Group claims minister pressed them for positive quote on new autism program
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2019 4:35PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 13, 2019 6:53PM EST
TORONTO -- An association of behaviour analysts says Ontario's minister in charge of the autism program told them it would be a long four years for them if they did not publicly support recent changes.
The Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis says in a note to members today that Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod and her staff requested a quote of support a few days before the new program was announced.
They say the request came without providing full details of the new program -- which they say will leave many children without the level of therapy they need.
The association says MacLeod and her staff indicated that failure to provide a supportive quote would result in "four long years" for the organization.
MacLeod's office did not immediately provide a response.
MacLeod announced last week that in order to clear a backlog of 23,000 children waiting for publicly funded autism therapy, families will get up to $140,000 to pay for treatment, though funding will be subject to annual caps that families and advocates say will fall far short of what's needed for intensive therapy.
The funding is dependent on age, rather than individual needs for varying levels of intensity. Families will receive a maximum of $140,000 for a child in treatment from the ages of two to 18, also dependent on family income, but advocates say intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 per year.
Families will receive up to $20,000 a year until their child turns six. From that time until they are 18 it would be up to $5,000 a year.
MacLeod also reportedly told the Waterloo Region Record that Autism Ontario was among the organizations that support her plan, but the group released a statement saying that isn't true.
"Autism Ontario neither proposed nor endorsed the announced changes to the (Ontario Autism Program) and is concerned about the impact these changes will have on children and families accessing the program," it said in a statement.
The president-elect of the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis said when her group met with government officials ahead of the policy announcement, they were disappointed in the tone.
"Our meeting with the minister's staff and the minister was prescriptive in nature, basically letting us know the direction of the changes," said Kendra Thomson. "We were expecting more of a collaborative consultation process, given the gravity of the file."