Create change in Ontario's Plan for Autism Programs and Funding
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Prior to Doug Ford being elected premier, Ontario had an autism program where funding was distributed based on the level of function and the severity of the condition. Now, Doug Ford plans to scrap that plan and distribute funding based purely on the age of the child. Children under the age of 6 will be able to receive up to $20 000 annually and children 6 or older can receive up to $5000 annually. The funding can be given as early as 2 years old and will stop as soon as the recipient turns 18. There is also a lifetime cap of $140 000 per family if the child enters the program under the age of 6 and $55 000 if they enter the program above the age of 6.
There are 2 major issues with this funding strategy, one being the distribution of money and the second being the amount of money total. The distribution of money is unfair, seeing as how high functioning children do not require as much as low-functioning. It is completely unfair to families with low-functioning children. The second issue being the total money is something else that needs to be changed. Most children with severe cases of autism need up to 40 hours of therapy per week to help with coping and developing strategies for the child to do basic things such as go to school. That can cost up to $80,000 annually. The money given to children under 6 covers one quarter of that cost and the money received for children 6 or older barely makes a dent in that cost. Not to mention that parents with children that have autism also have to pay for other things such as speech therapy and tutoring.
Along with these changes comes the end of many programs throughout Ontario. Many children use intensive therapy to cope with the many struggles they face but now, these programs have shut down, leaving children vulnerable in a variety of situations. There are lots of kids with autism who have been able to succeed without intensive therapy and have gotten minimal therapeutic help from the government, but with this new program, all of these kids are going to be seen as the same and get the same amount of money.
Many of the families with children dealing with severe cases of autism used the money they got to pay for private schools, giving their child smaller class sizes, more one on one time with teachers and a more personalized learning environment so they are properly accomodated. With the new programs, many parents will not be able to afford to pay the tuitions of these schools and many autism specific schools are shutting down.
Here is a quote from Laura Martin, the mother of Cole (shown above in the photo) who has autism: "The worst thing is seeing the intensive behavior programming come to a full stop. This was life changing for us. Cole Needed his behavior programming very badly and I don’t think I could have kept my sanity without it. My heart breaks for families who have kids like Cole and are now left with no choices but the sad public school system and lack of therapy."
I am hoping to spark change and have the voices of many families in Ontario heard. Although my family is not directly affected by this, many families in my community and close family friends are struggling to adapt to this program change.
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