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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Waiting lists and waiting times for early intervention therapies, infant development programs and supported child development programs in British Columbia Chan, Wing-Ping Herbert


Children at risk of developmental delays or disabilities require intervention services to enhance their growth and development. Long waits to obtain these services are a concern to both parents and service providers. The purpose of this research was to investigate the nature of waiting lists and waiting times within the context of selected early childhood intervention services in British Columbia (BC). This study utilized qualitative and quantitative data (questionnaires, focus groups and administrative data) focusing on referral and intake information for infant development programs (IDP), supported child development programs (SCDP), physiotherapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services. Data availability posed a significant challenge in this study. Overall, this study demonstrated that most children referred in 2003 and 2004 have experienced some degree of waiting for these services in BC. Specifically provision of SLP and OT services faced a consistent challenge with regard to waiting times. Furthermore, waiting times varied widely across programs and regions; estimated median wait times in this study ranged from 12 days (95% CI, 7.31-16.69 days) for SCDP to 180 days (95% CI, 62.84 – 297.16 days) for OT. The median wait times for IDP, PT and SLP were estimated to be 70 (95%CI, 55.61-84.39), 57 (95%CI, 41.97 -72.03) and 112 (95% CI, 108.0 – 115.90) days respectively. Wait time variations for IDP and SLP services were also analysed by Cox regression. Inter-agency and regional variations in wait times persisted after adjusting for child factors. Agencies’ characteristics explained some of the wait time variations across agencies and regions. Variability in wait times due to demand changes (i.e. changes in the population and awareness of services) was also suggested. Referral by family was consistently associated with shorter wait times than referral by professionals. A common framework of identifying various waits along the service pathway emerged through focus groups. Further research on wait time definitions and improvement of data system to address the gaps in data availability in this field is urgently needed. These findings offer policy-makers some useful insights into developing tools for managing and monitoring waiting times for early childhood intervention services.

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