CAQ dismisses Liberal proposal to study services for people with autism

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QUEBEC -- The CAQ government is dismissing a Liberal MNA's proposal to hold a parliamentary commission on the services offered to people with autism, and in particular when they reach adulthood.

In September, Jennifer Maccarone, who serves as Liberal MNA for Westmount-Saint-Louis and the Liberal Party’s families critic, proposed the initiative to members of the Health and Social Services Commission.

She wanted parliamentarians to hear from different groups and find ways to expand services for people with autism.

"I am literally just devastated and shocked," she said of the decision. 

"Nobody is looking at the transition from youth to adult for people on the spectrum. And honestly, looking at just the small snapshot of what is difficult for this community will have a huge impact on other individuals," she added, referring to people with intellectual disabilities as an example.

 

Ce matin le #caq a voté contre le mandat d’initiative que j’ai demandé pour étudier la question des services offerts aux personnes autistes. La CAQ a tourné le dos aux milliers de familles avec des enfants autistes et ont brisé mon cœur de maman. #polqc #plq

— Jennifer Maccarone Députée • MNA (@JMaccarone) November 7, 2019

Maccarone is the mother of two children who have autism, one of whom just turned 18. Maccarone expressed her concern about the challenges faced by young adults living on the autism spectrum as they transition out of school and integrate into the workplace, as well as move from pediatric to adult care.

Maccarone's son Sam aged out of many services available to youth on the autism spectrum. Maccarone said he’s lost his pediatrician and navigating school support has been difficult.

She said services for families with children who have autism change when children reach adulthood, even if their situation does not.

"The transition from youth to adulthood, whether it is education, whether it is health or social services, is gigantic. When you reach 18 years old you magically do not have a diagnosis anymore. It's something that needs to change," said Maccarone.

Nicholas Katalifos advocates on behalf of parents of children with autism and has been involved as a parent ambassador with the Transforming Autism Care Consortium for over a year.

"There is a very real need for support services for adults living with autism," he said. "When one gets diagnosed, that's a lifelong diagnosis. It's not something that goes away and as a result we need all sorts of programs and approaches."

Katalifos pointed not only to medical care, but also employment programs, socialization programs and integration as key areas that need to be researched.

On Thursday morning, CAQ MNA Marilyne Picard told other MNAs that her government would not hold a parliamentary committee on the matter. CAQ MNAs Ian Lafrenière (Vachon), Nancy Guillemette (Roberval), François Tremblay (Dubuc) and Suzanne Blais (Abitibi West) all voted against the Liberal proposal.

- With files from The Canadian Press