difficult access to support services Problems with access to services for children with special needs harm their development.
September 19, 2023 | Whether it is services for the physically disabled, speech therapy consultations or daycare, parents of children with special needs have difficulty accessing services. This is what emerges from a report by the Children’s Observatory published today.
The report, titled Young Children in Need of Special Support: How to Promote Their Full Potential?, focuses on the situation of children aged 0 to 5 years who have developmental difficulties, who are disabled or who need more support to develop well. These include children with, for example, autism spectrum disorders, language delay, visual or hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, or a chronic health problem.
Portrait of obstacles to accessing services
The data reported by the Observatory of Young Children (OTP) is based on studies and testimonies from parents and doctors. Below is some data collected to illustrate the problems of accessing services for children with special needs:
- In 2020-2021, 21.3% of young children with significant developmental delay (physical, intellectual disability, ASD) did not benefit from services within the prescribed time frame.
- The more complex a young child’s situation is, the greater the delays. It may take several months or even years before a child receives all the services he or she needs.
- Waiting times for services in the public sector force parents to turn to the private sector. Data from 2022 indicate that 40% of parents used the private network to obtain the report necessary to request the Subsidy for the integration of a disabled child in a daycare center.
- Due to the complexity of the social and health services network, many parents must fend for themselves to know the steps and procedures to follow as well as the professionals to turn to to help their child.
- Access to educational childcare is more difficult for children who need special support. In 2019, 73% of children with special needs registered at La Place 0-5 found a place, compared to 83% of children without special needs.
- 43% of daycare directors consider that the amounts received from the government to integrate and support a child with disabilities are insufficient.
- Staff shortages compromise access to support services, particularly in schools and daycares. For example, data from 2022 shows that 20% of daycare managers have reduced the attendance time of children with special needs due to a lack of human resources.
- In 2017, 16.6% of students with disabilities or difficulties did not receive any professional services in the 5-year-old nursery.
- The provision of services for children is uneven and varies by region. For example, in some CISSS or CIUSSS, young children with language difficulties have access to between 6 and 10 meetings with a worker. Elsewhere, these services are limited to a parent information session.
The consequences for children and their families
According to the OTP report, problems accessing services put the development of young children who need special support at risk. Not having ready access to quality interventions actually deprives these children of opportunities to learn and develop. This injustice accentuates the inequalities between these young children and those with so-called typical development.
Not acting early can also increase your difficulties and lead to other problems. “For example, a child who experiences language difficulties and who cannot consult speech therapy will be at greater risk of manifesting, in addition to language problems, behavioral problems, educational success problems, and social adaptation problems,” says Fannie Dagenais, director of OTP..
The impact is also felt on the health of parents. According to one study, between 30 and 50% of parents of children with a neurodevelopmental disorder show signs of a mental health disorder (exhaustion, depression, etc.). As some parents have to work part-time or even quit their jobs to care for their children, their financial situation is also precarious.
The Young Children’s Observatory, however, believes that action can be taken to improve services for children who need special support. Below are some lines of action:
- Offer services based on a child-centered approach rather than waiting until after a diagnosis before acting on a young child who requires further support.
- Support parents by simplifying the administrative procedures for obtaining help and connecting them with a resource person to assist them in their search for services.
- Train and support daycare educators to promote the inclusion of children with special needs.
- Improve collaboration between different environments (daycares, schools, health networks) to guarantee the continuity and coherence of services offered to children with special needs.
To go further, you can consult our file Children with Special Needs: What You Need to Know and our file Children with Special Needs: 8 parents tell their stories.
Source: Toddler Observatory
Julie Leduc – Nacer y Crecer Team