LiWen Tan believes he is dancing for his life. At the end of the month, the deal Tan’s family made with the B.C. government expires and the 20-year-old man with severe developmental disabilities is facing the loss of his home and the key support staff that have kept him stable for the past three years.
“This is so stressful, I don’t know where I’m going to live. They’re going to change all of my caregivers who care about me and respect me,” said Tan, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome as well as severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Tan works as a “shakerboarder” for a Vancouver Church’s Chicken outlet, dancing to his iPod tunes and shaking a sign to draw customers to the fast-food restaurant. This afternoon, he plans to take his dance moves — and a picket sign — to his local MLA’s office in Burnaby-North to try to bring attention to his plight. Tan is one of a significant number of B.C. adults with developmental disabilities who needs government support services, but because their IQ score is higher than 70, they aren’t eligible to receive help.
A year ago, B.C.’s Social Development Minister Rich Coleman quietly signed a new regulation saying adults with developmental disabilities must have an IQ lower than 70 to receive support, including housing, through its agency.
The regulation was the result of the court challenge Tan’s family launched because LiWen would lose his government support when he turned 19. Rather than proceed to trial with the Tan family, the province settled out of court by agreeing to extend LiWen’s support for one year.
Tan said his caregivers and group home team have helped him hold on to his job for two years and kept him out of jail.
“When I moved here, miracles happened,” he said. “I have been to over 30 group homes and foster homes from 2003 to 2006 and I wasn’t safe. I was in jail three times.Now, my caregivers here help me learn boundaries and to accept limits. I’m afraid I will go to jail.”
Coleman said last year that the IQ regulation was an interim measure; and a year later the rule remains.
“The government is saying that children lose their services as soon as they become adults, but their disability doesn’t go away,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Child and Youth Representative.
“We need to support these extremely vulnerable adults. These are lifelong needs and they deserve our support.”
The B.C. Association for Community Living has asked for a meeting with Coleman to hear about the status of the government review of the IQ rule.
“We don’t support using IQ as a way of determining access to services for people with developmental disabilities,” said Faith Bodnar, executive director of the association. “Services should be based what an individual’s needs are, not an arbitrary IQ number.”
Coleman was unavailable for an interview firstname.lastname@example.org