Hundreds Gather to Protest Changes to Provincial Autism Funding

Hundreds of families and advocates of children with autism showed up on the lawn of Ontario's legislature Thursday, to urge the government to reverse changes to the autism program.

Last month, Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced that in order to clear a waiting list of 23,000 children, kids with autism would receive direct funding to pay for treatment.

Families will get up to $20,000 per year for treatment for children under six and $5,000 a year for children six to 18, but intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year.

Parents are calling for the funding to be based on children's individual needs, instead of just their age.

am800-news-lisa-gretzky-autism-protest-march-2019-twitter

Windsor-West MPP Lisa Gretzky (second from right) poses with protesters at Queen's Park in Toronto, March 7, 2019. (Photo courtesy of @LGretzky via Twitter)

Tina Walker has two children on the autism spectrum — one on the wait list and one in full-time therapy — and she says she wants MacLeod to know it's more important to help kids than to stick to a flawed policy.

The new program kicks in on April 1, and families say they are still lacking details of how it will work.

MacLeod announced Wednedsay that she would not be going to the protest on the lawn of the legislature because the tone of the debate has raised concerns about her personal safety.

According to her office, MacLeod has received threats against her life through social media and by phone, and a spokesperson says police have been contacted.

 

— With files from The Canadian Press