Author Archives: Stephanie Porter

MCFD extends limited pandemic support

MCFD’s June 22nd press release announced its limited pandemic supports for families will continue through the summer. View the full press release.

How many ‘new families’ will benefit?

It is unclear how many new families will benefit from this announcement – whether the 1,300 families who received $225 a month from the Emergency Relief Fund as of April, will still receive it after July 1st when the next round of funding begins. The release refers to doubling but does not specify how much MCFD is investing in this new initiative. MCFD has specified that 30,000 children are eligible for emergency respite funding, depending on their level of need and have left it to social workers to decide.

Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development

Minister Conroy’s emergency response focuses on a new service delivery framework

On June 23, 2020, Minister Katrine Conroy, in a CBC interview defended MCFD’s much criticized emergency response record. Many families are reporting to the media and to their MLA’s that they feel desperate and abandoned by government. See ACT’s Community Feedback – Responses from Families.

The Minister defended the lack of emergency funding for respite supports for all families of children with special needs in crisis, by focusing on MCFD’s plan for a new MCFD service delivery framework – which will not be released until 2021.

Unlike other ministers, both provincial and federal, Minister Conroy does not differentiate between the requirement of government to provide emergency support and the long-term issues of policy development. If those responsible for the extended care sector in B.C. had decided to provide a limited emergency response to only 10 per cent of COVID-19 infected care homes for only three months, while they overhauled long-term policy, it would have been a catastrophe.

No New Money – will clawing back autism funding pay for emergency respite?

A common thread that is running through MCFD’s response is that there appears to be no new money for this huge ministry tasked with protecting the most vulnerable children in the province. The current emergency provisions give families more flexibility in spending the existing limited funding envelopes that they already have, but no new money is being pumped into MCFD. The money that MCFD is clawing back in unused Autism Funding that families can’t spend on therapy could pay for this limited respite many times over.

Details of the June 22 Announcement

Emergency Relief Fund “Final Round” – July 1 to September 30, 2020

This “final round” of the short-term Emergency Relief Support fund, which provides payments of $225 per month for three months to eligible families, will be made available from July 1 to September 30, 2020. Children/youth who are eligible for the Autism Funding Program and the At Home Program medical benefits are eligible for this funding if approved for MCFD CYSN services prior to June 15, 2020. It has not been made clear if families who previously received these payments will be eligible for the second round of support.

When first announced in their April 8th press release, the Emergency Relief Fund consisted of $900,000. The MCFD has not announced what the funding envelope is for this “doubling” of emergency support.

Autism Funding extension still limited

The limited autism funding extension for children turning 6 or 19 has been extended to include children whose 6th or 19th birthday falls between March 15, 2020 and August 31, 2020. These families will be allowed three additional months to use unspent funding. The continued refusal of MCFD to extend contracts for all, because of the disruption to therapy triggered by COVID-19, has infuriated families. Nearly 8,000 signatures have been added to the petition calling on MCFD to reverse its decision. The primary request is that MCFD allow all families of children with autism to have more time to spend their treatment funding, given COVID-19 has shut down most therapy services.

ACT’s advocacy efforts will continue

ACT continues to call on Minister Katrine Conroy and Premier John Horgan to provide clear, compassionate and rapid support measures to families desperately trying to care for their vulnerable children. We urge families and the professionals who support them to let them know that this is not the time to focus on balancing government budgets at the expense of the most vulnerable. To read the letters from families that ACT has been copied on, see Community Feedback on COVID-19.

It is worth acknowledging that the pressure that families are bringing to bear on the provincial government through their advocacy efforts are having an effect. Families and professionals should continue to contact the provincial government. The letters we are receiving from across the province make very real the confusion and distress of families supporting children with special needs. In contrast, the Ministry of Social Development and Community Living BC have done a much better job of being compassionate and transparent.

Share your advocacy efforts with the special needs community

We invite the special needs community, including professionals, to share your feedback on ACT’s Facebook Page or by email to info@actcommunity.ca if they wish to remain anonymous. We have especially appreciated the insights of Children and Youth with Special Needs Social Workers and we would like to hear from school district staff who are taking the initiative to provide in school support.

ACT’s Update on BC Government’s Response to COVID-19 Crisis for Families
April 16, 2020

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MCFD and MOE’s ‘relaxed’ attitude to special needs families in crisis

ACT continues to investigate how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting B.C. families with children with special needs, including those with autism. Neither the Ministries of Education or Children and Family Development have taken significant measures to seek out and support families in crisis. Most families struggling with high needs children are not receiving wrap-around supports including access to school and increased funding from MCFD. ACT is concerned that more children will end up in foster care or at risk at home, in the absence of sufficient support.  Read ACT’s update and let us know – are you concerned for vulnerable families?


Families in crisis facing complacent ministers

An update released by the MCFD Minister, Katrine Conroy, and MOE Minister, Rob Fleming, on April 14th has announced they will meet next week to coordinate a response. This meeting will be held over a month after the COVID-19 stripped families of children with high needs of all their supports. Neither minister appears to have an understanding of the stark realities that families with special needs are facing across B.C. Meanwhile, concerns within the special needs community are growing that many children are at severe risk and that neither MOE or MCFD are responding responsibly.

Forcing special needs children into foster care

It is appalling that these families are only being offered such limited support and that it is not being extended to all families trying to keep their high needs children in a stable environment. The $225 a month for three months is not enough to transform the lives of those with special needs who are now in crisis.

The practice of successive B.C. governments, over many years, has been to ignore families of children of special needs until they are in crisis. This has forced a growing number of parents to place their children in government care because they can’t ensure that their children are safe at home. Many of those children have autism and a significant percentage are aboriginal.  The chronic lack of support is now putting thousands under unprecedented strain and it is doubtful whether there are enough qualified foster homes in the province to deal with the influx of children into care that should be anticipated.

Just as COVID-19 is showing the terrible deficits in care for the elderly, it is exposing the chronic underfunding of support from MCFD for vulnerable children.

Still no concrete initiatives available from MOE

Both the Minister of Education, Rob Fleming and the Premier, John Horgan, have made it clear that school districts are free to decide how to support vulnerable students, including those with special needs.  Very few districts to date have issued information to parents of students with special needs to convey to those who are in crisis how they can access practical one-to-one support at their child’s school. Those that have should be recognized for raising the bar.

Time for unions and district human resource departments to step up

A recent snapshot by BCEdAccess indicates that there is no standard response coming from school districts on how to support the many children with special needs who cannot be supported remotely. Their teachers and educational assistants will know who needs to be brought to school. POPARD, the Provincial Organization for Autism and Related Disorder, funded by MOE, has published information to help families contact those responsible in their school district.

Although teachers and Special Education Assistants are still being paid, it is disappointing that neither CUPE or the BCTF has mobilized their members to offer practical in school support to students with special needs. Rather Human Resources departments in school districts appear to be focused on ensuring that school employees are not put under any stress, and the unions have supported this. Yet the Ministry of Health has determined that providing support to children with special needs is an essential service.

There are many teachers and other special education staff across the province who want to engage with their students but are being held back by the constraints of the HR departments at the district level who are responding to union demands. A compromise would be to allow those staff who do not want to provide individualized support to request to be laid-off. If there are union locals who can provide ACT with examples of how they are expediting support we would appreciate receiving these examples at info@actcommunity.ca.

MCFD’s rigidity is fueling parent petition – now 6,600 signatures and growing

A petition to MCFD has reached 6,600 signatures, and is continuing to grow, fueled by parental fears that their children with autism will lose their therapy funding if MCFD continues to refuse to extend the children’s contracts. The primary request is that MCFD allow families of children with autism to have more time to spend their treatment funding, given COVID-19 has shut down most therapy services.

There is a growing conviction among families and professionals that Minister Katrine Conroy is profoundly out of touch. The Minister has not given a press conference to explain MCFD’s stance. The number one question that families want Minister Conway to address is why she is refusing to allow a contract extension that would not add costs for MCFD?

Autism Funding Programs cost government $85 million in 2018/2019. Many believe that MCFD, a chronically underfunded ministry, is using this opportunity to claw back millions in unspent autism funding at a time when the majority of affected families are preoccupied with survival and keeping their children out of government care. Ironically, MCFD, which is tasked with protecting vulnerable children, may be the only B.C. ministry that saves money during COVID-19, while these children and their families suffer the most hardship.

ACT’s advocacy efforts will continue 

ACT continues to call on Minister Katrine Conroy and Premier John Horgan to provide clear, compassionate and rapid support measures to families desperately trying to care for their vulnerable children. It is also time that Minister Rob Fleming issue clear instructions to all school districts that they are required to be pro-active, not merely phoning to ‘check-in’. We urge families and the professionals who support them to email Ministers Conroy and Fleming and Premier Horgan to let them know that this is not the time to focus on balancing government budgets at the expense of the most vulnerable.

To read the heartbreaking letters from families that ACT has been copied on, see Community Feedback on COVID-19.


Share your advocacy efforts with the special needs community 

We invite the special needs community, including professionals, to share your feedback to government on ACT’s Facebook Page or by email to info@actcommunity.ca, if you wish to remain anonymous. We have especially appreciated the insights of Children and Youth with Special Needs Social Workers. And we would like to hear from school district staff who are taking the initiative to provide in school support.

COVID-19 Resources on Autism and Special Needs

ACT is continuing to update information on advocacy efforts and resources on our COVID-19 page. We welcome your suggestions for new resources at info@actcommunity.ca.

Back to School News Round-Up 2017

Back to School Bumps?

The first week of school can have a few bumps for some children with ASD and other special needs. Parents often have questions about the roles and responsibilities of the school. ACT has many online resources to help families of school–age children, available in a page where we pull these all together:

Back to School Resources

Parents! Attend an ACT Event for $25 a Dayblank

MCFD has provided ACT with bursary funding for B.C. parents and caregivers of children with autism to attend ACT events for only $25 a day. Seats will be filled on a first come, first registered basis for as long as funding is available. Bursaries can also be used to register for web streamed events.

Learn more about how to register using the MCFD event bursary program.

ACT Bursaries for Professionals and Para-professionals, Parents of Children with Special Needs

ACT continues to offer bursaries for para-professionals and professionals and for parents of children with other special needs, to improve accessibility to both our live and web streamed events. Please apply early and before you register for the event. ACT provided $27,000 in bursary funding in the form of reduced registration fees in 2016.

ACT’s Fall Training Program

– Attend via Live Web Streaming or In-Personblank

With five events in July & August (430 registrants; 5000 hours of training!) it was a busy, productive summer for ACT. We are now gearing up for fall with two valuable trainings which you can attend in-person or via Live Web Streaming from anywhere across Canada.

Picturing Success: Visual Support Strategies – Oct. 20 & 21, 2017
Vancouver & Web Stream
Brenda Fossett, PhD, BCBA-D, Capilano University
Visual Strategies are critical to helping many children and adults with autism and other special needs to understand what they are being asked to do, and why, as well as allowing them to communicate what they want! This avoids many behavioral issues triggered by confusion and related anxiety. For more information on avoiding challenging behaviors, see Dr. Fossett’s free online video on Autism Videos @ ACT. Save $125 off the early bird rate if you register by September 27th using the MCFD event bursary program!

Two Days of Social Thinking for Young Children – November 16 & 17, 2017
Vancouver & Web Stream
Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP & Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Social Thinking Speakers’ Collaborative
This Social Thinking training focuses on the needs of young children with ASD who need to develop their social understanding. This is the fourth time we have brought this training to B.C. and it always sells out so book your seat early or join via web streaming. Save $175 off the early bird rate using the MCFD event bursary program!

Questions? Please call the ACT office. Toll-free: 1-866-939-5188; local 604-205-5467 or email info@actcommunity.ca for more information.

ESSENCE Conference in Sweden
There was an extremely warm response to Dr. Christopher Gillberg’s thought-provoking keynote presentation on his ESSENCE model at the April Focus on Research Conference. For those of you who are prepared to travel to Sweden in April 2018, there will be a fascinating international conference focused on ESSENCE. For more information visit the conference website.

Thank you to ACT’s Supporters

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We would like to thank all the organizations and individuals who support ACT to continue providing families with our comprehensive online information and training resources. There are three organizations essential to ACT successful push to move our operations ‘into the cloud’, increasing our efficiency, protecting our users, increasing access to training, while reducing costs:

  • Thanks to Alan Ashton and Marty Hall of Purely CRM for the many hours of volunteer time contributed to our new CRM database. This was the easiest technology upgrade ever!
  • Appreciation of Don de Gouveia and Gilbert Okello of Crest Computing for seven years of great IT services within the confines of our always tight budget.
  • Recognition of Justin Ritchie of XE Live Broadcast who manages the production of our live web streamed conferences allowing ACT to serve families and community professionals across B.C.

ACT is looking for New Premises – Thank You to Adera

ACT is very grateful to Adera for reducing our rent by 80% during the transition period which has followed the cancelation of MCFD funding for community-based information and support services. ACT is looking for new premises as our current office is now too large for our needs. Ideally a space for 3-5 desks in the East Vancouver/Burnaby area with a strong internet connection and transit accessibility. Shared meeting rooms would be ideal. Please contact info@actcommunity.ca

Resources from the Autism Information Database – just a keyword blanksearch away!

Did you know that a simple key word search provides access to over 1200 information resources? All carefully screened by ACT with oversight provided by the AID’s International Advisory Panel. Here are some of the latest resources we have added to the AID:


Autism Training Program for First Responders – this is an excellent comprehensive Canadian training website with a wide-range of videos and materials to support fire safety for children with ASD.
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/4209/ – English
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/4210/ – French

An Explorative Study of Successful Women with Autism
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/4083/

Autism’s Drug Problem – Many People on the Spectrum Take Multiple Medications – Which Can Lead to Serious Side Effects and May Not Even be Effective
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/4119/

Autism and Health: A Special Report by Autism Speaks: Advances in Understanding and Treating the Health Conditions that Frequently Accompany Autism
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/3950/

Acupuncture for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) www.actcommunity.ca/resource/3938/ – English
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/3942/ – Portuguese
www.actcommunity.ca/resource/3940/– French

Resources for the B.C. Special Needs Communityblank

The AID is focused on information resources, useful across Canada and internationally, but ACT also has several resources that focus on providing information specific to B.C.’s special needs community:

B.C.’s Community Resources Database – over 1,000 resources!

B.C.’s Community Resources Database (BC-CRD) is where British Columbians, seeking services for children and adults with special needs, look for service agencies, community professionals, government services, recreational activities, support groups, post-secondary programs, and a great deal more!

Search the BCCRD by Keyword; Language or Postal Code at:
www.actcommunity.ca/aid-search/community/.

Spot a B.C. resource that we should include? Submit it via:
www.actcommunity.ca/submit-resource/

Special Needs Community Events

There are a number of community events/training opportunities posted by various organizations on ACT’s Special Needs Community Events page. Here are a few scheduled for September:

Auditions for the Mayday Club Youth Choir September 10 -24 – Abbotsford & Richmond
Attend a ‘mock practice’ session for the Mayday Club Youth Choir! Canada’s first professional youth choir and hip-hop crew for children, youth, and young adults with and without autism and other developmental diversities. Accepts youth ages 5 to 30. All ability levels welcome.

September 10, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm – Abbotsford
September 24, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm – Abbotsford
September 11, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm – Richmond
September 18, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm – Richmond

 

Sensory Storytime
September 21 – November 9 – Vancouver
An inclusive story time for children ages 3-6 years of all abilities, especially those with special need, in a small group setting.

PEERS for Teens
September 22 – January 20 – Surrey

PEERS is a 16 week social program for teens aged 12-16. Participants must be willing to practice and want to improve their social skills. Topics covered include entering conversations, appropriate use of humour, hosting get together, bullying and good sportsmanship.

September 23 – Autism Speaks Canada Walks
Walks includes fun activities, performers and snacks, before and after the Walk. Arrive early to give yourself lots of time to visit and enjoy the event with your family and friends!
Victoria, 12:00pm – 2:00pm;
Courtenay, 12:00pm – 3:00pm;
Colwood, 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Launch Into Life – ASD Parent Workshop
September 30 – Kamloops

This workshop prepares caregivers of children with autism for the transition to adulthood, helping them create an individualized transition plan for their child.

Focus Ability WorkAble Solutions Employment Program
Sept. 5 – Oct. 27 – Kelowna
Focus Ability WorkAble Solutions helps adults with ASD, OCD, FAS, and other diverse abilities let their special skills shine through in local workplaces. Please contact info@focusability.ca or 250-253-3045 for more information on intake interviews and the application process.

familyWORKs
A family driven network to empower and educate families about employment options featuring informative speakers; current employment information and networking opportunities.
familyWORKs Vancouver – September 12th
familyWORKs North Shore – September 28th

Submitting Your Community Event is Easy
Do you have a community event in B.C. you would like to share? ACT lists events, workshops and conferences in B.C. related to autism and other special. Submit events here www.actcommunity.ca/special-needs-community-events/submission-form/

Participate in Autism Research

Are you a parent interested in becoming involved in research? Recent postings, which ACT reviews to ensure ethics approval from an accredited university, include:

  • How Do Children Learn From Others?
  • Understanding Autism Service Preferences
  • Sound Sensitivity Study

See ‘Participating in Autism Research‘ for online surveys and studies looking for participants

Autism in the Media

Join ACT’s Facebook page for the latest news and views

ACT scours the media daily to find thoughtful and thought-provoking articles of interest to the autism/special needs community via our Facebook page. Below you will find ‘the best of the best’ for August. But if you prefer a steady stream of stimulating news and views, follow ACT on Facebook!