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Assembly of First Nations 2007-2008 Special Needs Research RFP



First Nation children are the fastest growing segment of the Aboriginal population in Canada; life expectancy at birth is seven to eight years less for registered First Nations persons than for Canadians generally. Death rates for First Nation infants from injuries are four times the rate of non-First Nation infants. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) rates are 30 times the general population and the cost of meeting the needs of someone who is severely affected by FAS over a lifetime is $1 to $1.5 million.
Recent policy developments have highlighted the importance of early childhood development and the investments and innovations that result in improved outcomes for children later in life. These investments are even more important when a child has special needs. Children are considered to have special needs if they require services and supports beyond what is provided through regular maternal, infant and early childhood development programming .

Children with special needs often require a wide range of services and supports in order to participate with their peers. These services may include (but not be limited to) screening, assessment, behavioral interventions, remedial speech, occupational therapy, nursing or psychological counseling; depending on the complexity of their disability, condition that creates these special needs or the special needs themselves. In addition, children with special needs may also require transportation, medical supplies and equipment or pharmaceuticals to be able to participate meaningfully in society.

Children with special needs in most cases require additional public or private resources beyond those usually required to support healthy development because of:

·Exceptional gifts and talents;
·Physical, sensory, cognitive and learning challenges;
·Mental health issues, and
·Problems related to social, linguistic or family factors. (Lakehead University 2006)

To compound the problem for First Nations is the lack of services for children in special needs in communities of less than 100,000 people, as is demonstrated through research at Lakehead University (2006). In fact, all First Nations across the country have populations of less than 25,000, with most having less than 2,000 residents on reserve. As a result children with special needs in these areas face unique challenges just because of where they live, limiting their access to services and supports, often only available in large urban centers.

For the purpose of this project, the following definition is an attempt to identify a working definition of special needs:

·A special need is a need an individual has over and above the basic needs of humans to grow, learn, function, interact with others and lead a healthy life. Some special needs stem from disabilities while others do not. Complex medical needs are a subset of special needs but do not include all special needs.

Finally, the lack of data (quantitative and qualitative) with respect to First Nations and special needs creates serious hurdles in justifying requests for additional supports and services to the federal government.

In 2006-2007, the AFN undertook the first phase of its Special Needs research plan which included the gathering of regional information with respect to First Nations and special needs, as well as the design and pilot testing of a data gathering tool for the second phase of the research project. Results of this first phase of research will be shared with the winning bidder. It is hoped that this research project will help begin to overcome the information gap and help feed the process to increase services and supports for First Nations children with special needs.

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