The provincial government’s announcement that it will create a needs-based autism plan for families in Ontario is receiving mixed reviews.
“I’m very encouraged, but I’m also cautious,” said Tara Bourgeois, of Brampton, who is the mother of an 8-year-old boy who has autism. “We’re getting a lot of talk but no action.”
After six months of protests from families over cuts to autism services, Children, Community and Social Services Minister Todd Smith announced Tuesday (July 29) the province will continue to provide continuity of service while the ministry works on a new program for autism services.
The province said it will invest an additional $278 million in Ontario’s autism program, bringing the total amount to $600 million each year.
Come January, Brampton single-father of autistic boy will have to pay over $55,000 out of his pocket to cover critical treatment.
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“Ensuring the Ontario Autism Program is needs-based will help families that require specialized care for their children,” Mississauga Centre MPP Natalia Kusendova said in a statement. “We must work together to protect the sustainability of the program so that it can support children and families today and in the future.”
However, the new program will not be in place until April 2020.
“Some of these people have been waiting two to four years,” said Bourgeois. “Many families, unfortunately, will likely be unhappy as they continue to wait for therapy. I feel their agony as I’ve been on a wait list before.”
This is an unreasonably slow time frame, according to the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC). In the meantime, the OAC said parents are being told childhood budget cheques will continue to be issued to families on the wait-list, even though there is agreement a one-size-fits-all approach is wrong.
“It’s tidy in terms of administration,” said Bruce McIntosh, past-president of OAC. “It’s based on the province’s needs and not families.”
Although the province says there are now 25,000 families on the waiting list for services, McIntosh said there is no way to determine exactly how many families are waiting because of privacy laws.
McIntosh said some families have registered their child in different regions to expedite access to services. He’s heard of some parents who have joint custody of a child registering the child twice.
Bourgeois is fortunate her son will get an additional six months of therapy. But what happens to parents of children who have other disabilities, such as Down syndrome, asked Bourgeois? “They are left in the dust.”
In August, OAC will hold another round of protests outside MPPs’ offices. McIntosh said the message is “hurry the hell up” and get the program up and running.
A charity he founded, L’Arche, said Vanier died Tuesday in Paris after suffering from thyroid cancer.
The Government of Ontario is engaging in a series of public consultations on how children and youth with autism, including those with complex needs, can be better supported.
The Province says that these consultations will help look at ways to reduce barriers for children with autism, while also looking specifically at enhancements to the Ontario Autism Program.
The Telephone Town Hall forums will be hosted by a non-partisan consultant and run for one hour. They will be broken up into segments where the key themes of the consultation will be a focus of discussion.
To register go to www.ontario.ca/autism You will then be taken to a registration page on the Eventbrite site. To register you will need to provide your name, telephone number and email address. After you have registered you will receive a confirmation email at the email address you have provided.
Ontario is making changes to its controversial autism program, eliminating income testing and exploring supports based on need.
Parents of children with autism have been protesting the plan announced last month by Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, saying it would leave kids without access to the levels of therapy they need.
MacLeod has previously announced that in order to clear a waiting list of 23,000 children, kids with autism would receive direct funding to pay for treatment, with caps of up to $20,000 per year for treatment for children under six and $5,000 a year for children six to 18.
Those maximums were based on family income, and MacLeod says today that all kids under six diagnosed as on the spectrum will receive $20,000 and kids over six will receive $5,000.
MacLeod also says the government is now looking at how best to provide additional supports to families based on the diagnosed need of the child.
Intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year and many parents with kids already in government-funded therapy say they will be unable to cover the difference to keep their kids in full-time therapy.
A private member’s bill that would ensure continuous services and support are provided to adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities after they turn 18 passed second reading in the Legislature on February 21st.
Noah and Gregory’s Law, which was brought forward by Windsor West MPP and NDP Critic for Community and Social Services Lisa Gretzky, aims to eliminate the gap in services and end the years-long waitlist that tens of thousands of families currently face.
“When people with developmental disabilities turn 18, they lose their youth support and have to go through another application process to apply for adult support,” said Gretzky, who was referring to Special Services at Home and Passport funding.
“Even though many families apply well in advance of a child turning 18, and even though those supports are supposed to begin as soon as the applicant turns 18, many individuals fall into a service gap – they are cut off from their youth support, and forced to wait years for the adult support to kick in.”
According to Gretzk, as many as 16,000 people with developmental or intellectual disabilities are stuck on the waitlist for Passport funding.
If passed into law, Gretzky’s bill will guarantee that anyone receiving youth support will continue receiving these services until their adult support takes effect.
The Government of Ontario has announced changes to Ontario’s Autism Program. Under the government’s proposed reforms, families may receive a Childhood Budget until their child turns 18. The amount of the budget will depend on the length of time a child will be in the program, with supports targeted to lower and middle-income families. For example, a child entering the program at age two would be eligible to receive up to $140,000, while a child entering the program at age seven would receive up to $55,000.
Families will be able to choose to purchase the eligible services including behavioural services, from providers of their choice on a fee-for-service basis
Additional changes include:
- Doubling funding to expand the province’s five diagnostic hubs so that families can receive a diagnosis sooner;
- Introducing a provider list to help families find qualified clinical supervisors for behavioural services;
- Establishing an independent agency to bring families into the program, help them manage their funding, and assist them in purchasing and accessing services; and
Autism Ontario will be offering support to families to help them understand their options and to assist them in finding service providers through workshops, training sessions and one-on-one support.
- To be eligible for the Ontario Autism Program, a child must have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder from a qualified professional. Families are eligible to apply for program funding for children and youth up to age 18.
- Today, there are over 2,400 families waiting for a diagnostic assessment, and more than 23,000 families waiting for behavioural services through the Ontario Autism Program with demand continuing to grow.
- Evidence shows that children who receive behavioural intervention therapies between two and five years of age have the best long-term outcomes.
For more information, contact Autism Service Ontario Toll-Free Number at 1-888-284-8340
Nurturing Collaborative Relationships:
Nurturing Collaborative Relationships
When advocating for and managing your child’s IEP, who are the people you will need to know, collaborate and converse with? As in business, hierarchies also exist within schools; for example, perhaps a simple problem can be addressed directly with a teacher, rather than the principal. Because no one knows your child better than you, meeting with key people on a regular basis to share as much information as possible about your child can help them to better support your son or daughter’s classroom experience and learning goals. Introducing and including your community service coordinator, facilitator or other advisory/support person to school staff can also be of great benefit to the process.