Corrine Bainard would love to turn back the clock on the 17 years it took for her son Chance to get the right diagnosis. Early intervention can change the life of a child with a disability.
But even though Chance was almost an adult before he got his correct diagnosis, his story underlines that early or late, intervention can still change everything for a person.
Chance is the youngest of three children in the Bainard family, a military family that moved to new towns every few years before settling in the Comox Valley in 2011. That was where Chance finally get a proper diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 17, and began receiving support from the Comox Valley Child Development Association.
Chance was diagnosed with various conditions over his lifetime, recalls Corrine. The family was told he had Attention Deficit Disorder first, and medicated him for ADD for a number of years. But the teen years came and Chance’s supposed ADD symptoms didn’t ease.
“In the teen years, they should be adapting. Chance wasn’t adapting,” says Corrine. “He got learning assistance, but he still had no friends or social interests. His problems were subtle, but on the other hand, not. We are kind of a quirky family, and for quite a while we just thought Chance was more quirky than most.”
Chance initially missed the cutoff for getting learning assistance when he was enrolled at a local high school after his family moved to the Comox Valley. It was ultimately that disastrous turn of events that marked the turning point. A frustrated teacher sounding off at Corrine about Chance’s school performance one day blurted out, “And on top of everything, I think your son is autistic!”
She instantly pictured “a child rocking back and forth,” she recalls with a laugh.
But the comment stuck. As school life deteriorated and Chance grew “close to suicidal,” Corrine took steps to have her son tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which changes the way the brain processes information and is the most common neurological disorder in children. She remembers being a “total wreck” when she made her first desperate visit to the child development association.
“They told me, ‘You know what, it’s going to be OK. Once he gets a diagnosis, we will work with you.’ Just hearing that – ‘It’s OK, there’s a process, there’s a place to go’ – made me feel so much better,” says Corrine.
In his Grade 12 year, Chance was diagnosed with a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome, and began The Autism Program (TAP) at the child development centre. TAP has provided individualized services since 2005 to local children and youth diagnosed with autism.
“The centre has been a godsend, because we really did not know where to go or what to do,” says Corrine. “If they hadn’t been there, I honestly don’t know what we would have done.”
Connecting to Chance through his love of cooking, staff at the centre encouraged him to plan, prepare and sell meals at the centre once a month. (“Which was not only fun for him, it got him thinking about careers,” notes Corrine). They took him on social outings, and sent him to Camp Oasis for two weeks, a summer camp for children ages 11 to 19 with autism. Chance met young people like himself, and began forming the first friendships of his life.
“He’s got a best friend now, and a girlfriend,” says Corrine. “He’s in college. He writes these poignant twisted fairy tales, and makes Manga comic books. He’s such a great kid - he always was.”
Child development programs like the one in the Comox Valley rely on government funding to do their work. Corrine hopes British Columbians whose taxes support that work understand how vital it is for so many families.
“The child development centre did so much for us. Their work is so important,” she says. “I will always regret not getting that diagnosis earlier, but this is a story of hope.”
How you can help: Learn more about child development and early intervention in British Columbia at www.bcacdi.org, and about the Comox Valley Child Development Association at www.cvcda.ca. The association is a member of the B.C. Association for Child Development and Intervention, which represents 30 agencies that deliver services to 15,000 children and youth.