Castlegar autism workshop helps parents cope with wait times

Kootenay Family Place holding workshop Feb. 1

Parents in the West Kootenay are going to get some help while they wait for their children to receive an assessment for autism.

A “Waiting for Assessment” workshop is being held at Kootenay Family Place in Castlegar on Feb. 1, from 1 to 4 p.m.

The workshop came about as wait times for public assessments of children has increased from 30 weeks to over a year.

“The wait time is difficult, and they are not only waiting for the [provincial public] assessment,” says Dina Zanet Costa, the program manager of supported child development programs and Kootenay Family Place. “But after that, they are waiting to use their autism dollars to access other services, but they have big wait lists too.”

The three-hour workshop covers essential information that families need to know at the start of their autism journey, including:

• How to prepare for an autism assessment and what your family can do while you wait;

• Pros and cons of private versus public assessments and diagnoses;

• What to expect at the assessment and after a diagnosis;

• Tips on coping strategies, how to talk to your family and friends about autism, etc.

For many families, this workshop is the first touchpoint to the autism community. It is a place to meet others facing similar challenges.

“I think for families, it’s stressful waiting to have the diagnosis, and once they do, and they wrap their brain around that, then next they want what they can for their child, as quickly as possible,” says Zanet Costa. “And then they are met with that roadblock.”

Parents can wait up to another year after diagnosis for behavioural therapists and other professionals trained to help children with autism.

Zanet Costa says there can be opportunities in the interim for children to receive behavioural or occupational or speech therapy in the community before they get the assessment. But they can’t access those services if they don’t know about them.

Kootenay Family Place has been working to bring private professionals in from other areas, like the Okanagan, and work with families, who share the cost.

The wait time can have other consequences for families hoping for service.

“A lot of times the children then age-out to school age,” she says. “And once they hit the school system, we know that their resource level is low.”

She says it’s now getting so bad that children can go through the entire elementary school system and receive little extra support — if they get any at all.

“It’s becoming more common, we are finding a lot of children going into the school system and not getting diagnosed until they are young teenagers — Grade 7 and 8,” she says.

Bringing families together

The workshop has been well attended since it was created last year, with more than 120 families attending, says an official with AutismBC.

“Our idea was to build an inclusive community, bring together people waiting in limbo and tell them what their different options are,” says Brock Sheppard, program manager. “Because with autism there’s a lot of different information out there.”

He says the baseline information can help families tailor their child’s treatment specifically for them.

“Every person diagnosed with autism is very different,” he says. “And every family is very different. But what we want families to know is they are not alone, and there are different things you can do while you’re waiting for a diagnosis.”

Interested parents can register through the Autism BC website. You don’t have to be a member of the organization to attend.

SEE: Autism BC Waiting for Assessment Workshop Registration Page

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

Missing Slocan City man found dead

Douglas Morrison went missing in mid-January

School District 51 turns its focus to students’ mental health

‘It’s a shift in our thinking, from what we expect schools to be like and what they are now’

IN PHOTOS: 2020 Wilgress Lake Fishing Derby

Fishermen dotted Wilgress Lake for the Boundary Métis Association’s annual event

Grand Forks marches against gender violence

The Grand Forks march was part of 1 Billion Rising, a global movement against gender violence

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

MLA Larson deals with abuse and threats

Oliver office has a buzz-in system, and panic buttons

Most Read