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Rally planned in Windsor to protest changes to autism services
Parents of children with autism in Windsor-Essex are not accepting changes to autism services in Ontario.
A group has organized a rally at 11 a.m. on Thursday at the Windsor office of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to send a message to the provincial government.
“I urge them to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better way,” says April Pare of Windsor.
She is the mother of seven-year-old Addison Pare, who was diagnosed with moderate autism at the age of two.
“She wasn't potty trained, she would lead us to places and point and say ‘ah ah ah’ if she wanted something, and if we didn't know what she wanted she would get very upset, she would bang her head on the floor,” remembers Pare.
But that was before Addison received intensive behaviour therapy.
“She learned how to potty train, her social skills went from almost nothing to out of this world, leading people to play with things, pretend play, which is extremely hard for children with autism,” adds Pare.
But the Windsor mother fears what the future holds with the changes to autism services in Ontario.
The Ford government 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.
“This is going to throw my family into crisis,” fears Pare.
Her family will be eligible for up to $55,000 total under the new government plan.
It may sound like a lot but Pare says over the next 11 years, until Addison is 18, she will only receive $5,000 a year. Therapy for Addison will cost approximately $88,000 a year.
“They're taking an already broken system and breaking it even further,” adds Pare. “We are our child’s biggest advocates, we have to be the voice that they don't have.”
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."
Derek Rowland, Spokesperson for the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services responded to CTV Windsor in a statement:
“Our first priority has – and always will be – supporting Ontario families of children and youth with autism. Despite collaborative dialogues that took place over six months of consultation, ONTABA was unwavering in their desire to self-regulate and unwilling to work with government to open up the sector to provide parents more choice in support services for children with autism. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders who are dedicated to clearing the waitlist and empowering parents to make decisions that are in the best interest of their family and children with autism.”