12/04/2017 16:12 EST | Updated 12/04/2017 16:14 EST

Advocates Call For National Autism Strategy After Parents' Plea

Behavioural therapists can be difficult for families to access.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Carly Sutherland and her husband John Sutherland address a news conference at the legislature in Halifax on Thursday.

HALIFAX — National advocacy groups say the heart-rending Nova Scotia case of parents struggling to deal with their son's aggressive form of autism is just the latest sign a national strategy is needed to improve supports.

Autism Canada and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance say the case of nine-year-old Callum Sutherland illustrates what happens when behavioural therapists are difficult to access.

Carly and John Sutherland took the rare step of holding a news conference last week to make an emotional plea for help with their sometimes violent son, who is due to be fully released from hospital on Thursday.

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The mother told reporters she's frightened by how her family will cope.

Both national groups say some health regions within provinces have behavioural therapies that are available to older children, but there's generally long waiting lists and shortages of trained therapists across the country.

Autism groups have been pushing Ottawa to call a first ministers conference and develop a strategy to address what they say are rising numbers of complex autism cases.

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