Ottawa

Ottawa parents protest provincial changes to autism treatment funding

Dozens of parents of children with autism protested outside the Ottawa office of MPP Yasir Naqvi, angry at the provincial government's decision to refocus its treatment funding on children ages two to four

Ontario Autism Program leaving older children behind, parents say

Autism rally outside MPP Yasir Naqvi's Ottawa office. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

Dozens of parents of children with autism protested outside the Ottawa office of MPP Yasir Naqvi Friday, angry at the provincial government's decision to refocus its treatment funding on children ages two to four.

Angela MacDonald and her son Casey. (Steve Fischer/CBC)
Angela MacDonald brought her four-year-old son Casey to the rally. He has autism and has been on a waiting list for the most effective treatment available — therapy known as intensive behavior intervention (IBI) — for two years.

But he's about to turn five, and under the new Ontario Autism Program, that means he will no longer be eligible.

"We got a notice last week that he would be removed from the list and we're pretty disappointed, scared, and upset," said MacDonald.

New provincial funding for autism

In the March provincial budget, the Liberal government announced it will provide $333 million in autism funding over the next five years. That money will go chiefly towards IBI for children between the ages of two and four.

Within two years, IBI wait times are expected to drop by 50 per cent, and the government believes that will mean young children with autism will get treated earlier, when research shows it is most effective.
Alora Sherman at the rally outside Ottawa office of MPP Yasir Naqvi. (Brittany Brodziak)
Parents of children older than five will receive $8,000 to go towards community services and supports while they transition to applied behavioural analysis (ABA), which the province says is more age-appropriate programming.

But another parent at the rally, Tanya Corey, says that money won't even cover two months of therapy for her son.

Still, Ontario's Minister of Children and Youth Services, Tracy MacCharles, believes these new efforts will reduce wait times. "But more importantly, we want to get the right service for children in the best developmental window," she said.

The new program goes into effect May 1.