Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to fund autism behavioural program for preschool-aged kids

The province announced Thursday it will invest in providing Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention treatment for preschool-aged children.

Province to invest $3.6M in Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention treatment

Allison Garber is a board member with Autism Nova Scotia and a mother of a child with autism. She said while the funding is a positive step, the government should also be considering the needs of those with autism as they get older.

An additional $3.6 million in provincial funding for children with autism spectrum disorder has been welcomed as a positive step, but some advocates say the province shouldn't stop there.

The province announced Thursday that the additional funding would go to providing Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention treatment, or EIBI, for preschool-aged children before they enter the school system at age six. 

The program connects parents, speech pathologists and clinical interventionists. Around 180 children receive treatment through the program, which prepares them to start school. 

'We can't stop there'

Allison Garber is a board member with Autism Nova Scotia and a mother of a child with autism. She said while the funding is a positive step, the government should also be considering the needs of those with autism as they get older. 

Allison Garber and her son Hugh. (Submitted by Allison Garber)

"The [funding] is definitely an incredible step for the province to make. Better preparing preschoolers to enter the school system is very much needed, it's going to benefit a lot of families in Nova Scotia," Garber said.

"My concern is that we can't stop there. Autism is a lifelong condition, a lifelong disability, and these kids need lifelong support, especially as they transition to adults."

Garber said research supports the effectiveness of EIBI programs, but that no one program can meet the diverse needs of those with autism spectrum disorder.

"[EIBI] doesn't cure autism," she said. "There's no cure for autism, so while early intervention certainly supports these children, they still need support in school, they learn differently, and those kids grow into adults." 

General and mental health services

Garber said the province should be continuing efforts to review the current inclusion model for children with autistic spectrum disorder in the school system, and putting funding towards mental health and general health services for autistic individuals.

She said meeting the needs of those with autism also means recognizing the importance of funding for transition to employment programs — that assist those with autism in finding work — and community living programs that find the best living arrangements for people with autism. 

"These are huge gaps right now in Nova Scotia," she said. 

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