Conservative MP says he relates to Ottawa family’s challenges with autistic son
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 7:04PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 2, 2013 1:34PM EDT
Conservative MP Mike Lake says he can relate to an Ottawa couple who turned their 19-year-old son with autism over to the province, as his own autistic child is approaching adulthood and the uncertainty of whether he will have access to the care he needs.
Lake, MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, is the father of an autistic son, 17-year-old Jaden, and the two have made numerous media appearances in recent weeks to raise awareness about autism.
Lake said he understands the challenges experienced by Amanda Telford and her husband, who on Tuesday left their son Phillip at a government office for adults with disabilities because they can no longer provide the care that he needs.
“One of the things we have to realize is the transition from 17 years old to 19 years old, that transition from being a child to being an adult, we can’t forget that it’s the same person with the same challenges,” Lake told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday evening.
“There’s sort of an arbitrary number in between there that defines whether they’re a child or an adult, and then defines at the provincial level what kind of services they are going to get, and that’s a real challenge.”
Lake said that as he watched the Telford family’s story, he “could totally relate” to the challenges they face.
Programs for both children and adults with autism vary from province to province, and many services offered to autistic children end at either age 18 or 19.
Lake said the problem with that is these children face the same challenges no matter their age, and they will need a support network for the rest of their lives.
“Children with autism become adults with autism and eventually will become senior citizens with autism. There’s no lifespan issue with autism,” Lake said. “And so politicians decide what policy choices we’re going to make…those decisions need to be made with that lifespan issue in mind.”
Jaden had support at home before the age of six, and that support continued when he began attending school, where he had a full-time aid.
Jaden is able to hold a job at a library, where he can scan, sort and distribute books. As children with autism age, treatment, which is under provincial jurisdiction, becomes less of a concern and securing full-time employment is the goal.
Lake said his family is already meeting with the provincial agency in Alberta that provides services to autistic adults. He said the Telford case highlights the fact that “families like this need help.
“They need people to understand what they’re going through, as well, and I would say that if anything good comes out of this circumstance, it’s a greater awareness of these challenges.”