Halifax, NS – January 17, 2017: Informed by over 5,000 Canadians engaged through nation-wide community roundtables, meetings with government representatives and a national survey – the business plan for a Canadian Autism Partnership was delivered at the close of 2016 to the Hon. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health.
The Canadian Autism Partnership Project (CAPP) was officially launched in July 2015 with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada. CAPP is a project of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) developed in response to Autism in Canada, 2014, CASDA’s national Autism needs assessment report.
“While this plan is solidified with research and the latest statistics, woven throughout is the very real frustration, hopelessness and desire for action being felt across Canada from Autistic individuals, their families, and the professionals that serve them,” says Cynthia Carroll, Chair of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance. “The reality is that every jurisdiction has been struggling to have their service offerings keep up with the dramatic increase in ASD diagnoses as well as the increasingly complex needs of this population. For the most part, the provinces and territories have found themselves working in silos – independently forming strategies to address Autism the best they can with the information and resources they have. The result is varying levels of support and inconsistent responses across the country.”
The CAP business plan proposes a $19 million dollar investment, over five years, from the federal government and provides a detailed rationale for a Partnership model which will stand as a vehicle for knowledge generation, transition and exchange; a model that builds and enhances capacity – and most importantly a structure that mobilizes partners across jurisdictions and sectors. The plan also prioritizes five complex issues, which were determined in large part based on input from Autistic individuals and their families; and outlines the model to address them and the expected outcomes from this national asset.
Using the latest incidence data from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), one in 68 Canadians are diagnosed with Autism. Supports, resources and services across Canada have not kept up with the increase in diagnosis, but Stelios Georgiades, member of CAPP’s expert-led working group and Founder and Co-Director of the McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART), believes that Canada is well positioned to be a global catalyst for positive change.
“While in recent years we did see a rise in Canadians diagnosed with ASD, we are also gaining greater awareness, stronger acceptance and better understanding,” says Georgiades. “Canada is well regarded for its Autism research on a global platform. Through this initiative we have an opportunity to build on our reputation for international leadership, demonstrating how we come together as a nation to support Canadians on the Autism Spectrum, along with their families and caregivers, and address the complex, systemic barriers that limit their ability to fully participate in Canadian society.”
The development of the business plan was also guided by the involvement of seven Autistic self-advocates from across Canada who served on CAPP’s Self-Advocate Advisory Committee, “We are finally in a place we are being asked to be a part of the process in a very real way,” says Jackie McMillan, Self-Advocate Advisory Committee member from Kitchener, Ontario. “It’s a dream come true, it’s so empowering to be able to come forward with a group of people that I respect and admire so much, and be able to frame out what do we need and why do we need it, and that is so incredibly heartening.”