Post-school support for people with autism 'the most difficult job'

An Island autism support organization is asking for core funding from the provincial government so it can continue to provide services for people with autism after they've left the school system.

'When they leave school it's all over'

Stars for Life Foundation for Autism board members Carolyn Bateman and Peter Rukavina at the P.E.I. Legislature's standing committee on education and economic development. (Province of P.E.I.)

An Island autism support organization is asking for core funding from the provincial government so it can continue to provide services for people with autism after they've left the school system.

The Stars for Life Foundation for Autism made a presentation to the P.E.I. Legislature standing committee on education and economic development Tuesday. President Carolyn Bateman said the province is doing little now for people with autism once they're done school.

"We talk a lot about the school-age kids, that when they leave school it's all over and you're done your job," said Bateman.

"In some ways that's when your job's really beginning. They're 18 or 19 when they leave the school system, most of their life is when they leave the school system. And that's when the most difficult job starts and when we really need help of more professionals."

In Canada, one child in 68 is diagnosed with autism. The Stars for Life Foundation is currently providing assistance to about 30 people, with a wait-list of more than 40. Given the rate of diagnosis among children, Bateman is expecting her wait-list to grow quickly, and the group is treading water just to keep up with the work it does now.

Parents 'terrified'

Bateman said the only post-school support from the province is through the disability support program.

"Parents are really terrified of what's going to become of their children when they leave the security of the school system," she said.

With the proper supports, said Bateman, people living with autism can contribute to the Island economy and society.

But the organization needs more funding to attract and keep qualified employees that can provide those supports.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Malcolm Campbell