School board seeks discussion between province, parents for new autism therapy program

The Waterloo Region District School Board passed a motion on June 20 that advocates for roundtable discussions with ministers, parents of children with autism and educators to develop enhanced treatment for children.

The WRDSB is concerned that recent provincial rule changes won't help children with autism

WRDSB passed a motion on June 20 that will reach out to Ministers of Children and Youth Services and Education asking to have discussions with parents of children with autism. (CBC)

The Waterloo Region District School Board plans to reach out to provincial ministers with the hopes of holding discussions to improve treatment for children with autism, after recent regulation changes caused outrage from parents across the province.

The school board passed a motion on Monday night that will see the board reach out to the provincial Ministers of Education, and Children and Youth Services.

The motion advocates for roundtable discussions that will include parents of children with autism and educators to contribute to the formation of a new, enhanced program for treating autism. That program would combine intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) and applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapies for students.

According to the province, ABA therapy helps children and parents reducing problematic behaviours by focusing on understanding the reasons behind those behaviours, the conditions when they happen and the "triggers" of the behaviour. ABA methods can be used anywhere.

IBI therapy, on the other hand, deals with specific applications of ABA methods used by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services' Autism Intervention Program. IBI therapy is delivered by a qualified therapist with the program customized to the need of each child.

Parents want voices heard

"We want to make sure parents are included and that their voices are heard, that they are able to contribute to the formation of the IBI and ABA," said Cindy Watson, one of the trustees who put the motion forward.

The board is concerned that children five years old and up who have been on wait list for IBI will no longer receive this service, after province recently decided to limit public funding for the service to children four years old and younger.

This means students who are entering or are already part of the school system may get little to no behavioural therapy.

According to the report, the motion will also be asking the Ministers of Children and Youth services and Education to develop an on-line survey that will provide the parents and educators the opportunity to provide information.

Students need the support, says board

The board has written a draft of letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, expressing their concern and asking her to reconsider recent changes to the autism services. Currently, schools are not equipped with the appropriate staff or funding to provide autism students the  level of care they received through IBI, according to the board.

The letter also expresses concern over the financial impact on families whose children have been taken off the wait list. The board hopes that the province will provide more funding for families to meet the necessary needs of their children.

The board plants to send the letter to Queen's Park pending approval on June 27.


  • An earlier headline said that the Waterloo Region District School board is seeking the discussions with the province. In fact, the board's motion asks for the province to hold talks with parents, autism program representatives and educators, board trustees won't be part of the discussions.
    Jun 23, 2016 2:14 PM ET


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