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Western Health responds to Jackee Sweet

Alexander is showing signs of autism, according to his mother, Jackee Sweet, who has other relatives on the spectrum.
Alexander is showing signs of autism, according to his mother, Jackee Sweet, who has other relatives on the spectrum.

Last week The Gulf News highlighted the challenges and resulting frustrations of single mother Jackee Sweet, who is seeking treatment for her young son, Alexander.

Although Alexander has undergone tests that support Sweet’s belief he is on the autism spectrum, without an official diagnosis he cannot benefit from some provincial programs and treatments.

Tara J. Pye, regional director of communications for Western Health, offered some confirmation and clarification in response to a request for information about the process of diagnosing a child with autism.

“Western Health offers developmental assessment and intervention services (e.g. speech-language pathology and direct home services) to pre-school children based on individual need prior to a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) being made,” Pye wrote.

“Service providers refer children to the child development team for further assessment when concerns related to ASD are identified during their involvement with a child.”

Alexander, who is nearly three, receives both speech therapy and direct home services.

According to Pye, “The diagnostic process carried out by the inter-disciplinary child development team in the western region is comprehensive and based on best practice.”

Pye stated the current waitlist for assessment through this team is approximately 50 children, and the average wait time is approximately nine months, which confirms Sweet’s expectations that Alexander will wait the better part of another year before receiving an official diagnosis.

Pye did clarify it does not necessarily have to be the child development team that delivers the official diagnosis.

“In keeping with provincial standards, Western Health offers applied behavioral analysis therapy to children who have a diagnosis of ASD,” she said. “The diagnosis of ASD is made by a child development team, pediatrician, psychiatrist, or a psychologist with demonstrated clinical competency in ASD diagnosis. Referrals for applied behavioral analysis therapy (ABA) are accepted at Western Health from any of these sources.”

Pye stated that ABA services are available to children up to the age of Grade 4 school entry, “and children referred for ABA services are typically assigned a therapist within one month of referral.”

For now, it seems all Sweet and Alexander can do is wait.    

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