New Brunswick man says parents of autistic children are not being heard

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CTV Atlantic

Published Saturday, August 3, 2019 7:06PM ADT

Last Updated Saturday, August 3, 2019 7:26PM ADT

The parent of an adult with autism is voicing his concerns regarding the fact that there are no parents of those with autism speaking at this year’s Atlantic Provinces Autism Conference happening in the Fall.

Harold Doherty, who is the father of his 23-year-old son, Connor, is an advocate for families dealing with children who sit somewhere on the autism spectrum – exactly the reason why he is speaking up about the lack of representation of parents of autistic children at an upcoming conference focused on autism.

“I’ll be going to the conference to stand outside of the building with a sign to bring attention to the fact that they are intentionally ignoring parents of autistic adults,” says Doherty.

The Atlantic Provinces Autism Conference plans to bring field experts and researchers to Fredericton when it takes place in November.  In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the University of New Brunswick says the conference will provide a forum to share behaviour-based research and empirically supported practices in the assessment, treatment and support of individuals on the autism spectrum and that it is ideal for practitioners and families.

However, Doherty believes that without the voice of a parent of someone on the autism spectrum,  the conference will not be congruous with understanding the full scope of the disorder.

“They’re not going to talk about pain and suffering – they’re not going to do it,” says Doherty. “Because they have an express reference in the agenda to the Autism Canada website dealing with proper language in discussing autism.”

Doherty’s concerns are not invalid. For those on the spectrum, there is roughly 30% higher likelihood they will also have epileptic seizures – requiring constant supervision from their caregivers.

“Some individuals struggle with comorbid conditions, not just autism, but things that come with it, and they’re the ones with the more complex needs,” says Rick Hutchins of Autism Connections Fredericton.

Doherty believes issues regarding his needs and the needs of parents like him won’t be addressed properly at the upcoming convention – but will nonetheless continue to fight to express his concerns.

With files from CTV’s Jessica Ng

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