Sudbury

Parents with autistic children 'cautiously optimistic' at new funding approach

Sean Stoddard, part of the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance, said proposed changes to the province’s funding model for families with autistic children were too fast, and would leave many parents scrambling to find services for their kids.

Government says it is abandoning plans to revamp autism funding model

Sean Staddon is a father of two children with autism. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

A Sudbury dad says he's impressed that the government is listening.

Sean Staddon, part of the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance, said proposed changes to the province's funding model for families with autistic children were too fast, and would leave many parents scrambling to find services for their kids.

Staddon was, however, encouraged by the government's willingness to go back to the drawing board.

"The new tone by the minister acknowledges those feelings when you ignore someone's anxiety," Staddon said. "It really just amped up more and it and it creates a lot of stress for the parents, who don't know what they're going to do."

After six months of protests the province announced it was abandoning its plans to revamp Ontario's autism funding model.

In an announcement, Minister of Social Services Todd Smith acknowledged that this February's autism revamp — which gave families a fixed amount of money determined by their income and their child's age — wasn't working. 

"We didn't get the redesign right the first time. I'm here to tell you that we will now," he said.

Staddon said he was welcoming the minister's message, but wasn't taking anything for granted.

"We've learned to become very cautious, optimistically cautious when a government makes an announcement like this," he said.

Sudbury's Sara Kitlar-Pothier is with the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance. (Submitted by Sara Kitlar-Pothier)

Sara Kitlar-Pothier, part of the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance, said she is pleased the government is returning to a need-based autism program.

But she said the delay leaves many children waiting until next spring to find out if they'll get provincially funded-treatment.

"At this point...our northern needs haven't been addressed. I do hope they will be taken into account," she said. 

"We will continue to send information to the panel as well to let them know what our specific needs are, and hopefully they will be taken into account when the decisions are made with this new needs-based programming."

The minister is expected to be in Sudbury on August 8 as part of his northern tour.

With files from Casey Stranges

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