Windsor

Windsor parents angry about autism funding overhaul, say their input was 'misconstrued'

The Ford government announced sweeping changes to autism therapy today — and some autism advocates in Windsor are alarmed by the proposal.

Autism advocates say new 'childhood budget' model won't cover cost of services

April Paré and Michelle Helou are disappointed with the Ford government's overhaul of autism therapy for children. (CBC Television)

The provincial government announced sweeping changes Wednesday to how it funds autism therapy for children — and parents of autistic children in Windsor are not pleased.

Currently, some 23,000 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are waiting for government-funded treatment in Ontario, while just 8,400 are currently in the program receiving therapy. The wait for treatment is roughly two years.

Under the Ford government's proposed plan, families will receive a "childhood budget" of up $140,000 to be used for therapy until the age of 18. It will also double the funding for diagnostic hubs so children can receive a faster diagnosis.

Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Amy Fee talked about her personal family experiences of having two children with autism during an announcement Wednesday in which the province announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program. (Twitter)

April Paré's 7-year-old daughter has been has been waiting for autism therapy for two years. She told Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre that she was disappointed with the proposal.

"When they made the announcement today they made it sound like it was a good thing ... but the way they're going about getting rid of the wait list is not okay," she said. "That $140,000 comes with a lot of weight attached to it."

Paré explained that the full $140,000 amount is only for children who are diagnosed early on, and whose parents are below a certain income threshold.

"If you do the math on this, it works out that my daughter will receive less than $5,000 a year for therapy until she's 18 years old," she said, noting that the cost of full-time, applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy averages $88,000 a year.

Autism advocates are disappointed with the Ford government's new plan for autism therapy. We spoke to April Paré in Windsor - her 7 year old daughter has been has been waiting for autism therapy for more than two years. 8:30

"Basically, the government is saying, 'here's some of the money, do what you need to do, we're out of it," said Michelle Helou, whose son is autistic. "I think they should have allocated the monies to existing agencies and allowed them expand on their services and hire the proper supports."

The new changes also don't address services for autistic adults.

April Paré and Michelle Helou are disappointed with the Ford government's overhaul of autism therapy for children. 2:57

Tap on the player to hear Helou and Paré talk about that issue with CBC Windsor News at 6 host Arms Bumanlag.

"I feel like a lot of what we said was misconstrued," Paré said of her participation in government consultation leading up to Tuesday's announcement.

"We did ask that we have more freedom when it comes choosing what services we have for our children ... what we didn't expect is for them to take these agencies that we use every day away from us."

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

with files from CBC's Mike Crawley

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