Wednesday, April 26, 2006

CTV News- Parents of autistic children looking for national help

Parents of autistic children looking for national help
CTV News

Apr 24, 2006

LLOYD ROBERTSON: And finally for us tonight, a
heart-breaking dilemma faces the parents of Canada's 300,000
autistic children. How do they pay the staggering costs of intensive
therapy? Many plunge deeply into debt. Some move their families to
Alberta, where the cost is covered by the health system there.
Others turned up in Ottawa today looking for a national solution.
They found members of parliament, one in particular, who understood
their anguish. CTV's Rosemary Thompson has the story.

ROSEMARY THOMPSON (Reporter): Jayden Lake is unable to speak. But this 10 year old boy, who struggles with autism, is popular with his grade four classmates.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Jayden's mute, so he can't, like, talk. He's still my buddy.

THOMPSON: His father is a rookie Conservative MP from Alberta, who wants to make a difference.

MIKE LAKE (Conservative-Edmonton): He's two and a half when he was actually diagnosed, but we knew prior to his actual diagnosis. We actually knew he had autism.

THOMPSON: A heart-breaking diagnosis, but the Lakes say they're lucky because Alberta is the most generous province in Canada when it comes to covering the cost of intensive therapy. The price tag, $40 to $60,000 a year per child.

DEBI LAKE (Mother): At the very beginning we actually discussed taking out a line of credit and in the end did get a loan from a friend until the government funding actually came through.

THOMPSON: With therapy, half of all autistic children are able to go to regular schools. Parents of autistic children are flocking to Alberta.

MIKE LAKE: I would say, yeah, we've heard definitely stories of people moving to Alberta.

THOMPSON: Children in other provinces are stuck on waiting lists. In Ontario and Quebec, funding is cut off at the age of six. Lake says the whole country should follow Alberta's example. And as an MP, he's taking the fight to the House of Commons.

MIKE LAKE: I want those parents to know that I will do everything that I can do to promote action.

THOMPSON: In the pouring rain, parents rallied outside Parliament Hill. The NDP's Peter Stoffer says Medicare should pay for therapy. He's introduced a private member's bill to make it happen.

PETER STOFFER (NDP-Nova Scotia): Health care is a provincial responsibility for the delivery of that care, but the federal government, regardless of party, has a responsibility to help finance that care.

THOMPSON: And Stoffer's getting support from Liberals and Conservatives like Mike Lake.

MIKE LAKE: Peter Stoffer, I mean, obviously he's with the NDP, I'm with the Conservative party. The fact is that Peter and I would agree on the fact that something needs to happen.

THOMPSON: Working together to give children like Jayden a chance. Rosemary Thompson, CTV News, Ottawa.

ROBERTSON: And that's the kind of day it's been this Monday, April 24th. I'm Lloyd Robertson. For all of us here in the National Newsroom, goodnight. For some of you, local CTV News is coming right up.

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