This past week, parents across Canada were joining an Ottawa father who was pushing for autism therapy and highlighting that autism should be treated as a national health crisis. Mark Chapeskie wants the federal government to allow for early intervention treatment to be funded by Medicare by including autism therapies under the Canada Health Act.
Chapeskie, the father of William, a four-year-old boy with autism, says Canada is falling short when it comes to caring for kids with autism. He started a national parliamentary petition calling on the federal government to treat autism as a neurological medical condition.
He said the out-of-pocket costs of raising and supporting a child with autism are beyond the means of most Canadians and he believes that autism should be considered a health priority since half a million Canadians are on the spectrum.
While some provinces do fund early intervention programs through social development programs, Doherty says most treatments end once a child reaches adulthood. There's a lack of consistency across the country. Less than a week after Chapeskie’s formal petition was posted to the Parliament of Canada website, more than 2,000 Canadians had signed the document. That means that it will be read in the House of Commons.
While Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor would not commit to including autism care under the Canada Health Act she said the federal government is making strategic investments and a total of $10.9 million is being spent on a new online resource for families. Chapeskie applauds the move, but he said that’s not what parents needs and he hopes once his petition is read in the House of Commons that what he calls a national health crisis will also become an election issue.
This is a big move for this father but one that will hopefully inspire change at the government level. If nothing else, it has made a lot of people across the country rally together for greater rights and support for individuals who are on the autism spectrum.