Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surrey Ridings All-Candidates Meetings

Surrey Ridings All-Candidates Meetings
Fleetwood-Port Kells:
Wednesday, October 1st, 7:30-9:30 PM
North Wood United Church, 8855 - 156 St, Surrey

Tuesday, October 7th, 7:00-9:00 PM
Fraser Heights Secondary School, 108th Ave. and 160th St, Surrey

Newton-North Delta:
Wednesday, October 1st, 7:00-9:00 PM
North Delta Inn, 11920 - 70 Ave., Delta

Wednesday, October 8th, 4:00PM
Kwantlen University, 12666 - 72nd Ave., Surrey

See this and more events here:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Parents Lobby Swing Ridings in Autism Fight

Parents of children with autism have been fighting over a decade to have costly treatment covered by Medicare. Now they are using strategic election lobbying in swing ridings to further their cause.

Activist group Medicare for Autism Now has launched a campaign called “The Two Percent Solution” in 14 swing ridings across the country where candidates won by two per cent or less. They are backing any candidate who publicly supports legislation to amend the Canada Health Act to include autism treatment.

Among the 14 constituencies is Parry Sound-Muskoka where federal Health Minister Tony Clement won by a mere 21 votes. Because these ridings are vulnerable, says the group, their initiative has a good chance of success.

“What we want to do is get some federal leadership on the issue of autism. No party has stepped up to the plate so we’ve got this non-partisan initiative going on in the upcoming federal election,” says Louise Witt, a parent activist and Surrey, B.C., campaign coordinator with the group.

Witt’s 4-year-old son, Jack, was diagnosed with the developmental disability when he was two. That’s when Witt became active.

“I didn’t have a political bone in my body until I realized the discrimination that children with autism were faced with in this country,” she says, calling these children “the orphans of the health care system.”

The group, along with Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT), has been calling on Ottawa to work with the provinces to set a national standard for autism treatment and amend the Canada Health Act so that an intensive treatment called Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) can be covered by Medicare.

“It’s expensive, and politicians talk a lot about that but they certainly don’t talk about how expensive in might be to treat a child who has cancer or diabetes, for example. So I don’t understand why it is acceptable to put a price tag on treatment for children with autism.”

ABA includes one-on-one time with trained professionals and is most effective when implemented between the ages of two and five. It has been shown to have a dramatic effect on children with autism, and Witt’s son is no exception.

“He never spoke, not a single word, until he went in ABA treatment and he spoke his very first word on his very first day of therapy. I knew right then that this was a powerful kind of treatment. He now talks in sentences, he wants to socialize with children, he can tell me what his wishes are, if he’s hungry or if he’s hurt, and if I didn’t see such amazing results I wouldn’t feel as passionate about this.”

However, the treatment can cost up to $60,000 a year, and there lies the rub — the provinces say it’s too expensive.

“It’s expensive, and politicians talk a lot about that but they certainly don’t talk about how expensive in might be to treat a child who has cancer or diabetes, for example. So I don’t understand why it is acceptable to put a price tag on treatment for children with autism,” Witt says.

Currently, a patchwork of autism services are provided through social services ministries across the country, with some, like B.C. and Alberta, paying a portion of ABA costs.

But it’s not enough, say parents, some of whom have more than one child with autism and have been crippled by debt as they struggle to provide what they believe is the best treatment for their children.

There have been several lawsuits in various provinces over the years in an effort to resolve the issue. In the landmark Auten case in British Columbia, the court declared that Early Intensive Behavioural Therapy or ABA is a “medically necessary” service and must be funded by the government.

However the province appealed, and the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that judgement in 2004.

While Health Minister Clement was not available for an interview for this story, the Ministry of Health has stated that the issue must be addressed by the provinces and territories since it’s their responsibility to deliver health care.

But after children with autism become non-coping adults who must be institutionalized, it’s the Ministry of Health that foots the bill. FEAT and others say it’s inconsistent that the ministry not be responsible for funding early treatment that can help these children before they become a drain on the system.

Liberal Senator Jim Munson, who supports a national strategy for autism treatment, was part of a Senate committee that produced a report earlier this year called “Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis.” However, the report never went before Parliament for a vote.

Munson says it’s time politicians began “thinking outside the box” because families of children with autism are in crisis.

“The stress is so much on families that couples are splitting up, families are borrowing money that they can’t afford and mortgaging their homes to provide their children with treatment, and from my perspective as a Senator I find that tragic.”

Beverley Sharpe, a volunteer with Medicare for Autism Now, is keenly aware of what Munson means.

Soon after her child, Allison, was diagnosed with autism when she was almost three, Sharpe’s husband walked out. After doing extensive research, Sharpe was convinced that ABA was the only therapy that could help her daughter.

In order to meet the “huge bills” that started pouring in after she began the ABA treatment, Sharpe opened a line of credit, worked overtime, cashed in her RSPs, pawned anything of value and slept on her living room floor so that she could rent out her bedroom.

It all paid off, and Allison, now 14 and a grade 9 student, is able to look after herself and “has blossomed into a lovely member of the household.”

A litigant in the Auten case, Sharpe says two studies accepted by the court showed that it costs $1.1 million to pay for the long term care of untreated autistic individuals — 10 times the amount it costs to provide ABA treatment. A recent federal government study found that autism, which is on the rise, costs the economy about $1 billion a year.

“It’s a pretty lonely existence being an untreated autistic person and institutionalization is not a dignified existence. We do not have a society where we write people off for any disability except if you’re autistic,” says Sharpe.

But this issue is not peculiar to just Canada. According to FEAT’s website, parents in many countries are suing their local, state/provincial or federal governments to make ABA accessible to their children through public funding.

In the U.S., where most of the legal battles — and gains — have occurred, presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama have both said they support the Combating Autism Act which was unanimously passed and has almost $1 billion dollars going toward treatment and research.

In Canada, a private member’s bill tabled by NDP MP Shawn Murphy proposing amending the Health Act to ensure government funding for ABA was supported by both the Liberals and the NDP. But the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois voted it down.

However, Harold Doherty, whose son, Conor, suffers from autism, says the fact that so many MPs supported the bill bodes well for the future in advocating for the measures proposed by Murphy.

Thanks to the efforts of Doherty and other parents, New Brunswick now has funding for 20 hours per week of ABA treatment and provides training for autism support workers and teacher assistants. But without ABA being covered by Medicare, says Doherty, there’s always the risk that these hard-won gains could be lost at any time.

“We need serious commitments of funding for autism treatment across Canada and that’s what we’re not getting.”

For more information on the Two Percent Solution campaign, visit www.medicareforautismnow.org Last Updated
Sep 24, 2008

Full article: http://en.epochtimes.com/n2/canada/parents-lobby-swing-autism-fight-4717.html

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autism group takes funding battle to the hustings - Ottawa Sun

Ottawa Sun
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Autism group takes funding battle to the hustings


Families dealing with autism have been "shafted" by governments of all political stripes and are vowing to change that this federal election.

"We've been shafted left, right and centre," said Andrew Kavchak, an active member of the autism community in Ottawa.

Kavchak, like hundreds of parents across the country, is putting his hope on a new national group called Medicare for Autism Now Society.

"I'm extremely satisfied and happy there are parents within the community no longer willing to sit back and accept their fate, who are willing and have enough energy left over after taking care of their children," Kavchak said.

Medicare for Autism Now is targeting select ridings across the country which were close during the last federal election, and asking all the candidates if they will support autism treatment being included in Canada's medicare system.

The group had some success the last time around with two ridings in B.C. and have now expanded their efforts to 14 ridings in four provinces with a national campaign.

The group will be making their case in Ottawa early next month, hoping to catch the attention of all parties fielding candidates in the federal election.

While none of the ridings are in the Ottawa area, Kavchak says it's only a matter of time.

"I'd like to see it being adopted and used from coast to coast until justice is done," he said.

New Democrat candidate Marlene Rivier, running in Ottawa West-Nepean, agrees autistic children have been treated unfairly, and she for one is prepared to commit to funding treatment under medicare.

"I really think autistic children have been shortchanged. Commitments have been made to them and then those governments have failed to follow through on them. We need to extend treatment to those families, and continue examining evidence to ensure they are producing the outcomes we want for these children during the critical years. The fact they are being denied the help they need is really quite tragic," she said.


Ottawa South MP David McGuinty, running for re-election for the Liberals, says he's been working behind the scenes for the past four years on this very issue.

Yesterday, he pledged that whether sitting on the government side or in opposition, he'll push forward on including autism treatment under medicare.

"We need to find out how we might proceed and whether the Canada Health Act might be amended to include treatment for autism spectrum. My brother (Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty) has been seized with this for years. It's a tough thing, a lot of demands. I've been working hard on this and it's something we have to move forward on," he said.

Louise Witt, a parent activist and Surrey campaign co-ordinator with the Medicare for Autism Now Society, said she has made this her life's work.

"My son is privileged enough that we can afford the treatment. But it disgusts me that other children don't get that just because their parents can't afford it," she said.

The non-partisan group doesn't endorse candidates.

"We get answers from candidates and post them on the Internet. The closer we get to our election date, we'll take out ad space in all of the local newspapers, advise our constituents and supporters, and make their own informed decision. We're a single-issue organization."

Witt and her group want to ensure the politicians keep their word after the election.

"We've been lied to many times. Our real work begins after the election. We expect politicians to have integrity. We'll tell them, 'If you go back on your word, we will out you in a very public manner'. "

Monday, September 15, 2008

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Saturday, October 4th, 2008 - 2:00 pm

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally

Saturday, October 4th, 2008 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Eaglequest Golf Club 7778 – 152nd St. Surrey, BC, V3S 3M4

Who should attend? You – and every fair-minded Canadian you know!

In Canada, children with autism and their families suffer from political indifference. It will take the sustained energy and dedication of EVERY CANADIAN who desires a just society to correct this injustice. For our children’s sake, and the sake of future generations, we urge you to attend this rally. Please bring friends, family, kids, anyone and everyone you know who is appalled by the gross injustice done to our children every day by the governments of Canada and its provinces.

Why should I attend?

• Despite a decade of lobbying, collaborating and litigating – autism treatment is still excluded from our universal health care system. Canadian families from BC to Newfoundland and everywhere in between are still bankrupting themselves in order to provide treatment for their autistic children.

• The current and limited funding provided through the Ministry for Children and Families could evaporate tomorrow with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen. No legislation exists within this ministry to protect or enshrine our children’s medically necessary treatment.

• In 30 years of advocacy, the only two initiatives which have achieved ANY success for our children and families has been litigation, and more recently, focused political action. Both were brought by the members of FEAT of BC – a 100% volunteer organization.

• Autism is an epidemic of staggering proportions, it now afflicts one in every 150 children in North America, one in every 94 boys.

• Autism is an election issue in the US…Both Senators Obama and McCain have publicly identified progressive autism policy which can be viewed on their websites….Obama-“Every nation has a special responsibility to look after those who can’t look after themselves…” McCain-“Their lives should matter to the people elected to office…they matter to me.” In 2006, both Obama and McCain supported the “Combating Autism Bill” which allocated $945 million to autism research and treatment. The US federal government recognizes their responsibility to intervene by acting to avoid a major health and social crisis.

• Today, all over Canada, parents of children with autism and growing numbers of other fair-minded, but outraged Canadian voters expect our federal government to show leadership and act. This is not a right or left issue – it’s a right or wrong issue!

• We intend to let those who govern and those who wish to govern know that they will be held accountable, regardless of party affiliation, at the ballot box on Oct. 14th.

Come and find out how you can make your vote actually count on October 14th! It is now time for our federal government to recognize their responsibility to act!

Featured speakers will include:

Dr. Sabrina Freeman - Parent, founder and Executive Director, FEAT of BC
Jean Lewis - Parent, Director of FEAT of BC and The Medicare for Autism Now Society
Beverley Sharpe - Parent and FEAT of BC member
Dr. Glen Davies - Clinical Director, ABLE Developmental Clinic
Louise Witt - Parent, Director of FEAT of BC and The Autism Society of BC
Dubravka Skrijelj - Parent, FEAT of BC member
Dr. Melvin deLevie - Pediatrician, Vancouver
David Marley - Political advisor to FEAT of BC and Director – The Medicare for Autism Now Society
David Chan - Parent, Director - Autism Society of BC and FEAT of BC member
Dione Costanzo - Parent, FEAT of BC member

Bring the kids! There will be a room for them to hang out, play, and get their face painted. Parent supervised – please bring a small snack for your child!

For more information or to find out how you can help, go to: http://www.medicareforautismnow.org

Medicare for Autism NOW! Rally Poster
Medicare for Autism NOW! Info Poster

Annual Capone's Live Jazz Club Fundraiser & Silent Auction was a huge SUCCESS!

It would be an understatement to say our “Medicare for Autism Now!”
fundraiser at Capone’s last Saturday was a success. Not only did we
exceed our monetary target for the evening, it would be safe to say
that over half the attendees did not have a child with autism.
Fair-minded Canadians are starting to see that autism affects us all
and the treatment for children with autism should be as available as
any other medical treatment. Let’s hope the Federal policy changers
are starting to notice too!
We had such a hard working team and such a successful drive we did
not have enough room to display all of our generously donated silent
auction gifts, so we have decided to raffle the remainder off at our
“Medicare for autism now!” rally on October 4th at Eaglequest Golf
Club. This way the generous donations will still go to the intended
The election is at hand and this may be the last time we have all the
FEAT and ASBC volunteers working together to effect policy change in
this manner. We have to make the politicians see that this is not a
Provincial issue that they can ignore. It is a National election issue
that could influence their ability to win or hold power. Please
remember that prior to 1999 a select few, who were sworn to secrecy,
did receive limited funding. It was snatched away. Unless Autism
treatment funding is enshrined in the HealthCare Act you could lose
the paltry amount of money you receive at any time.
It is incumbent on EVERY parent or relative of a child with autism,
who is not receiving adequate funding, to ATTEND this rally. This is a
minimum requirement. You will not be asked to volunteer. You will only
be asked to give up two hours of your time to stand with your peers,
listen to the speeches and support each other. . Medicare for Autism NOW!” Rally!
Eaglequest Golf Club
7778 – 152nd Street, Surrey BC
Saturday October 4th, 2008

Do it for the kids!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Presidential Candidates Debate on Autism

Presidential Candidates Debate on Autism

This week the USAAA Weekly News included a special article of the presidential candidates' stances on autism.

John McCain has worked with issues on Autism Spectrum Disorders during his time in the Senate, such as when he cosponsored the Combating Autism Act of 2006. "John McCain is very concerned about the rising incidence of autism among America's children and has continually supported research into its causes and treatment," his campaign said. "He believes that federal research efforts should support broad approaches to understanding the factors that may play a role in the incidence of autism, including factors in our environment, for both prevention and treatment purposes."

As president, McCain would work to advance federal research into autism, promote early screening, and identify better treatment options. Click here to read his plan on combating autism in America.

Barack Obama has set forth a plan specifically on Autism Spectrum Disorders. "Some conditions like autism don't appear until age two, so infant screening is not enough," he said. "And to meet the needs of the growing numbers of Americans with autism, we need a comprehensive approach that includes not just screening, but early intervention, research, and education services."

As president, Obama would appoint a federal ASD Coordinator to oversee all federal ASD efforts, fully fund the Combating Autism Act and other federal autism research initiatives, support special needs education for children with ASD, and support universal screening. Click here to read his full plan, and click here to see his updated plan to empower Americans with disabilities.

To view this article on the USAAA site go here: