Why Do We Need a Strategy?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the most common and fastest-growing neurodevelopmental disorder in Canada, affecting 1 in 66 Canadians aged 5-17 and an estimated 500,000 people and their families nationwide. Without appropriate supports that fit their needs, people with ASD and their families see drastically worse health, education, employment and quality of life outcomes. These effects ripple throughout their communities. We need to do better. We need a strategy that drives real action to make sure all Canadians with ASD and their families have full and equitable access to the resources they need across a lifespan where and when they need them. A National ASD Strategy should identify the full range of needs of the community, across Canada. We need a wide range of policy makers and community stakeholders working together to get positive results.
Why Now? Why CASDA?
CASDA was formed as the autism community’s response to the 2007 Senate report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis. We are committed to ensuring the implementation of a National ASD Strategy to ensure all Canadians with ASD and their families have full and equitable access to the resources they need across a lifespan where and when they need them. CASDA has been advocating for a National ASD Strategy for 12 years.
The ASD community cannot afford to wait any longer. Families are being pushed to the breaking point. Canadians with ASD have a right to equal access to health care and education that meets their needs and to participate fully in society. In April 2019 (World Autism Awareness Month) we launched a revitalized campaign for a National ASD Strategy with a Blueprint for change. As we head towards an election this fall, we are calling on all federal political parties to commit to a National ASD Strategy that delivers on the vision of this Blueprint.
What is the Vision of CASDA’s National Autism Strategy?
The Blueprint for a National ASD Strategy in broken down into six key principles and 3 key areas of focus:
The six key principles call for the strategy to be:
- Person-centered, reflecting needs over a spectrum and lifespan.
- Inclusive of pan-Canadian stakeholders.
- Co-designed with first-person perspectives: nothing about us without us.
- Include a separate co-designed Indigenous approach.
- Culturally responsive and appropriate, especially for vulnerable Canadians.
- Reflective of different regional needs, especially northern, rural and remote communities.
The three areas of focus are:
- Federal leadership to guide and encourage coordinated and collective change through pan-Canadian knowledge exchange and dissemination.
- Immediate federal leadership in areas in federal jurisdiction: • affordability and access; • information; • employment; • housing; and • research
- A federal cross-government approach to ASD that ensures action is coordinated across ministries, agencies, policies and programs.
The End Point: An Impactful, Measurable, Sustainable National Autism Strategy
CASDA is eager to work with the government to develop and implement a robust NAS. This NAS should have a clear and meaningful vision considering the whole lifespan and spectrum of needs of Canadians on the Autism Spectrum, with special considerations for vulnerable Autistic Canadians.
The government’s commitment to a NAS has given the Autism community hope, but the lack of detail to date also raised some concern that the strategy might not be robust, or could be just an enhancement of existing programs and approaches. CASDA and the whole Autism community are ready to work with government to find innovative, transformation approaches to ensure the NAS is more than a collection of new or slightly enhanced program funding.