Watching her daughter struggle to get through the day, one Westman mother is slowly being broken by the very system designed to protect them.
Her daughter, who is eight years old, isn’t weak, and she isn’t different — she’s sick.
But it’s not the type of illness that is easily quantified. You can’t physically touch her ailments and, depending on the day, you might not even be able to see them.
Her daughter has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
While there is plenty of concrete information on the former, the latter leaves the young girl swimming aimlessly in a sea of grey area.
A person diagnosed with PDD-NOS suffers from many of the same behaviours seen in autism, but doesn’t meet the full criteria for having an autistic Disorder, according to National Autism Resources.
Since starting school four years ago, her daughter has had trouble learning. She’s prone to outbursts when her frustration starts to boil over. And at times she’s angry.
Two years ago, her parents tried to get her into Brandon’s Child and Adolescent Treatment Centre (CATC). They were hopeful that help early on from trained medical professionals could correct some of her troubled behaviours so she can grow into a healthy woman.
They were denied.
"We were told that we didn’t live in the (Brandon Regional Health Authority) catchment area, and while we didn’t like the decision, we understood it and accepted it," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect her daughter.
Then came the amalgamations of the regional health authorities.
The family now finds themselves in the Prairie Mountain Health region, which encompasses Brandon.
Recently, with the help of their local school, they tried to get their daughter into the centre again.
And again, they were denied.
"It’s absolutely frustrating," she said, her voice shaky and chalked full of the emotion you might expect to find from a woman who has heard "no" at every turn.
"You try so hard to do right; to make sure that you do the best that you can by her. If we don’t get her help soon there are going to be consequences and it’s going to land on her shoulders."
The diagnosis, or lack there of, also affects the family of five.
The young girl’s parents are starting to feel defeated and helpless when it comes to providing the care that their daughter needs. While her two younger siblings struggle to understand what is going on.
"I feel bad about it but it puts a lot of stress on the family and sometimes mom gets mad too," she said. "There is some fighting and her (siblings) see our oldest not happy and that mood rubs off on everyone. It’s a big chain reaction."
The family tried putting her on medication, but with little to no improvement they couldn’t justify keeping her on it.
"We need someone who has the ability to diagnose her so that she can be put on the correct path, but we aren’t getting that help," she said.
Brian Schoonbaert, CEO of the Brandon Regional Health Centre, wasn’t familiar with the specifics of this particular case, but said at times there can be misconceptions about the centre’s role is.
"It’s not designed for children with learning disabilities, these are children with a mental health diagnosis, which is quite different," Schoonbaert said.
CATC consists of a 10-bed Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) with 24/7 care, and a school that teaches children within the CSU and other children that have been referred to the program through a psychiatrist.
Schoonbaert said there are some lingering issues with the referral process due the boundaries of the previous health authorities.
At times, people in rural Manitoba are referred to psychiatrists in Winnipeg via Manitoba Telehealth, only to get referred back to Brandon.
"There are some old referral patterns, but we expect those to change," Schoonbaert said.
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