VIDEO: Families Seek Answers Over Cuts to Disability Programs

More than 100 residents from across Windsor-Essex rallied together at the WFCU Centre as time runs out for funding to support those with developmental disabilities across the province.

The Ford government recently cut $3.2-million in funding for 1,300 people who rely on Independent Facilitation supports in Ontario — those supports help young adults with developmental disabilities work and live as independently as possible.

Ontario's Autism Program has also been "reworked" by the PC's. Funding will soon be paid directly to families to clear a 23,000 child waitlist for autism treatment.

"We are basically being handed $5,000 a year, if we meet the minimum requirements, and being told ... you deal with it, but you deal with it the way we tell you to. So we're allowed to use it for ABA [applied behavior analysis] therapy, respite services and technological equipment such as an iPad — iPads don't cure autism," says April Pare, whose seven-year-old daughter Adyson is on the autism spectrum.

She says funding ranging from $5,000 and $20,000 per child isn't enough with more intensive therapy that can garner better results for some children costing more than $80,000 a year.

Adyson couldn't communicate and would harm herself and others out of frustration, Pare says that changed when she received treatment for auditory processing issues.

Once Adyson showed progress she was cut off from the program and thrown back into school. By the time she hit Second Grade, Pare says she was unable to be in class with other students.

"Adyson may be moderate, but there are kids that are out there that are severe that require more attention than her, so how can you say that these to kids are the same and they deserve the same amount of money, it's nearly impossible," says Pare.

Both Pare and her husband work full-time to pay for medical treatment that she says shouldn't be up for debate.

"We didn't ask to have a child born with a disability and because of those exceptionalities, she requires more care," she says. "It's the same thing if a child goes into the hospital and is diagnosed with a life threatening disease, you're not going to tell them, here's $5,000, good luck. That's essentially what government's doing to us."

Windsor-West MPP Lisa Gretzky and her fellow NDP MPP's Taras Natyshak and Percy Hatfield facilitated the Developmental Disabilities Town Hall.

She tells AM800 News families have to deal with red-tape on top of the latest cuts.

Gretzky says the current application system for disabled adults requires they prove they still need support, as if their, "disability suddenly goes away when they turn 18."

"They go through a really invasive process and some families choose not to continue applying and then they go on a wait list for two to five years, that's the average," says Gretzky. "During that time they've lost all the supports and services that they had."

The government has defended its moves as necessary measures to root out inefficient programs, curb spending and get a handle on the province's $325-billion deficit.

Gretzky hopes the pushback from local families will force the government to look elsewhere to cut dollars, especially when those cuts simply direct the disabled elsewhere.

"When they're not supported properly it's a strain on the healthcare system. It puts a strain on the education system, which is not funded appropriately to be able to support kids with developmental disabilities; they need more funding as well. It can be a strain on the justice system," she says. "What we need is all the ministries to be working together."

The NDP Critic for Community and Social Services tabled Noah and Gregory's Law to eliminate wait times for people with developmental disabilities in December of last year - the bill has gone through its second reading at Queens Park.