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B.C. mom of special needs child may be forced to quit job amid coronavirus pandemic

Last Updated Mar 19, 2020 at 7:15 am PDT

FILE PHOTO (iStock photo)
Summary

Some parents of children with special needs are wondering what help is being offered by the province amid COVID-19

There are nearly 10,000 students who have autism in B.C., and they're all now out of class for an unknown amount of time

One B.C. mom says she may have to quit her job to take care of her son with autism

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With nearly 10,000 students who have autism now out of classes for an unknown amount of time, some parents are struggling to find help.

The situation is so dire, some are considering taking difficult steps like quitting their jobs in order to support their children.

Alissa Hutton is one of the many people having a hard time trying to figure out what options she and her 11-year-old son, who has Autism and is mute, have.

She says in the scramble to respond to the novel coronavirus, her son and other special needs kids have been left behind.

“This is often a very invisible population and a lot families feel that way and sort of watching everything go on, that’s solidified it for me,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Hutton says she already struggled to just get through spring break as well as other holidays that left her son without school, and she knows she isn’t alone.

Hutton adds she’s reached out to the Ministry of Children as well as the education ministry, with her concerns but claims she was told there is no plan for kids who need extra attention.

With the hiatus on classes is currently indefinite, Hutton’s new full-time gig could be at risk

“I literally have a week to figure out what’s going on and how to resolve it so I’m just in this spin cycle right now and presumably other parents are dealing with the same thing,” she says. “It’s not even being mentioned, which is concerning for me.”

About 10 per cent of B.C.’s students are considered special needs.

Disability advocates like Al Etmanski say there has been little communication from programs and support systems since public institutions began closing their doors in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Despite everything, Hutton says she’s not in the worst situation, and acknowledges others likely are in a tougher spot.

“I’m piecing together people that could work together with my son but of course we then get into the situation I’m now looking, to be working full time, I need someone basically here nine hours a day,” she explains. “At a minimum of probably $20-$25 an hour.”

The other concern, she says, is she’d be putting her son at a possible risk of exposure, adding she’d likely need to find multiple people to help take care of him.

“I’m sort of at a loss,” she admits. “My livelihood is imperative to him and taking care of him. Having to leave a job because there isn’t anything put in place is insane to me.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Family Development for comment.

-With files from Tarnjit Parmar