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(Canada) Op ed calls for "National Autism Strategy"

July 17, 2023, North Bay, Markham, ONT: Parry Sound—Muskoka families deserve a national autism strategy

People with autism shouldn't have to wait another six years

Last week, the federal government announced up to $500,000 in funding for Autism Alliance Canada to work with other groups "to outline the requirements to design, develop, implement and evaluate a National Autism Network that will support the implementation of a national autism strategy."

In 2021, at the three-year mark of the government pledging to create a national strategy, the group had advocated for it to be in place by 2023.

In a press release, the government acknowledged autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that about 1 in 50 children and youth in Canada aged 1 to 17 years has been diagnosed with.

“The Government of Canada is committed to improving the health and well-being of autistic Canadians of all ages and to supporting families and caregivers.”…

In our newsroom, we have families of youth and adults with autism, so we attempted to take the survey. It said it would take 30 minutes to complete and that a whopping 68 people had taken it. That the survey would not work, despite registering (it doesn't tell you to register but we figured it out), receiving multiple emails confirming registration and waiting for the site to load repeatedly, could be why the national response has been so sparse.

For families of people with autism, it was a familiar feeling. Hope that there might actually be some help finally, followed by frustration and finally disgust that it's just another runaround that leads nowhere.

Loved ones with autism are still without adequate housing, health care, employment, education, financial independence or quality of life.

Bill S-203, the Federal Framework on Autism Spectrum Disorder Act, received Royal Assent on March 30 of this year.

So where's the framework?

In 2022, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences published an assessment report on autism, highlighting gaps in knowledge regarding the needs and outcomes of autistic adults, including quality of life, activities of daily living, loneliness and mental health.

Over the last five years, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has invested about $78 million in research on autism.

Budget 2021 provided $15.4 million over two years toward the creation of a national autism strategy.

So, let's see the strategy. And, unlike the National Autism Network website survey, let's see it actually work.

Last week's announcement was hailed by organizations involved as a "milestone" toward a national strategy. And it is important to get it right, but let's be clear: children and adults with autism and their families cannot wait another six years for the supports they need.


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