Parents of kids with special needs say pandemic presents unique challenges
Published Thursday, April 2, 2020 10:02PM EDT Last Updated Friday, April 3, 2020 11:33AM EDT
TORONTO -- With schools, parks and playgrounds across the country closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, keeping kids engaged has been challenging for many parents. But parents of special needs children say they face a unique set of difficulties and fear that their concerns are being overlooked.
Alisa Hutton from Vancouver is a single mom of an 11-year-old boy named Noah who has autism. She says the last month has been hard.
“I do cry every day,” she said, fighting back tears. “I didn’t think I'd cry now, but it's hard.”
Hutton says she’d like to see more supports put in place, such as government funding for relief or permission to bring children with special needs to daycare facilities that remain open for the children of front-line health-care workers.
“I don't expect people to put themselves at risk, but I do expect that we take care of people that are vulnerable and need support, and my son is one of those.”
In Canada, about one in 66 Canadian children and youth are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, making it one of the country’s most common developmental disabilities.
As the pandemic nears its second month, organizations across the country are offering help for children with autism.
Calgary’s Pacekids, a special needs non-profit, is using video technology to help train parents on how to better connect with their kids.
“(We are) coaching them through how to respond to their child so they know how to make sure they’re at their level,” said Kirsten Mackenzie, managing director of Pacekids.
Autism Ontario has been working with local businesses to arrange deliveries of an array of items -- such as pizza-building kits and ceramic crafts -- to help keep families busy.
Vanessa Coens from Autism Ontario says the goal is to find ways for cooped-up families to spend time together in a fun, creative setting.
Thursday marked World Autism Day, when countries around the world held awareness-raising events. In Toronto, the CN Tower will join other international landmarks by lighting up blue to mark the occasion.
Globally, an estimated 70 million people live with autism.