Ontario Autism Program in Crisis

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Autism in Ontario: The Crisis

Autistic children and youth in Ontario are in crisis- so are their families, their schools, and their communities.  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a life long complex neuro-developmental disorder, which affects children, youth, and adults in the areas of communication, social interaction, and mental cognitive ability.  Many Autistics will also have co-occurring learning disabilities and mental illness. Thousands of children and youth are not accessing life sustaining therapies and programs they need to gain essential skills and learning because the funds simply aren't being released to accommodate the rising number of those being diagnosed.  The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  To date, there are approximately 24 629 children and youth waiting for services and funding in Ontario, and that number is rising.  Failure to intervene now and sustain therapy interventions has and will continue to see, increasing number of young adults with Autism that will need extensive care in the areas of self- care, mental health, and social assistance. The lack of social services for children, youth, and adults in Ontario spans into the areas of health services, education, mental health supports, community programs, and housing.

The Ontario Autism Program Dismantled

In January 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services under the direction of Honourable Lisa MacLeod dismantled the needs based OAP program and replaced it with income and age based childhood budgets.  This unwelcome change was met with strong disagreement and outrage by the Autism community, Ontario school boards, advocacy groups, and community stakeholders.  The result of the egregious plan saw the shut down of regional provider funding and the laying off of thousands of therapists province wide.  Regional providers in the North had to shut its doors completely leaving Northern families with no access to supports at all and a therapist capacity issue that has not been addressed.  Private providers have had to reduce their staff and some have shut their doors as well.  In return, the government saw the disastrous effects of its new plan and extended therapy plans to accommodate the time it would need to fix the plan.  The Ontario government also conceded it had made a mistake with the childhood budgets and removed the income based portion, however still left the funding allotment to be determined by age of the recipient. Seeing the effects of its flawed plan, the government promised to introduce the Autism Advisory Panel made up of Autism experts and parents who would draw up recommendations on how to move forward to a sustainable and equitable program.  To date, an implementation of the arduous work of the Autism Panel has not been put into effect, and the promise of immediate intervention was replaced with an announcement that a needs-based program would only take effect on or about April 2021.  Again, another blow to the the families who are in crisis and awaiting monetary relief to help their children.

What's Happening Now?

On January 24, 2020 the ministry updated its website to further devide those that are receiving needs based therapy and those who are not. Of the 24 629 children and youth who are waiting to receive funding, only 8648 are in needs based service. Those in service will continue to receive therapy until the new program comes into effect, and the waitlist families will at some point before April 2021 receive an interm payment that will not be clinically sufficient. The discriminatory childhood budget amounts of 20k for under age 6, and only 5k for those over 6, will continue to either not be enough or will be too much for others. We are advocating that each child or youth receive what they need once assessed clinically, rather than  receive arbitrary funding amounts that are not fiscally responsible.

Please help us in telling this government that we cannot wait any longer.  The funds must be released and families must be helped.  We must see the implementation of the Autism Panel's work which calls for choice of therapy, behavioral science regulation, needs based clinical therapy, early intervention programs, and supports for mental health.  

Here's how you can help!

1. Attend Our Rally: WE ARE RELENTLESS PART 2 

Tuesday February 18th 2020 at Queens Park

Please bring your signs and your friends! For more information visit the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/452150588734074/

2. Donate to the Ontario Autism Coalition: 

We will need buses in helping our families coming from afar, sound systems, and supplies for the day.  Any contribution will help, thank you!

https://ontarioautismcoalition.com/donate/

3. Sign This Petition and Share! 

So many Ontarians still do not know about the crisis we are experiencing.  We hope you can help us spread the word.

4. Contact Your MPP: 

Please phone or write a letter to your MPP to let them know that children and youth in Ontario deserve needs based therapy and that supports for them in school are needed as well.  If you have been impacted or know someone that has, they need to hear your stories.

https://www.ola.org/en/members/current

5. Join the Ontario Autism Coalition 

You can join for free, visit our Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/4179793644/

6. Spread the Word: Follow Us on Twitter 

Twitter: ONTAutismCoalition
@OntAutism

Thank you and we can't wait to see you February 18th!

The Ontario Autism Coalition ✌