Monday, April 16, 2018

Quebec Government Fails Families Dealing with Autism

As the grandfather of a sweet and lovable four-year-old who just happens to be autistic, I read with profound disappointment and sadness of the ongoing crisis in the autism community whereby a group of parents announced that they are reluctantly planning to sue the government of Quebec in an effort to get funding for much-needed services.

First let me say that these parents already have their hands full caring for their autistic children, trying their darnedest to cope with the challenges of everyday life and the special needs of a child on the spectrum. The proposed lawsuit is not frivolous, but a necessary step to somehow get the government to live up to its responsibility.
At a press conference on Sunday, parents were at wit’s end and left with no other choice but to take legal action.
They now plan to file multiple civil rights complaints to the Commission of Human Rights.
“We want respect, we want that their rights for education, for living, for dignity are respected,” Taboada said, “and we’re going to go all the way. All the way.”
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) believes the province’s failure to provide proper services and education is a clear display of discrimination based on disability — and that violates children’s rights.
Together, the parents and the centre are also looking to launch a class action lawsuit against school boards. Global News
There is a special strain that parents of autistic children endure and while the situation of every child on the spectrum may be different, some things are shared among all.
First is the pain and guilt of having an autistic child and the overwhelming frustration. Then there is the constant humiliation that parents endure when their child is asked to leave a restaurant or another parent in the playground tells you to do a better job bringing up your bratty child because of an outburst. 
I myself witnessed a bitter old bag sipping her free McDonald's coffee in the Cavendish mall food court, chastise my daughter for my grandson's outburst, telling her to be a better parent and control her child. 
People can be cruel.

Some children on the spectrum can't deal with crowds or noise or bright lights. Some can't talk and expression is difficult. Some have difficulty showing affection and perhaps some don't have affection, every case is different.
Some autistic children on the high end of the scale do well and with therapy can attend regular schools. Some cannot and need a special school and intense behavioural therapy. 

But autistic children, whatever their situation, need therapy and they need therapy as early in life as possible.

It is here that our Quebec government fails horrifically. Our politicians are indifferent to the financial plight of these families because they are hitherto easy to ignore.
The aid provided is laughable. The government only offers a minimum of services between the ages of five and twenty-one. 
What happens before and after?
Therapy must begin as soon as autism is diagnosed, usually at two or three years old
Last year the government announced with great fanfare an investment of a paltry $29 million dollars of which none of the autistic families have seen a penny as of yet. 
In order to get some financial aid of up to $3,000 families must fill out form after form and do hoops to get aid with most families rejected.
As for those limited services and resources that the government does provide, funding is so restrictive that children in need are forced onto waiting lists where they can linger for years without getting any treatment. Families are faced with the burden of funding these treatments that can cost hundreds of dollars a week, or paying for private schools with tuitions upwards of $25,000 a year.
How many Quebec families can realistically sustain that kind of financial burden?
In the meantime, foreign trespassers who breach our border illegally are welcomed with open arms and are immediately provided with a $600 a month stipend until their case is heard, which of course may be years.

How out of touch are politicians?
They spend our money mindlessly on fantasy and vanity projects like lighting up the Jacques Cartier bridge for $40 million dollars or car races that nobody wants to see that cost $30 million dollars.
What taxpayer in their right mind would choose to fund these idiot projects instead of helping families with real problems?

My grandson is doing fine because he has loving parents, grandparents and family who work tirelessly as a team to make sure he gets the treatment he deserves and the daily support he requires.
Our situation is different in that we can afford the tuition to his special needs school and therapists on the weekend.
It is an expense that the vast majority of parents can't afford and I can only imagine the desperation families endure when money or the lack thereof hinders treatment.

Although autism is what this article is about, I have the same concerns for parents dealing with children with severe physical handicaps or illness.
Last year my son-in-law and I drove to a stable in the Laurentians that provided therapeutic interaction with horses for special needs children. 
Some children had difficulty controlling their muscles, some children had difficulty with autism and some were wheelchair bound.
What they all had in common were parents who were trying to give them the best life they could, parents who could use a little help from their friends.

Instead of embracing its responsibility to help these families, the government of Quebec is looking to get away cheap. It's shameful.
If anything the proposed lawsuit will embarrass the government into paying up. 
It should never have come to this.


  1. Mr. Berlach, are your grandchildren not in New York? How are government services over there for those children under the umbrella?

    1. I have two grandchildren in Brooklyn and one here in Cote-Saint Luc. By chance my daughter-in-law works for the New York Board of education as a lawyer who ironically defends the school board in cases where they are sued over services for special needs children. In New York the public school system is bound to provide an education to all including special needs students. If parents don't feel their child isn't getting what they need, parents are entitled to sue the school board for permission to send their child to a private specialized school at the government's expense. WOW!
      My wife has a cousin in Florida who has a special needs daughter. The amount of services that she receives is massive. Special classes, specialized teachers and therapists, etc.etc.
      We are in the dark ages here in Quebec.

    2. Probably neither accident nor coincidence. What the government has done is make its priorities crystal clear. This being an election year, it's time to make a campaign issue out of it.

  2. Interesting. I can't claim to have any experience with special needs children (or children for that matter) but one thing I did notice after living abroad for many years, we here in Canada, we live in a borderline medieval country. Ok ok, I'm exaggerating for effect here but, we are far behind our peers in the anglosphere.