Parents of autistic child frustrated at long waits for speech therapy program

The parents of a seven-year-old autistic girl who've been on a government waiting list for subsidized speech and occupational therapy programs for the past five years now say they no longer qualify — because their daughter just turned seven.

Sam Kuhn and Lynn Buchanan first made headlines in the fall of 2016, when frustration over being forced to wait for their daughter Charlotte to be accepted for treatment led them to raise $5,000 for private treatments through crowdfunding. They also raised awareness about the lack of subsidized treatments, and raised money, by staging a rally outside the Place St. Henri metro station.

Eventually, Charlotte, who was declared non-verbal when she was diagnosed, was accepted into an occupational therapy program, which began last September, and which her father says has worked wonders. 

But now, Kuhn being told his daughter is eligible for neither the occupational therapy program, or a speech therapy program, which she badly needs.

"I was expecting that she would start speech therapy come this month, but because she turned seven, I was informed that she no longer qualifies for speech therapy," Kuhn says.

Regional health authorities, meanwhile, suggest the benchmark is there because the needs of autistic children change and need to be re-evaluated at that age.

The government, meanwhile, launched an Autism Action Plan last year, which hasn't helped Kuhn's cause at all.

So now, Kuhn says, he plans on taking to the streets again. He plans on "maintaining a presence" outside the downtown Montreal office of Lucie Charlebois, the minister responsible for social services, until they can get the necessary funds raised for Charlotte's speech therapy.

In the meantime, he's accusing the government of playing politics with all autistic kids — pretending waiting lists are getting actually getting shorter while Charlotte still waits.

"This is a political decision which leaves [autistic kids] with no therapy," Kuhn says. "There's nothing else we can do but take this to the minister's doorstep and beg for money to pay for therapy."

Kuhn spent three hours outside the minister's office on Tuesday, and says he'll be out there, with other parents, for the rest of the winter.