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Ontario delays new autism program, prompting tears from struggling parents

Parents of children with autism burst into tears today as the provincial government announced that a needs-based program will be phased in over two years, instead of being up and running in April as previously promised.

Families will receive interim funding of either $20K or $5K during delay

Children, Community and Social Services Minister Todd Smith said the new program will not be ready by April 2020 as originally planned. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Parents of children with autism burst into tears Tuesday as the provincial government announced another delay in getting their kids the services they need.

Children, Community and Social Services Minister Todd Smith announced that a needs-based program will be phased in over two years, instead of being up and running in April as previously promised.

Parents who were watching the announcement at Queen's Park, some of them clutching pictures of their children, began weeping and saying, "not good enough."

Smith says the work has already started, but it is complex and will take time to be fully implemented.

Despite concerns from parents, the Ford government said the revamped program will include each of the key elements recommended by a provincial autism panel. They called the program "comprehensive, sustainable and family-centred."

"The work has started, and we are continuing to listen to experts and families," said Smith in a news release. "Thanks to the panel, we know where we have to go. And we have the right plan, and the right people, to help get us there."

Before the program is fully implemented in 2021, families will get interim funding of either $20,000 or $5,000 to pay for services, depending on their child's age — the maximum annual amounts they were to get under the now-cancelled plan that was announced earlier this year.

That plan sparked outrage, forcing the government to go back to the drawing board and nearly double the amount of money it will allocate to autism services.

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