Starbright Children's Development Centre closes autism program

No funds for autism care

Sarita Patel

The autism program at Kelowna's Starbright Children's Development Centre will shut down Dec. 20 due to a lack of funding.

The program gets its funding from parents of enrolled children and donations from the community. Despite all the funding from various charity events going directly to the program, it can no longer survive.

"That would be the most marvellous thing, to have a constant flow of money. It is so difficult, and thanks to these amazing people within the community we've been able to keep it going, but as of Dec. 20, everything will be done," says Rhonda Nelson, executive director of Starbright.

About 20 families used the early intervention program, but many more came for the after-school program.

"When the panic began to rise to an unimaginable level, we wanted to be sure that enough time was given to our families to be certain that they could locate other services," says Nelson.

Sixteen employees were told Tuesday the program is ending. 

"We've looked at every permutation we possibly could," says Nelson.

Partial reductions wouldn't work.

"It still involved individuals that have to have certain credentials in order to design the programs. Then it has to have people who actually implement the programs and build the programs, so there still a core that has to be there."

Nelson also says the Registry of Autism Service Providers also plays a part, which is a list of accredited caregivers that is needed in order to receive funding. 

"All of the employees of the autism program have the same length of time, basically, as the parents, so our hope is that over this time they can make their personal decisions that they need to," says Nelson.

The centre's other programs will remain, which some children in the autism program will continue to benefit from.

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