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'Gives me hope': Nova Scotia creating plan to fill gaps in services for people with autism


Nova Scotia is creating a plan to help find and fill the gaps in service for people of all ages living with autism.

Elizabeth Mason-Squires knows first-hand the challenges autism can pose for a family and the lack of support many receive. Her daughter Rowan, who will be 13 next month, has autism.

"She's been home for two years, 24-hours a day with no support," said Mason-Squires. "We get zero funding of any kind for anything, so it's been a struggle."

In order to ensure Rowan gets the care and support she needs, Mason-Squires says she can't work. 

"The families I know are in mental health crisis. They're falling apart. I can't work. I can't leave my house. I have a disabled husband. It's been a nightmare," she said. "The policy's black and white, and a lot of individuals, we fall in the grey, right? So, it's really hard for people to think outside the box."

There is now some renewed hope for Mason-Squires. The Nova Scotia government announced Wednesday it's creating the first provincial autism action plan.

"We're the first province in the country to do this. Certainly wasn't an easy thing to do getting 10 government departments, so I think really today is about Nova Scotia's opportunity to really be a leader in this space," said Addictions and Mental Health Minister Brian Comer.

Minister Brian Comer is pictured. (Source: CTV News Atlantic)Some of the other departments involved in the plan include education and early childhood development, community services, and municipal affairs and housing. It's also working in partnership with Autism Nova Scotia.

The organization says this plan is a long time coming.

"What we see now in Nova Scotia is there's a lot of fragmentation and lack of supports and services in some key areas across the life course, and services aren't always integrated and seamless in their approach," said Autism Nova Scotia executive director Cynthia Carroll.

The goal of the plan is to change that, and increase services where there are gaps.

Rowan Mason-Squires is pictured. (Source: Elizabeth Mason-Squires)"Something like this gives me hope that the willingness is there to come together and make change, and to support families," said Mason-Squires. "That will, in the long run, support everybody, not just in the disability community, because it would allow [Rowan] to be the best person she can possibly be, because she'll have access to the supports and services to help get her there."

Community engagement will begin this fall, with the action plan expected to be released next spring. More details on the development of the plan, and how to get involved, will be released in the coming weeks.

The province will spend $200,000 to develop the plan. 

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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