Children with autism preparing to start school in 2016 at age six will benefit from the Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program.
In September government will add between 20 and 25 new spaces in the program, creating a total of 110 spaces. This means 110 children will be able to receive the program each year.
Government will now be investing a total of $10 million each year in this program.
“Before, our daughter would enter a crowded room, go to a corner and put her fingers in her ears. Now she walks in and wants to be the centre of attention,” said Lori Fancy, whose six-year-old daughter finished the program in May 2014, and started school the following September.
“If I had to do it all again, I would do it in a heartbeat. On the first day of school, she was the first one in line and overall she’s transitioned into school seamlessly.”
There are currently 25 children on the waitlist who will enter school at age six in 2016.
“As parents, we all want what’s best for our children. For children with autism, this program provides the best start possible before they begin school,” said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.
“I recognize it can be a difficult choice for some families to delay school entry, but this program provides valuable skills that will better prepare these children for the learning environment at school.”
Last fall, Mr. Glavine appointed an expert panel to review the program to ensure the province was providing the best treatment possible to children with autism before they start school.
The panel concluded that the program is effective in helping children develop communications skills, follow directions, pay attention and control their emotions. These skills are often very weak or non-existent for children with autism, and they are important for success at school.
The report is available at novascotia.ca/dhw .
“Giving children the best start in the early years will help them reach their full potential,” said Mr. Glavine.
The Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program began in 2005, to help children with autism get treatment before they entered school. At the time, about one in 150 people were diagnosed with autism, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.
That number has now more than doubled, with an estimated one in 68 people being diagnosed.