This is the second part of a seven part series featuring the great work accomplished by the PC Caucus during the most recent legislative sitting in the Fall of 2018. We are highlighting the actions of PC MLAs in seeking accountability and showing leadership and advocacy to bring about positive action and real changes on behalf of Islanders. Today, we are focusing on another piece of PC legislation which passed this Fall: Bill 127 – Autism Secretariat (Coordination) Act, sponsored by Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that typically affects a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships, and respond appropriately to the environment. Autism results from a neurological disorder that impedes normal brain development in the areas of social interaction, behaviour and communication skills. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada approximately 1 in 66 children and youth live with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Currently, there are 422 students in PEI schools diagnosed with some level of ASD with many, many more students on wait lists for diagnosis which can go on for years.
For years families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on Prince Edward Island have been advocating for improved resources and better coordination of services across multiple departments of government. As the government’s Autism Action Group wrote in its 2009 report, “the department-based, or service-based silos are entrenched, and cannot be penetrated by the good will and intent of the Autism Action Group participants alone because each department or service applies very different approaches to ASD supports and services.”
This fall Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen introduced Bill 127, the Autism Secretariat Act, which aimed to better coordinate government programming and research for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Bill 127, which for the first time designates a Minister responsible for Autism services, passed with amendment after receiving unanimous support on December 5th, 2018. The amended bill passed by the Legislature was renamed the Autism Coordination Act.
“It gives the minister accountability to autism-related programs and services,” says MacEwen.
MacEwen said he believed that while many organizations are providing effective support for families living with autism spectrum disorder, the coordination of those resources needed improvement.
Big shout out & congratulations to @sidneymacewen
& Peter Rukavina for taking Bill 127 "Autism Secretariat Act" to the floor of the @peileg and for the unanimous support it received. #WorkingTogether #PEI Breaking Down Silos! pic.twitter.com/HGWPynscVk
— James Aylward (@jsjaylward) November 28, 2018
Mr. MacEwen was joined on the floor of the Legislature for debate on Bill 127 by Peter Rukavina, a local Autism advocate whose son Oliver lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In speaking to the bill, Mr. Rukavina touched on heightening awareness of the needs and aspirations of people with Autism:
“…often people with autism, like everyone else, have dreams and plans for their lives, things they want to do, people they want to become…. It is not the “wake up jerks and do something about autism act,” it is the ‘we’re on the right track but it’s time to take a bird’s eye view and work together on this’ act.”
Through early intervention and with appropriate supports people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder can thrive in a school or work setting, pursuing post-secondary learning and employment opportunities to live independently with dignity and quality of life. This bill will provide Island families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and government the tools and roadmap to take the good will and assets that already exist and build on them to create an Autism-friendly Island, and one which allows those with ASD to thrive and create bright futures for themselves.
Bill 127, the Autism Coordination Act, can be viewed here.