New Brunswick

Lack of services for autistic son forces newcomer family to leave

For Hanan Fadel, it’s hard to sleep. Almost every night her seven-year-old son yells, runs, hits his head on the walls. 

Family relocates to Ontario after 7-year-old Ahmed's condition deteriorates

Hanan Fadel and her husband Mostafa Ismail have moved to Ontario after facing waitlists for autism services for their son. (Julia Wright/CBC)

For Hanan Fadel, it's hard to sleep. Almost every night her seven-year-old son yells, runs, and hits his head on the walls. 

Ahmed has autism, and he's had trouble sleeping since the family moved to Saint John. 

After just 11 months in New Brunswick, Fadel and her family are leaving the province in hopes of finding better services.

"There is nothing here in Saint John for Ahmed, for my son," Fadel said. "Everything is waitlist, waitlist, waitlist. That's why his case became [worse] from day to day."

When they moved from Egypt, Fadel and her husband, Mostafa Ismail, hoped for a better life for their son and six-year-old daughter, Guolara.

Ahmed. 7, and Guolara, 6, were attending school in Saint John before their family decided to move to Ontario. (Julia Wright/CBC)

"We came here to start out life … where the people are very friendly," Fadel said. "It's comfortable for Ahmed to have such good people around him.

"Social Development said they would try to help [Ahmed] as a complex case … but they said it would take three years ... He got lost."

The family came to New Brunswick as provincial nominees. That means they chose New Brunswick, and New Brunswick chose them, effectively sponsoring them to come into the country.

Fadel has a computer engineering degree and her husband is an accountant, but their credentials have not been recognized in New Brunswick.

They have both been working as cashiers at a local pharmacy.

The final straw came when they were evicted from their apartment.

Ahmed, 7, has autism and his condition has worsened since moving to Saint John, his mother says. (Submitted by Hanan Fadel)

The family applied for permission to leave New Brunswick and sold everything ahead of the move to Ontario.

Deb McDonald, the executive director of the Autism Community Centre in Saint John, wrote a letter in support of the family's application to leave the province.

In the letter, she said New Brunswick's efforts to support children with autism are good, but they are "certainly not enough."

McDonald wrote she's seen many people who live in New Brunswick hit the same walls that Fadel and her family have: waiting lists for primary services that are between one and four years, in particular for speech and psychology.

Couple hoped for opportunities

"Hanan and her family came to our country for greater opportunities for themselves and for Ahmed," she wrote. "They literally sold everything they owned in their country and came to Canada." 

McDonald said the family came to Saint John "with a strong sense of belief that their son would be able to access support" and that they would find work in their fields, but they "have not even met with the smallest amount of success." 

McDonald concluded the letter by saying the move to Ontario might give the family a better chance to access jobs and supports.

"The family's efforts are tireless, but our resources in New Brunswick are extremely challenged," she wrote.

"[Ahmed] is losing ground that he cannot afford to lose while he waits for supports and services in an arena where the demand is ever increasing."

Fadel said the move to Ontario is costly, and her family "will have nothing" when they arrive.

"We will start from the beginning. We will start searching for jobs. Our employers here don't want to transfer us, because we are new here."

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