Mr. Speaker, we are resuming the debate at second reading of Bill S-210, the sole purpose of which is to institute World Autism Awareness Day.
On reading the bill, which contains only one clause and several “whereas” paragraphs, it is clear that it was written by a Canadian. It is clear to me, as a Quebecker, that some of these paragraphs concern elements that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.
I will discuss this with my colleagues when this bill goes to the Standing Committee on Health, of which I am a member. Many of the matters that come before this particular committee for study fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Canadians represented by the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party cannot seem to distinguish between matters that the federal government is responsible for and those that legislative assemblies in Quebec and the provinces are responsible for.
As Quebeckers, Bloc Québécois members feel it is important to remind people about each level of government's responsibilities. For example, in the context of the current study on human resources in health care, it is clear that training, professional associations and deployment of resources in hospitals and social services centres fall exclusively within the Government of Quebec's jurisdiction. That being said, I will address the problem “whereas” statements in committee.
I highly doubt that any member of the House would be against instituting World Autism Awareness Day. As we all know, any disorder can deeply affect those who have it and their family members. It is therefore important to give people regular reminders so that they can become more aware of the issue. We should also take time to recognize the health professionals and researchers who work to minimize suffering and find long-term solutions.
I would now like to talk about autism to begin building awareness among those listening and members of the House who may or may not be familiar with the disorder.
The information I will share was taken from the Internet. The website of the Fédération québécoise de l'autisme et des autres troubles envahissants du développement says that autistic disorder, better known as autism or Kanner's autism, is one of five pervasive developmental disorders. The other four developmental disorders are: childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified or atypical autism, and Asperger's syndrome.
I should point out that autistic disorder, pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified and Asperger's syndrome are the three most common types of pervasive developmental disorders.
According to this site, there are three categories of symptoms commonly seen with people who have pervasive developmental disorders: difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication; difficulties with social interaction; and restricted interests and/or repetitive behaviours.
Here are some quick facts about autistic disorders: they affect 4.3 boys for every 1 girl; they lead to different developments among children of the same age; individuals have difficulties maintaining eye contact; they cause delayed, non-existent or abnormal language development; they cause individuals to have repetitive and limited play; there is abnormal posture, walk or movement; and, 10 out of every 10,000 people have a PDD, according to a Fombonne study conducted in 2003.
Autistic disorder is one of the most common types of PDD, which refers to pervasive developmental disorder. I remind members that PDD affects four or five boys for every one girl, and is defined as a neurological disorder characterized by a delay in the overall development of an individual's basic functions.
Mutism is present in nearly half of all cases of autism. Non-verbal autistics have major problems with comprehension, mimicry and gestures. Impaired imagination can be manifested by a lack of symbolic games and stories invented with toys, or by difficulties imitating the actions of others. A number of autistic people show weaknesses in terms of motor coordination. Many also have difficulties with fine and gross motor skills. Autism can be found in individuals with varying levels of intelligence. However, the majority of people with autism seem to have lower than average intellectual performance, and present adaptive behaviour deficits, so in this respect, they are similar to people who have moderate or severe intellectual disabilities. Because of their particular characteristics, many people with autism also have behavioural problems.
A diagnosis of autism implies that the deficits have appeared before the age of three, that they have become a part of the individual's functioning, and that they are nearly constantly present.
The Autism Society Canada website also describes the general characteristics, and I would like to read them now.
Children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs, have challenges with the following: social interactions; verbal and non-verbal communication; the ability to learn (in the usual settings); repetitive behaviours; unusual or severely limited activities and interests.
They usually find it hard to communicate with others in a typical way and have difficulty understanding social conventions. As a result, individuals with autism may respond in unusual ways to everyday situations and changing environments.
Autism varies tremendously in severity. Individuals with severe autism conditions may have ... symptoms of extremely repetitive and unusual behaviours. This can include ... self-injury ... and aggression.... Without appropriate intensive intervention, these symptoms may be very persistent and difficult to change. Living or working with a person with severe autism can be very challenging, requiring tremendous patience and understanding of the condition. In its mildest form, however, autism is more like a personality difference caused by difficulties in understanding social conventions.
There are also a number of related disorders.
Many individuals with autism have other health problems, for example: neurological disorders including epilepsy; gastro-intestinal problems, sometimes severe; compromised immune systems; fine and gross motor deficits; and anxiety and depression.
That information can all be found on the Autism Society Canada website.
I also wanted to talk about the impact it has on the family, but since I am out of time, I will have to leave it at that.