BY MIA URQUHART
Health officials have obviously been paying attention to the needs of autistic New Brunswickers, says the director of Saint John’s Community Autism Centre.Debbie McDonald was pleased the government has set aside $2.8 million in funding over two years to help New Brunswickers with autism. She’s even happier that Health Minister Elvy Robichaud will focus spending on family education, mutual support and early intervention.
“I’ve been yacking at those guys for years. They’re probably tired of hearing from me, but they listened.”
She said Tuesday’s announcement is “a good first step.”
The next step is “doing it, not just talking about it . . . Come on, no more committees. Let’s put some actual dollars in things that are happening right now.”
She said the province has to put more money into speech language pathology and child psychology and attracting more of those professionals to New Brunswick.
“I hope that they put some money into services that are already operating, because you know what? Those services are limping on one leg right now when it comes to providing support, and training and treatment for kids with autism.”
She’d like to see some of the money go toward community-based centres. She said Saint John’s centre, located at 55 Westmorland Rd., is the only one of its kind in Canada.
“And, they need to initiate some intensive early intervention programs for kids with autism. They need to put money into it. They need to provide the resources so families can get that going as soon as possible.”
She said her centre has more than 300 families from Sussex to St. Stephen – up from 50 families when the centre opened five years ago.
Ms. McDonald said the government has been very impressed with what they’ve done – all without government funding.
“We’re actually doing it. We’re not just talking about what we need, we’re actually out there doing something about it. That speaks volumes. That tells them that we’re very committed to this whole issue – that it’s not just looking to government to fix it.”