Towards Health Equity in a National Autism Strategy: A Lens on Disparities, Barriers, and Solutions


  • Kaela Scott University of Western Ontario
  • Megan Krasnodembski Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance
  • Shivajan Sivapalan SAAAC Autism Centre
  • Bonnie Brayton DAWN Canada
  • Neil Belanger British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society
  • Robert Gagnon Weeneebayko Area Health Authority
  • Janet McLaughlin Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Jonathan Lai Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance; University of Toronto



Health Equity, National Autism Strategy, Disparities, Barriers, Determinants of Health


Health equity allows people to reach their full health potential and access and receive care that is fair and suitable to them and their needs regardless of where they live, what they have, or who they are. To achieve health equity, equity in healthcare focuses on the role of the health system to provide timely and appropriate care. When viewed in the context of a National Autism Strategy, this extends to ensuring access to the resources that each Autistic person requires to meet their health needs, such as an autism diagnosis, services, and supports. Based on the equity panel discussion held at the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit 2020, this article reflects on the current disparities and barriers to achieving health equity in a National Autism Strategy, and outlines ways to address them. Disparities to equitable care within the autism community extend from the level of support needs of an individual to how those intersect with several key determinants of health including: geography, culture, gender, and socioeconomic status. Notably, barriers arise due to a “lack of” theme, including lack of awareness, knowledge, access, and voice. Four reoccurring ideas were identified for how to address inequities in health care for Autistic people. First, allocate resources for regional or in-community endeavours; second, improve Autistic representation and connection; third, establish a community of allies to advocate and collaborate; and fourth, establish leadership within the community and government to make disability a priority for Canada. To achieve equity in health care in a National Autism Strategy, we need to look at the intersectionality of autism with the key determinants of health. Moreover, to effectively engage with the government, health professionals, and the public, the autism community should strive to find a unified and diverse voice. And finally, conversation must turn to action. 


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How to Cite

Scott, K., Krasnodembski, M., Sivapalan, S., Brayton, B., Belanger, N., Gagnon, R., McLaughlin, J., & Lai, J. (2021). Towards Health Equity in a National Autism Strategy: A Lens on Disparities, Barriers, and Solutions. Canadian Journal of Autism Equity, 1(1), 62–72.




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