Saskatoon

Sask. Party pledges increased funding for autistic children

The Saskatchewan Party announced Tuesday morning that if re-elected, individualized funding will be introduced for children under the age of six who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Funding would begin in 2017, starting at $4,000 annually

Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall says if re-elected, individualized funding will be introduced for children under the age of six who have been diagnosed with autism. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan Party announced Tuesday morning that if re-elected, individualized funding will be introduced for children under the age of six who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

"This change is going to give parents the flexibility they have been asking for in terms of providing the appropriate care and support and service for their kids," Sask. Party leader Brad Wall said.

The funding would start in 2017 with a starting annual amount of $4,000. It would increase to $8,000 by the 2019-2020 year cycle.

The Saskatchewan NDP responded to Wall's announcement criticizing the Sask. Party for underfunding early childhood intervention and development programs. 

"Cam Broten will improve early childhood supports for all children who need them, including over $23 million more for early childhood intervention and development programs," the party said in a release. 

Step in the right direction

Wall made the announcement at the Stepping Stones applied behavior analysis center in Saskatoon. Among those in attendance was Sheri Radoux, who is the mother of three children diagnosed with autism.

"Individualized funding with the expectation that they'll increase funding over time is definitely a positive step," Radoux said.

Sheri Radoux hugs her 8-year-old autistic daughter Emma. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC)

She said since access to applied behavioural analysis treatment for her autistic children in the province is limited, her family brings specialists in from the U.S. to write programs for her kids. She said it costs about $60,000 out of pocket per year for each child enrolled in full-time treatment.

This is really exciting that the province is making a step in this direction.- Sheri Radoux, mother of three children diagnosed with autism

"We have been consulting with them for the last year and a half and prior to that, we had moved to Minneapolis, Minn., for 3½ years to receive direct services from them," explained Radoux.

She said in Minneapolis, the state paid for most of the applied behavioural analysis therapy because the children were certified as disabled.

"This is really exciting that the province is making a step in this direction because treating early and treating intense enough, kids can lose their autism diagnosis."

She said, this election promise is likely to attract more trained professionals to Saskatchewan, to work with families.

Long-term plan

The plan, according to the Sask. Party, is to establish a working group of stakeholders to review jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, that have already introduced individualized funding.

That group would provide recommendations on certain issues like ensuring there are enough professional practitioners and other support providers for pre-school children with ASD in communities across the province.

According to the party, the eventual goal is to provide individualized annual funding of $15,000 to $18,000 for children under the age of six, and $4,800 annually for school-aged children under 18.

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