programs, once they are in school, officials said.