Majority of B.C. parents don’t support changes to autism care, survey finds

The majority of B.C. families with autistic children don’t want the government to change the way it funds care services, according to a new Autism B.C survey. Kier Junos reports parents and advocates have doubts about the province's new model for supporting kids.

The majority of B.C. families with autistic kids don’t want the government to change the way it provides care services, according to a new Autism BC survey.

Right now, the province gives out individualized autism funding. But in 2025, parents will have to go to family connections centres (FCC) which provide services to kids with lots of different needs.

President of Autism BC, Kaye Banez, says parents are expressing concerns about the new model.

“You’re going to cause a lot of grief and trauma to so many families, right?” she told CityNews. “There’s not a strong support for this move to the family connection centers.”

Read More: B.C. to launch ‘circle of care’ for neurodiverse kids but parents have many questions

Families with autistic children aged six to 18 currently get up to $6,000 dollars per year for support. Banez puts that money toward a care provider for her 10-year-old son, Lazarus, but fears that will have to change in a few years.

“It’s practically a forced break up, you know, of somebody that you love, as somebody that you’ve chosen. Our service provider has been part of our family since Lazarus was three and he is now turning 11 next month,” she said.

Parents and care providers express concern over FCC model

Autism BC says it surveyed over 1,500 parents and caregivers of autistic youth, and found four per cent of them support the new FCC model.

Former executive director at Autism Community Training in Nanaimo, Deborah Pugh, fears with the new model, parents won’t be able to meet the specific needs of their children.

“Parents have to make decisions with a restricted amount of money. And they usually make that based on their child’s particular needs. That might not necessarily be reflected in a large connection center, which will be, you know, trying to provide services for a wide diversity of children,” she said.

Executive director of Autism BC, Julia Boyle, also has worries about the new model.

“We’re concerned about the capacity, really, of the family connection centers, to really serve the kids and there’s a lot of complexities to that,” she said.

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Parents aren’t the only ones skeptical of the new model of support. An SFU survey of almost 500 autism service providers found 37 percent of respondents were unlikely to work for an FCC and 42 per cent said they didn’t have enough information to make a decision.

“Only 9 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the new FCC model would be effective in addressing the needs of all children, requiring support in the province,” said SFU psychology professor, Dr. Grace Iarocci.

Minister of Children and Family Development, Mitzi Dean, was not available for an interview. In a statement to CityNews, the Ministry says it is reviewing the Autism BC report.

“We recognize families, advocates and communities have raised concerns about the new model, and we take these concerns seriously,” the ministry stated.

“Every child in B.C. should have access to the supports and services they need to thrive, but right now many children, youth and families struggle to access services, while others aren’t able to access them at all. This is why we’re focused on building a system of supports that meets the unique needs of all children and youth in B.C.”

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