Windsor Parents to Take Part in Queen's Park Autism Rally

A massive demonstration against proposed changes to Ontario's Autism program takes place today in Toronto..

As many as 10,000 people from across the province converge on Queen's Park at 11am Thursday including April Pare of Windsor.

Her seven-year-old daughter Addison has autism and Pare has been a vocal advocate for autism rights in the wake of program changes proposed by the Ford Government.

She says parents are not willing to accept the changes.

"We're not willing to accept what the plan they have come up with," says Pare.  "We want them to go back to the drawing board.  We want them to come up with a better plan because we can do better."

Last month, the Conservatives announced policy changes which would allow families who have children living with autism, the option to choose the services from the providers of their choice, on a fee-for-service basis.

For a child diagnosed with autism at age two, they would receive a budget of $140,000 over those 16 years or under $9000 per year. But critics of the changes argue that, in severe cases, treatment  can cost as much as $80,000 a year.

Pare says the province has to do better.

"We're not alone in this," says Pare.  "There are plenty of parents that are just not willing to accept that this is the best program that they can come up with."  

She says parents are stressed and tired.

"Not only are we trying to fight a battle we had to fight two years ago, that the Ford government told us we wouldn't have to fight again, but we're taking care of our kids on top of that, right," says Pare.  "You got a lot of parents who are already stressed out and burnt out and you add all of the stress where the funding is going to come from, how am I going to get my child help on top of all of that and you got families in crisis."

Families of children with autism say the plan unveiled last month by Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod will leave kids without access to the level of treatment they need.

MacLeod has faced severe criticism over the revamped program, which aims to clear a wait list of 23,000 children by providing direct funding to all kids diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

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

MacLeod says she won't be going to the protest on the lawn of the legislature because the tone of the debate has raised concerns about her personal safety.

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