WATCH: Quebec announces $29 million annually to support kids with autism
The Quebec government announced major funding to help the families of kids with autism today, setting aside $29 million dollars per year for the next five years for support services.
The money will be used to eliminate waiting lists for families who need financial aid for respite and childcare services, as well as to cut wait lists for therapy for children with autism by 45 per cent.
Minister for public health and youth protection Lucie Charlebois noted that because autism diagnoses are becoming more frequent, the importance of cutting such wait lists is significant.
But there government isn't opening up eligibility for services like therapy: at present, children can only receive publicly-funded autism therapy until around age five, and that age limit is set to remain.
Minister Charlebois said she hopes the funding will lighten the burden on families of kids with autism.
"When you've got one or two kids who are autistic, you don't have any time to do anything else because it demands a lot. So that's what we're doing, we're helping them to get more proper services."
The funding is primarily directed at social and healthcare services for kids with autism, rather than education.
Joanne Charron, who works on services for students with special needs at the English Montreal School Board said she hopes the government can consider funding extra supports for school-aged children with autism in future.
"Early diagnosis and intervention is key, but we still have to educate the children and we need the support and resources to do that."
Charlebois said she recognizes that the funding does not address every need, but it deals with the biggest issues she heard about after meeting with parents of kids with autism at a congress she organized last year.
"The people decided what they wanted, so I'm delivering what they asked for."
Kathleen Salvail, whose three-year-old son Antonio has autism was there for the announcement.
She said she's pleased with the funding but worries that her son could still languish on a wait-list for therapy crucial to his development later in life.
"He'll have no life...if he doesn't get therapy now, I'm sure he won't get a diploma, no job ever, so it's really, really hard."
The funding package also included more money to help school-aged students with autism move into adult life.