Quebec parents of autistic child call therapy wait times 'appalling'

Sam Kuhn and Lynn Buchanan say their five-year-old autistic daughter has been waiting four years for access to intensive behavioural therapy.

Critics call for Quebec government to improve autism services in province

Five-year-old Charlotte, on top of her father Sam Kuhn's shoulders, has been waiting four years for therapy that could help her speak. (Submitted by Sam Kuhn and Lynn Buchanan)

Sam Kuhn and Lynn Buchanan say their five-year-old autistic daughter has been waiting four years for access to intensive behavioural therapy.

"It's appalling," said Kuhn. "Our daughter needs speech therapy and she's not getting it."

Kuhn, along with other parents of children with autism, have organized a demonstration this morning to protest these wait times.

The family's social worker informed them last week that their daughter Charlotte's case was no longer considered high priority by a local treatment centre. 
Charlotte is now receiving ABA therapy through a private therapist. (Submitted by Sam Kuhn and Lynn Buchanan)

Currently, for children diagnosed with autism between two and five years of age, Quebec pays for 20 hours a week of applied behavioural analysis therapy.

But the wait times in Montreal in particular are known to be long.

Charlotte can only say between three and five words and gets easily frustrated in kindergarten class when other students and teachers can't understand her.

"It's not about us. We don't want to jump the queue," he said. "We want kids in Quebec—special needs kids, autistic kids—to get the funds they need so they can hire therapists."

Wait times 'a huge concern for families'

Marc Lanovaz, an autism expert and University of Montreal professor, says wait times for ABA therapy in Quebec are a huge concern for families.

"You can wait 12 months to get a diagnosis, and then you wait another 18 months to get services when you know that the earlier you start your services the better the potential outcome for your child can be," he said.

Université de Montréal autism expert Marc Lanovaz says wait times for ABA therapy are known to be long, particularly in Montreal. (CBC)
This December, the Quebec government is expected to release an action plan on access to autism services in the province.

Lanovaz says expectations are high, especially when the Ontario government provided $333 million in funding for autism services earlier this year.

"I'm not sure what it's going to look like in Quebec but we have hope that it will address some of these issues, especially regarding early intervention," said Lanovaz.

But Kuhn and his family are less optimistic. They've launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for private therapy for Charlotte.