Parents say human-rights denied to boy with autism

As written by Cathy Carnahan in The Miramichi Leader June 3, 2003

A local couple is preparing to take the government to court to get help for their five-year-old autistic son, who cannot speak. Marsha and Marcel Manuel have filed a complaint with the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission claiming the Department of Family and Community Services has discriminated against their son, Shane.

“Marcel and I have decided that we are not allowing the government to decide the fate of our son,” Marsha Manuel said in an interview. The family’s “complaint of mental disability discrimination” is against the department and its Community Based Services for Children with Special Needs Program.

“It is unfortunate that this is the avenue parents have to pursue in order to get proper treatment for our autistic children, but we are left with no alternative,” Manuel said. “Over 20 complaints province-wide have been filed against the Department of Family and Community Services for discriminating against the human rights of persons with autism,” she added.

Janet Cullinan, director of the Human Rights Commission, said, “We can neither confirm nor deny any complaints. We only discuss complaints directly with the persons involved and not the media,” she said.

Manuel said, “I have been trying to get treatment for two-and-a-half years for my son, and the government still refuses to provide adequate treatment for children with autism. Autism is a neurological disorder, a medical disorder, which needs treatment. ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) is the only scientifically proven treatment that works. As soon as children are diagnosed with autism they should be treated immediately,” she said. ‘The Department of Family and Community Services here on the Miramichi seems to put budget over the needs of our children,” she added.

The Manuels say Shane requires 40 hours of one-on-one intervention every week. He was receiving 10 family-support hours through the department, but those hours were reduced to five earlier this year.

“It is unfortunate that the recommendations of a child psychologist and pediatricians are not being followed, as they requested that these hours be reinstated as a priority,” said Marsha Manuel.

Sunday, family and friends gathered at the Baie Ste. Anne Community Centre and raised $2,100 to help Shane Manuel get the medical treatment he needs. His parents were extremely happy and grateful. They, however, are upset with Premier Bernard Lord.

“Mr. Lord asked me at the PC nomination in stop following him around,” Marsha Manuel said. “He said, ‘Mrs, Manuel I really don’t want you to be wasting your time.’ I replied, ‘Mr. Lord, I will decide if I am wasting my time. I am here asking you to help my son. He is five years old and suffers from autism.'”

The premier’s executive assistant, Chisholm Pothier, says, “The premier never told anybody to stop following him around. What he the people who were protesting was that, ‘You are welcome to be here, but you’ve been here at several events, and you’ve made your point. I understand what you’re going through, so you don’t need to keep coming to make that point. I’ve got the point.'”

Manuel, however, insists the premier was less than cordial. She says he also told two other mothers of autistic children to stop following him. Lila Barry of Miramichi confirmed Manuel’s statement. She says she has also filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission for government’s discrimination against her son.

Manuel said, the premier ” also asked me to find a solution to my problem, so I submitted a proposal from Tracie Lindblad from Ontario, as she already comes to New Brunswick to do presentations for the department of education.” Lindblad is president of Four Points, a private agency approved by the Government of Ontario to offer ABA treatment, also known as Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) therapy.

Lindblad is clinical director of IBI Services. The Manuels are bringing her and Shelley Feeney, the ABA senior therapist with Four Points, to the Miramichi from June 16-20 to prepare teachers and teacher assistants who will be working with their son next year at Carrefour Beausoleil School. They submitted a proposal to Minister of Health and Wellness Elvy Robichaud with letters of support from Shane’s pediatrician, family doctor, speech therapist and child psychologist, but had no success.

“Imagine the parents having to pay for educating the school system (at) a cost of $6,000,” Marsha Manuel said.

“(But) we to emphasize that Ecole Carrefour Beausoleil is making strong efforts for our son to make the transition into kindergarten,” stressed Marcel Manuel.

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