Sudbury families concerned about changes to autism funding
Children with autism between the ages of two and five will receive $20,000 a year
Parents and supporters from the autism community in Sudbury are still angry about the funding changes that are coming for autism therapy for children.
There have been a number of rallies held all across the province by parents and supporters upset by these changes.
In Sudbury, parents, families, advocates and even therapists from the community will be gathering for a town hall to speak out against the changes to the Ontario Autism Program on Thursday evening.
The provincial government announced the changes to the Ontario Autism Program funding in early February. The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod said that they want to offer more immediate assistance to all families and to help reduce the province-wide wait list for treatment, saying the government will provide funding directly to families to pay for autism therapy.
Children with autism between the ages of two and five will receive $20,000 a year and children between six to 18 will receive $5,000 a year.
However, parents have said they believe this will just take funding away from existing autism programs, leaving families no choice but to find more expensive therapy.
In Sudbury there is concern that the government's plan to reduce the wait list for therapy will only create another type of wait list.
"If all of the children who are on the wait list were to come off the wait list all at once, Sudbury does not have the capacity to service all of those children at the same time," said behavioural analyst, Kim Morris, who provides treatment to young clients with autism in the city.
Many concerned parents in Sudbury continue to rally against the changes to funding.
"The momentum is building. It's fuelling the fire for parents who knew this was wrong and it was the wrong idea," said Sean Staddon a Sudbury father.
He says he's not surprised that the autism community is making noise over the Ontario governments new funding plan for treatment.
Staddon says the new funding plan will not cover the full needs for his four-year-old daughter.
Melissa Harriman agrees that the changes to funding will only create more issues. She has three children who fall on the autism spectrum.
She says for children with severe autism, the amount of money the province is offering won't even cover a fifth of the cost that they need for therapy.
"I think it's important for us to share out stories and share why we want needs-based therapy and not just a little chunk or a little hand out which is being offered. I think it's important for everybody to understand the needs that these children have," Harriman said.
The town hall on autism is planned for Thursday evening at Countryside Arena in Sudbury.
With files from Angela Gemmill