Adults with autism desperately need government support
Owner of Roots 2 Wings gets calls weekly from parents who lost funding once their child turns 18
Jody Lowrie has made a business out of what she and others consider the lack of government funding to support adults with autism.
The Windsor mom opened a small business in 2013, offering programs for young adults who have disabilities. Operating out of her renovated garage, she had about three clients.
Several years later, she has moved her company, Roots 2 Wings, out of her home and now works with about 50 clients at two locations in Windsor.
A large portion of those in need are people with autism, who lose much of their government funding when they turn 18. That cutoff is a significant problem, Lowrie said.
"If your child has funding through their teen years, there's no miracle that happens when they turn 18 where they no longer have the needs," she told CBC News. "Usually, there's a higher need for the supports and the funding."
Like many parents across Ontario, Lowrie applauds the provincial government for backtracking on cuts to autism programming. But many parents are still calling for more assistance when their children turn 18.
Finding care once funding is gone is a significant challenge. Lowrie gets calls weekly from parents who have been cut off.
"I think it's really ridiculous that families have to practically beg for money," she said. "I'm not saying just give everybody money. I think there could be some sort of grace period or transition period where the families still feel supported."
Starting at home
Lowrie knows all too well what it's like to lose that government funding. Before starting her new business, she too was cut off for in-home support when her autistic son, who is also blind, turned 18.
She looked for community day programs to give her son care while mom was at work, but she just couldn't find the right fit. That's when she left her job at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and branched out on her own.
Demand for services at Roots 2 Wings took off immediately. First Lowrie moved out of her garage to a neighbourhood church. Then came the larger office space, then a second.
She is also working on setting up shop somewhere in Essex County, where there is also tremendous demand.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Community and Social Services told CBC News earlier this year that it is "committed to improving supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families."
The ministry said it is working towards having "a seamless transition" for individuals as they move into adulthood and remain in need of these supports and services.
It added the province has already signed a memorandum of understanding with all school boards in Ontario so young people will have a transition plan before they leave school.
There's no word on when a transition strategy will be implemented.