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Report calls on B.C. to fully fund mental health screening for neurodivergent children

Mental health challenges are much high for children with neurodevelopmental conditions: report

A new research report is reiterating a call for B.C. to fully fund and implement mental-health screening, assessment and treatment for children and youth with neurodevelopmental conditions.

The Representative for Children and Youth (RCY), in conjunction with the Children’s Health Policy Centre (CHPC) at Simon Fraser University, released the research report, “Toward Inclusion,” Wednesday (April 5), providing “robust evidence that mental health challenges are much higher for children with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and intellectual disabilities (ID).”

This is the second in a series of RCY reports on mental health and wellness for distinct populations of children and youth.

In the report, the RCY makes four recommendations to government, including that the Ministry of Children and Family Development to fully fund a plan to provide comprehensive mental-health screening, assessment and effective treatment services for children and youth with support needs. The report notes that implementation should begin April 2025.

Jennifer Charlesworth, the representative, said there is a “clear opportunity with the government’s ‘reset’ of the framework for children and youth with support needs to ensure that children are getting the services they need.”

“The CHPC’s report was undertaken to determine how big an issue mental health challenges are for these young people, and what the research tells us about what can be done. It turns out that, not surprisingly, mental health is a huge issue that is going largely unaddressed for far too many of these children and families. With the reset, government has a golden opportunity here – and a duty – to fix it.”

The CHPC report, led by doctors Christine Schwartz and Charlotte Waddell, looked at data showing that five of the most common mental health disorders were “dramatically higher for children with neurodevelopmental conditions.”

Anxiety disorders were nearly eight times higher for children with ASD, while major depressive disorder was 28 times higher for children with FASD. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, meantime, was more than double for children with intellectual disabilities.

The CPHC report, however, found that effective interventions for each of the three populations do exist.

“Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a proven treatment that is relatively easy to deliver so we were not surprised that it showed success, as did parent training,” Waddell said. “We urge the government to make these tested treatments readily available to all children in need — enabling all to flourish.”

The full report can be found here.

READ MORE: B.C. to launch ‘circle of care’ for neurodiverse kids but parents have many questions


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lauren.collins@blackpress.ca

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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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