A mother from Midale whose seven-year-old son has autism is pleased to see options for individualized provincial funding, even though her son is now too old to apply.
On Tuesday the province announced applications are now open for $4,000 in annual funding available to children under six with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The money will be available starting in August, which is also when the province will release an official registry of service providers.
Katie Emde’s son Avery has severe non-verbal autism. She and other families have advocated for years to get this kind of funding from the province. While he will miss out on the funding, she said her youngest son is also beginning the process of getting diagnosed with autism.
“As we get him through the system, my youngest son, he will potentially be able to receive that funding and it actually is going to be life-changing, not only for our own family but for so many families across the province who can access it right away,” she said.
Emde said the new funding will give families flexibility in choosing from a range of available services. She noted every child with autism has different needs.
“What works for our family and both of our sons might not work for another,” Emde explained. “So this funding is kind of giving families and kids a chance to decide how to kind of, not only live their life, but also what path they need to and want to take with their journey through autism.”
The $4,000 can be applied to pay for a range of services including occupational, physical and speech therapy. It can also be used for behavioural consultants, psychologists, respite services, therapeutic equipment or training for caregivers.
Emde said she was happy to see the variety of services the money can be put towards. She said most people in the general public aren’t aware of the incredible expense that comes with having a child diagnosed with autism.
She said a family could spend as much as $105 to $160 an hour to pay for private services, depending on where they live in the province.
“So this funding is really going to take that financial strain off a lot of families.”
Despite the long wait for the individualized funding, Emde said she knows of several families waiting to see the registry of eligible services and where they are located before applying.
She said she knows all too well the challenges living in a rural area can pose when it comes to accessing services for children with autism. She often made the long journey to Regina to bring her son to appointments he couldn’t sit through.
While Emde maintained the funding itself is just one part of the puzzle of autism services, she said she was hopeful the commitment to individual funding will create positive movement on services across the province.
Despite some lingering questions and criticism of the six-year age limit, Emde said overall this was a “long-overdue” step forward for the province. She encouraged people to be patient because this could lead to more improvements down the road.
The government has committed $4.5 million for the individual autism funding program, estimating it will serve about 700 children in the first year.
“I feel like the sooner that we help all these children at such a young age – and continue with that help and (have) it be consistent – that the outcome later in life will be so much better, not only for their families but also for the well-being of those kids.”
Families can find application forms and more information on the funding program on the Saskatchewan government website.