Our journey began in September of 2015. Kathryn was just over 1 ½ when we began to notice that she was not achieving the developmental milestones for her age. As parents, we knew something was just not right – the quest began, countless hours spent trying to research what could be preventing, our otherwise healthy child from developing as we knew she should.
Previously in December of 2014 Kathryn could wave “goodbye”, mimic our actions and say “Mama” and “Dada” - by the fall of 2015 - Kathryn was no longer speaking, was no longer engaged and would no longer respond to her name. The panic and despair took over. We found ourselves questioning - what happened? Our precious girl…As parents we searched for answers, wanted to fix this, wanted to make it better for her. The feeling when you realize that your child is not typically developing is like nothing we’d ever felt before but we were determined to know, determined to help Kathryn.
We reached out to services we knew of and soon began Wordplay, with the hope that her speech would improve. We reached out to Children’s Community Network - a timeframe of 18 months was given before a diagnosis could be achieved through the ministry; desperate for answers we sought a private assessment with a local psychologist. Time was of the essence and we didn’t want to let it pass by.
The results of the assessment confirmed Kathryn had diagnosis of non verbal severe autism – finally knowing was initially heartbreaking but knowing services were available for Kathryn restored our hope and faith. Like every parent with a new diagnosis we initially wanted treatment NOW, we looked into private therapy and the cost was detrimental to the quality of life we could provide for our other two children. This presented us as parents with a the hardest choice we have had to make for this family. We would have to wait.
Fast forward to January 2017, Kathryn began treatment with Children Community Resources in the centre based environment at 3 years old. The process to get into the centre, took over a year. The intensive intervention one-on-one programming provided her with 24hrs of treatment per week. It wasn’t always easy – we had good days and we had bad days but we knew that the staff were dedicated – tailored the therapy to her needs and we slowly started to notice improvements.
Kathryn at four started speaking again – first single words, then small phrases and most recently sentences. The socialization the centre provided enabled Kathryn to become more engaged with her peers and the world around her. Kathryn is now five and will be completing the program in May 2019. She is enrolled in a public school classroom, integrating with a therapist's support provided by the OAP program in class four days a week and attending independently Fridays. Our little girl, whom we feared would never speak – is now speaking English and is learning French as second language.
The independence she has gained and the abilities she has acquired through the program give us hope that she may one day live independently, something upon diagnosis we didn’t think would be possible. Kathryn still experiences some challenges on a daily basis however since receiving the intensive therapy, we know exactly what her strengths and challenges are – we have learned the appropriate strategies to implement at home and at school to best assist her to achieve her goals and improve her daily life.
September 2015 to January 2017 – a time that was weighed with anxiety and fear – turned out to be a fortunate series of events that fell into place for our daughter. It feels like a miracle, this government has the power to create more miracles like Kathryn. It is devastating to think how many children will be prevented from receiving this kind of life changing intensive therapy. It would never have been possible on a limited budget - such as the government is currently proposing. We acknowledge that every situation is different and every child is different however the program has given our daughter hope for a brighter future, for this we will be forever grateful.
The opportunity to access adequate treatment based on need should be a right for every child, not a privilege.
Michelle & John for Kathryn