The thought of socializing with other children used to make five-year-old Zachary French so upset, he’d cry until he threw up.
“When I took him anywhere social, he’d cry, he’d pull my hair – it was a battle from beginning to end,” said his mom, Carol French.
“If he hadn’t had Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention, I don’t think he would have been going to school in September. It would have been hard for him, hard for the other children and the teacher, and hard for me.”
Today, after more than eight months of treatment, the five-year-old with autism spectrum disorder can attend play group, build blocks and communicate using pictures.
“Now I feel a lot more confident about him going to school, because he’ll be able to sit at the table with other children, he’ll be able to learn.”
The province has added an additional $3.6 million per year in Budget 2016-2017 to ensure that all preschool-aged children with autism spectrum disorder can receive Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention treatment, or EIBI, before they start school at age six.
About 180 children with autism spectrum disorder each year will now be able to receive treatment that will help them be more successful when they start school.
The province now spends $14 million each year on this program.
“Children with autism spectrum disorder see a marked improvement in their ability to learn, to concentrate, and to socialize with others after taking the program,” said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.
“As a former teacher and vice-principal, I know first-hand that this investment will make a huge difference for these children and their families, now and for years to come.”
The treatment, offered by psychologists, speech language pathologists, autism support workers and clinical interventionists, is held in children’s homes and child care centres. Parents are also trained to work with their children.
Nova Scotia first began offering this treatment in 2005, with a budget of $4 million per year. At that time, there were about 50 spots available and eligible children were chosen by lottery.
The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta estimates that one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.