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Autism Treatment Under Attack in Quebec

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-04-05 - Multiple studies in the last three years confirm that EIBI is a well established evidence based practice - West Montreal Re-adaptation Center.

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Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), the most highly recommended, comprehensively researched and universally recognized treatment for autism, continues to be questioned, underfunded and ultimately threatened - but only in Quebec.

At least four compilations of multiple studies in the last three years confirm that EIBI is a well-established, evidence-based practice. Elsewhere in North America, it has been the standard autism therapy for years.

"The language issue is keeping Quebec behind the rest of North America on EIBI," said Dr. Katherine Moxness, director of Professional Services, West Montreal Re-adaptation Center (WMRC).

"Because there is no French-language data on EIBI from a Quebec-based population yet, we are constantly forced to defend this proven therapy and the costs associated with it," said Dr. Moxness.

Nevertheless, rumors that EIBI is ineffective or even harmful have been circulating in Quebec for just as long, promoted chiefly by one autism specialist and a small group of self-identified experts who strongly question the evidence or who profit from offering therapies that are not supported by the scientific community.

In January, Montreal's La Presse newspaper published a series of articles on EIBI. Based on isolated cases, unfounded statements and even misrepresentation of sources, those articles attacked EIBI's effectiveness and cited challenges and irregularities in applying EIBI as an argument for abandoning it altogether.

A resulting press release and editorial letter by a dozen Quebec-based autism experts, including Dr. Moxness, systematically refuted the points made in the articles but received no media coverage.

"Allowing these rumors to circulate unchecked could lead to parents denying their children access to the most effective treatment and justify a government policy that does not prioritize EIBI," said Martine Beaurivage, WMRC director of Child and Family Services.


The Quebec government's published goal is to provide EIBI to only 40.5 percent of autistic children who need it.

It funds 800 children at a cost of $25 million a year, while Ontario funds 1,440 children and spends more than $186.6 million a year.

In a UQaM study of 180 parents currently underway, 89 percent said their child had made "a lot of" or "enormous" progress since their child began receiving EIBI.

A minimum of 20 EIBI hours per week is what the scientific literature recommends. Rehabilitation centers in Quebec provide only 14 hours per week, on average.

About West Montreal Re-adaptation Center -West Montreal Re-adaptation Center (WMRC) was one of the first rehabilitation centers in Quebec to develop an EIBI program and has treated some 700 children since 2004. It follows a rigorous clinical curriculum with measurable results and oversees EIBI services to over 100 children with autism annually.

Katherine Moxness, Ph.D., is a departmental director and psychologist who has worked with hundreds of people with autism for over 15 years and was instrumental in lobbying for Law 21 to allow psychologists to diagnose autism. Both Dr. Moxness and Martine Beaurivage have seen dramatic improvements as a result of EIBI. Also a psychologist, Ms. Beaurivage directs WMRC's Department of Child and Family Services and is a member of several autism expert committees.

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