VANCOUVER -- Jennifer Sasakamoose misses having conversations with her son, Daniel.

Daniel, who is on the autism spectrum, has regressed to hitting and making noises since the pandemic put his treatments on pause, Sasakamoose said.

“Since the programming stopped, my son went into a shell and he would no longer talk. And it was very upsetting because he stopped communicating with me, I’m his mom, and his father -- he wouldn’t talk to any of us,” she said.

She said Daniel missed out on three months of treatment with his behavioural consultant and behavioural interventionists, who have helped him with speech and taught him how to eat solid foods.

“He was gaining so much confidence in people and communicating with other children,” Sasakamoose said.

But having lost the momentum between March and June, she feels they are now starting back at square one.

Daniel turns six in December. After a child turns that age, they are no longer eligible to receive the annual $22,000 that would help pay for a service provider.

Sasakamoose said since the provincial government ordered the shutdown in March, it is only fair that those three months of funding be extended even after Daniel’s birthday.

“I’m only asking for an extension so that my son can get the treatment he needs,” she said.

Those between the ages of six and 18 receive an annual $6,000 in funding for various therapies and programs.

Once children with autism start school, each child brings in about $20,000 of extra funding to their school district, so they can get additional support in the classroom.

But since that money is in a pool, Sasakamoose said they will only be receiving a fraction of the support compared to his 10 hours a week of private sessions.

Autism advocate says extension likely not possible

An autism advocate says the current funding model makes it impossible for children like Daniel to get an extension on the funding.

“What happens is when the child turns six, the families only get $6,000 and then it turns into a different kind of funding. So it's no longer a funding from the Ministry of Children for

families, it turns into a different funding that's allocated specifically for the school district,” explained Kaye Banez, a board member of AutismBC.

Banez, who’s advocating for greater inclusion for kids with special needs, said funding would not be an issue if they were being properly accommodated.

“It’s not really about the funding, it is about the support. If there was adequate support ... the parents should not have to worry about funding so that they could manage their own child's learning,” she said.

CTV News Vancouver contacted the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development for more information. A spokesperson said during the election period, communications are limited to health and public safety information, and therefore the ministry could not provide a comment.

With the provincial election just one month away, Banez said she would like to see parties make equitable education a priority.

“I would love for the parties to put special needs children on their agenda, and not just sort of a lip service to say, ‘We will provide inclusive education to the best that we can.’ I think they really need to allocate resources,” she said.

As for Sasakamoose, she believes Daniel needs to continue his sessions and would be willing to pay out-of-pocket to cover his programming.