Windsor parents call for minister to resign over autism changes
A number of parents in Windsor-Essex are calling for the resignation of PC MPP Lisa MacLeod over the changes to autism services in Ontario.
About 100 people took part in a rally outside the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services in Windsor on Thursday.
“I urge them to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better way,” said April Pare of Windsor, the mother of seven-year-old Addison who was diagnosed with moderate autism at the age of two.
Pare said the changes by the provincial government “is going to throw my family into crisis.”
Rachel Purcell, the educational director at the Therapeutic Learning Centre, Windsor's only private centre for children with autism, was also at Thursday’s rally.
“We can’t alone meet the needs of the community,” said Purcell. “It’s going to be a logistical nightmare, providing the same amount of service, and bringing in the same amount of money but doubling or tripling the number of children we are providing that service to.”
The calls from local parents come as the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis claims Minister MacLeod and her staff requested a quote of support a few days before the new program was announced.
The group says 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 claims MacLeod and her staff indicated that failure to provide a supportive quote would result in "four long years" for the organization.
Our assumption is that that meant we would not have a good working relationship or any collaboration with the government which we were very disappointed by,” said Kendra Thomson, a behavior analyst, in an interview with CTV Windsor.
The Ministry does not deny MacLeod made the statement.
In a written statement to CTV News, Ministry spokesperson Derek Rowland said “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.”
Happening now.. parents of children w #autism rallying @ONgov Min offices demanding it repeals the changes to the Ontario Autism Plan @CTVWindsor pic.twitter.com/CuB2SnWzJ2— Michelle Maluske (@MMaluskeCTV) February 14, 2019
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford declared support for his Minister.
“Minister MacLeod has been working day in and day out, to make sure we have a sustainable system for families who have children with autism,” said Ford. “She wears her heart on her sleeve, she's passionate and she's doing an incredible job.”
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.