News release

Expert Panel to Advise Government on Autism Wait List

Government has asked a group of experts to advise how best to ensure that children diagnosed with autism get the treatment they need at the right time.

The experts will review the latest research and evidence around autism, school readiness and treatment. They will begin meeting immediately, and will report back in late fall.

"We need to make sure that children with autism get the treatment they need at the right age, before they start school," said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.
"We know this is an important issue, and we must act quickly. But we also must ensure that our decisions are based on the best available evidence."

The panel members are:

  • Dr. Dorothy Chitty, psychologist and provincial clinical leader, Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program
  • Dr. Isabel Smith, professor in pediatrics and psychology and neurosciences, Dalhousie University, and psychologist at the IWK Health Centre
  • Teresa Alexander-Arab, speech language pathologist and clinical director, Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres
  • Dr. Tara Szuszkiewicz, psychologist and clinical leader of the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program for Annapolis Valley Health
  • Cynthia Carroll, executive director, Autism Nova Scotia
  • Norman Donovan, family advocate
  • Nick Phillips, co-ordinator of special needs child care policy and program development, Education and Early Childhood Development
  • Susan Jozsa, autism consultant, Education and Early Childhood Development
  • Patricia Murray, special advisor to the associate deputy minister on mental health and addictions, Department of Health and Wellness

The Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention program was introduced in 2005 to help children with autism get treatment before they entered school.

At that time, one in 150 people were being diagnosed with autism, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. That rate has now more than doubled, to one in 68 people.

"Families with autism find this program extremely valuable," said Dr. Smith. "I'm pleased to be able to work with government to extend the reach of the program, and to put children on the right path as they start school."

About 130 children participate in the program each year. There are almost 200 children on the wait list.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

Nine experts will help government decide how to deal with a growing wait list for autism treatment, based on the latest research and evidence around autism, school readiness and treatment.

Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine says he wants to ensure children receive the province's Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention Program at the right age to be ready to start school.

The panelists are health-care professionals, government representatives, program administrators, a family advocate and a representative from Autism Nova Scotia.

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