Hundreds on early intervention waitlist in N.S.
'It's depriving those preschool children of the boost they need'
A program that helps guide Nova Scotian children with developmental issues says hundreds of children with special needs are facing year-long waits because of a lack of money.
Gerard Kysela, the board vice-chair of the Early Intervention Association of Nova Scotia, said the programs that provide support and services to families and children with developmental delays are chronically underfunded.
"There are 17 programs and they're going well, but they're very much underfunded," said Kysela.
"The boards of each program are forced to fundraise for some of the fundamental services."
Kysela said it currently costs $2.7 million annually to run the programs.
"To have 250 to 300 children on a waitlist for a program that's a primary prevention program is like depriving them of immunizations, it's depriving those preschool children of the boost they need to get into schools," he said.
"For $3 million or $4 million they could get rid of that waitlist, upgrade the programs to proper salary levels so it's not a lot of money relative to some of the other projects you hear about in the news every day."
Paige Harrison, whose three-year-old son Ethan is autistic, applied to an early intervention centre for help with her son and waited 16 months for him to be placed in a program.
"I wasn't sure what was taking so long," she told CBC News.
"I did some research and I was like, 'It's not their fault, it's because they just don't have the resources that they need.'"
Harrison said the early intervention centre helps Ethan learn how to communicate, but now the staff member who works one-on-one with him is leaving for another job with higher pay.
She been told similar jobs in other jurisdictions will pay as much as $20,000 more a year than in Nova Scotia.
"There were a lot of things that we didn't know but at the same time, the government doesn't make it easy for them to help us," said Harrison.
"As a parent, you want to do whatever you can to help your child. You want him to grow up and be a successful person. But without the support that we need for Ethan, what kind of future is he going to have? That's what I want to know."
The Department of Community Services said it will look at expanding programs, including the Early Intervention Association, now that the provincial budget is balanced.
But Harrison says she's skeptical and not holding her breath for any increases.