Prince George Civic Centre | Photo by Sawyer Bogdan
“Waiting a year and a half is a problem,” said parent Joel McKay.
McKay’s daughter Rose was diagnosed with autism a year ago. With the help of Gateway Behaviour Services, speech therapy, Northern Health, and a support worker McKay said they had developed a support system that is helping her get on the right track.
But his family faces another challenge. Next year when his daughter is kindergarten age she will not able to access all the services she has now.
McKay said they are lucky because they had the financial means to pay for their daughter’s assessment privately, so she was able to access government services she will soon age out off.
“We were put on the public waiting list for a diagnosis. We were told it would be a six-month wait. The six months past, we did not hear anything. We inquired we were told it would be (another) six months at least, possibly another year.”
McKay was one of the parents who spoke at the provinces hearing in the Prince George Civic Center, Wednesday night on the challenges British Columbians face accessing services for children with neurological disabilities.
A Committee is holding hearings across the province to hear from parents, caregivers, and academics about the issues they face and how to improve the system for children and youth with neuro-diverse special needs.
Nickolas Simons, Chair of the committee said the goal is to raise awareness and better understand British Columbia’s child and youth services system in the legislature.
“It’s about time legislators heard directly from people in communities about the services.”
Lynn Mathiesen with the Quesnel Child Development Centre, was there advocating for Child Development Centres in the North.
According to Mathiesen, the Child Development Center in the Bulkley Valley, Quesnel, and Prince George are all full with waitlists in the hundreds.
Prince George Child Development Centre has 823 active children with 407 on the waitlist.
Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre services 882 children with 135 on the waitlist.
Quesnel Child Development Centre has 481 active children with 198 on the waitlist.
“Our role in the Northern communities is particularly critical in addressing the barriers to services and service access that families in our rural and remote regions would experience if we were not here,” said Mathiesen.
“The major problem here is that these programs are woefully underfunded, especially with the therapy waitlists being very long. Families are unhappy with the diluted services they do get, and staff are overwhelmed and exhausted, leading to burnout and retention.”
Both McKay and Susan Doran lost their support works this year, which allowed their daughters to attend daycare.
Doran’s daughter Collyns is 8 years old with autism in addition to several other conditions that her mother said leaves her at the developmental stage of 1 to 2 year old.
“This year I am on maternity leave so it’s not such a big deal, but next year I go back to work. As Joel said if this continues, I don’t know how my husband and I are going to work. I don’t know how we will hold down two jobs, and we need two jobs,” she said.
Both McKay and Doran said by losing their child’s personal support work, it means either they or their spouses have to quit their job, leaving their family with one income. In Doran’s case, that means the possibility of losing her home.
“I need help for my daughter, and I don’t want to stick her in daycare to get rid of her. I want her in daycare to help her develop socially,” Doran said.
The committee is accumulating stories until June 4 and if other stops along the way are anything like Prince George, the one thing that is for sure is the current system is not doing enough.