No daycare spots for autistic son, says Corner Brook mom

Parents in Newfoundland and Labrador may struggle to find affordable childcare, but one Corner Brook mom says the process is even more stressful if your child has special needs.
Anissa Bennett of Corner Brook said she believes daycare centres were intimidated by the number of services needed to care for her autistic son, Dylan. (Submitted by Anissa Bennett)

Parents in Newfoundland and Labrador may struggle to find affordable childcare, but one Corner Brook mom says the process is even more stressful if your child has special needs. 

Two years ago, Anissa Bennett was advised to enrol her autistic son, Dylan, in a part-time daycare program to better prepare him for elementary school.

At the time, Bennett's son struggled with feeding and had a number of sensory issues. 

"Here in Corner Brook, it's really hard," Bennett said.

"There are several private daycares, but with [Dylan] having to need an inclusion worker, we needed a registered daycare."

Bennett's son required a special worker to monitor the child, assist him to the bathroom and help feed him.

"He was a runner, so if you blinked your eyes, he would take off — and possibly outside the door," said Bennett.

"So he needed someone who was always watching him, and that's what an inclusion worker would do."

The part-time problem 

"And part-time daycare was really hard because most only offer full-time," she said.

While some part-time programs were available, Bennett was still expected to pay the full-time fee. 

Once Bennett found a facility that offered a part-time program, she then had to wait to get approval for an inclusion worker and subsidization.

Eating chalk and crayons and running, [and] he wasn't potty trained — all of this added together...- Anissa Bennett, Corner Brook mom

According to Bennett, the first inclusion worker that was hired quickly left for another job, delaying the process.

After three months of searching, another inclusion worker was found. But within a week, Bennett said she received a call from the daycare saying it had decided to cancel its inclusion worker program. 

"It was heart wrenching to know [after] going through three months, and we find a daycare that wanted him. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, they called and said, 'No, we're not going to do this now.'"

Coming up short

Bennett said she believes the centre decided not to take her son because he required a high level of care. 

"Eating chalk and crayons and running, [and] he wasn't potty trained — all of this added together, and I think it was because he had these needs."

Bennett said the process was especially confusing for her young son, because she had been preparing him for daycare.    

"For an autistic child, they don't understand, 'Why am I not going to daycare?' or 'Why am I not going here when you told me I would be going here?'"

Bennett, a stay-at-home mom with no other children, said she believed interaction with others would be especially significant for her son.  

"For autism especially, socialization is the biggest thing ... Interacting with kids, playing, sharing, turn-taking is what he would have learned and had the benefit of in a daycare socialization," she said.

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