Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network Conference

Thank you very much for having me here with you this morning.  I appreciate being able to say a few words before you start your day.  Let me start by congratulating you.  Your work is crucial to the lives of so many people.

Today, right now, there are families across Canada struggling with ASD.  They are dropping their children off at school hoping that they will have a “good” day – a day with a few words, some eye contact and smiles.  They are hoping it will be a day when a crack appears in the wall of ASD.

Somewhere, right now, a parent is trying to convince a child to eat or to get dressed and is finding the patience to deal with the day to day frustrations of ASD.

Somewhere, right now, someone is looking at their bank account and wondering how they’re going to pay the mortgage AND pay for the treatment that their child so desperately needs.

So that’s where you come in.  There is an urgent need to solve this intricate, complicated, and difficult puzzle we call Autism Spectrum Disorder and we can’t do it without research.
I have had the good fortune to meet people with ASD and their families, researchers, and advocates over the last five years.  There is so much I have learned.  I have learned that ASD affects individuals in very different ways and the way that families and friends help and support their loved ones with ASD is just as diverse.  And certainly we know that provinces all approach ASD in a different way in terms of what they fund and how much they fund.

But no matter what we decide to do as policy-makers, as politicians, as parents and friends, we need you to do your work so that we can make sound and reasonable decisions.  Decisions based on fact, on science, and human behaviour.

Basically, we are counting on you to help us decide what to do about the growing problem of ASD.  Are you feeling motivated yet?

You should.  I think this must be a very exciting time for you.  You are detectives trying to solve several mysteries – what causes ASD?  What are our treatment options? How can we help friends and family of those with ASD?

I have heard from people who believe IBI is the way to go.  Others tell me about other therapies that are effective.  Still others tell me about changes in diet that have had a remarkable impact.  So while your objective today is to work towards a consensus on research priorities, I think you have your work cut out for you.

The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology heard from many of you when we conducted our inquiry into autism.  Our final report, Pay Now or Pay Later Autism Families in Crisis called for a national strategy for ASD.  This strategy must include research, treatment options and building greater awareness among all Canadians about ASD.

We don’t have that strategy yet.  But research is one area where the government has shown itself willing to take action.  I urge you to take advantage of this momentum and to keep pushing for more funding.  And I ask that you find a spirit of cooperation in your work.  Keep an open mind and listen to each other.

Please think about the families who are looking to you for answers.  They need you to continue your good work. It won’t change what they’re going through today, tomorrow, next week, or maybe even next year.  But inevitably, your work will offer answers.  Answers that offer hope.

Keep up your good work!  For my part, I will keep pushing government to do more for ASD and to support your essential detective work.  We want you to go full steam ahead.  The more and better work you are able to do, the sooner more families with ASD will be having good days, day after day.

Thank you very much.