Windsor Mom Skeptical About Autism Consultations

A Windsor mother is not convinced the Ontario government's plan to consult with the public on its autism support program will lead to changes.

Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Minister, Lisa MacLeod announced Tuesday that an advisory panel made up of parents, autistic adults and experts will review the consultation results and provide recommendations.

MacLeod says additional needs-based supports for children with complex needs could include more direct funding.

April Pare's seven-year-old daughter Addison is on the spectrum.

Pare told AM800's The Afternoon News that she's skeptical about the government's announcement.

"They're not telling us anything new. Now they're saying that they're going to meet with families and they've done that in the past," she says. "I had the opportunity to attend a roundtable here in Windsor. During that meeting I voiced my concerns about the Ontario Autism Program, as did the various other members of the community. We didn't feel like we were listened to at all."

The original Ontario Autism Program announced in February capped the amounts families could receive at $20,000 a year for kids under six, with funding dropping to $5,000 per year until they were 18.

Parents said those amounts were woefully inadequate for kids with severe needs, whose therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year.

Faced with sustained protests by parents, MacLeod announced changes to the program, including eliminating an income testing aspect to the funding.

She says the new program, which takes needs-based supports into account, could cost up to double the original $321-million budget.

Pare says funding should be based on a child's needs rather than their age — something parents have been telling government officials for months.

"We need a needs-based system. Kids with higher needs, there's dual-diagnoses involved, you've got occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language pathology. There's a whole bunch of other kids of therapies that our kids need on top of the sensory integration therapy," she says.

Pare fears any input from parents during the new consultations will fall on deaf ears.

"They're going to consult with parents and educators and people who are involved in this process. It doesn't say a whole lot to me because me and the other parents who attended the roundtable in Windsor weren't listened to," she says. "So who is going to say that they're going to listen now? We went in there and we poured our hearts out and we told them what was wrong with the old system."

 

With files from Paul McDonald