The P.E.I. government released a new strategy for the diagnosis and treatment of autism Tuesday, but the Autism Society says concrete results are a ways off.
The reports contains 37 recommendations, including:
- Development of a kindergarten support model.
- Increasing service capacity by hiring a preschool autism co-ordinator and three full-time preschool autism specialists.
- Hiring two new autism consultants to support students at the Eastern and Western School Boards.
- Creation of an autism resource centre and an autism research council
- Increasing wages for autism tutors from $10 to $11 an hour.
This last point was a major bone of contention for parents, as many have been topping up tutors' wages out of their own pocket. Ronnie Nicholson has a four-year-old with autism, and he has struggled to find a steady tutor. Nicholson walked out of the government news conference in frustration, saying the wage increase is not enough to make a difference.
"We know what needs to be done," said Nicholson, "but anyway, hopefully something will happen and soon."
Education Minister Doug Currie said he understood the frustration, something that was also on display in November when parents of children with autism rallied at Province House.
"We saw today a typical example of the frustration," said Currie, "but keeping in mind that the province has never had an action plan or a strategy, and today is a great first step."
The Autism Society of P.E.I. agrees a bigger wage increase is required.
"Obviously going forward, that's got to be something that the government is going to have to look at in a concrete way," said society president Jeff Himmelman.
As the report was being prepared, parents complained about a lack of consultation. In the past parents have voiced concerns there were no public consultations in the creation of this new strategy. That has left some big gaps in the strategy, said Carolyn Bateman, co-founder of the Stars for Life Foundation for Autism.
"Especially through junior high and high school years, with social skills training, helping them fit in," said Bateman.
"Helping them understand the social rules, which is going to make a huge impact on their outcome when they leave the school system into adult life. So it's really an important thing that needs to happen."
The Autism Society said it is pleased that now there is at least a plan to which government can be held accountable.