Ford government autism program overhaul met with outrage by some parents who fear kids will lose out
The Ford government’s plan to overhaul Ontario’s autism program has sparked anger among parents — including a PC political staffer and father of two autistic teens who quit in disgust over the changes Wednesday.
Under the revamp, aimed at clearing a therapy wait list of 23,000 kids, parents will be given funding and the power to choose the services they want. But families will face a lifetime limit of $140,000 per child and high-earners will no longer be eligible.
Parents, who say funding should be based on need and not on age or arbitrary cut-offs, were devastated by the move.
“In light of today’s announcement, I told my minister I did not feel I could continue in my role as legislative assistant,” said Bruce McIntosh, who joined Progressive Conservative MPP Amy Fee’s political staff when the Ford government was elected last spring.
McIntosh is the former president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, a parent advocacy group that has pushed for more government support but has been critical of age-based funding.
Fee (Kitchener South—Hespeler) is parliamentary assistant for Lisa MacLeod, minister of children, community and social services, who announced the autism overhaul at Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
Fee, the mother of two children with autism, spoke about her own family’s experiences during the news conference.
An estimated 40,000 children in Ontario have autism, a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication. About 2,400 of them are waiting for a diagnosis, 23,000 are on a wait list for behavioural therapies and just 8,400 are receiving services.
MacLeod said the government will double funding for diagnostic hubs to $5.5 million a year for the next two years, clear the therapy wait lists and ensure families get their funding within the next 18 months.
The program under the previous Liberal government was inefficient and did not address children’s needs, she said. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)