The Ford government plan's to reassess the autism program doesn’t mean the wait is over for Ontario families.
Four-year-old Matti Moffatt has severe autism.
His mother Hannah Rasmussen says, “He was 18 months old and he started to lose his words he had about a dozen words and we started to notice new words weren’t coming and his dozen words started decreasing.”
What was increasing at the time, however, was the waiting list for families trying to get help for their autistic children.
“There were long, long waits, there was a lack of information. We had to wait - from flagging him as autistic - to almost a year until he was formally diagnosed because of waits and then we went on another wait list.”
Matti is now non-verbal and after waiting for years the family decided to pay out-of-pocket for therapy which will cost approximately $82,000 a year.
“Matti has been in full-time therapy just for three months now and we are seeing huge differences, both in him but also in us because it feels like with some of the therapy it also teaches the parents how to understand their child, how to interact with their child and what their child needs,” Rasmussen says.
London West MPP Peggy Sattler says there are many families in the same boat.
“The autism therapies cost a lot of money. Some parents I’ve talked to are looking at around $80,000 or more a year for severe autism, people don’t have that kind of money sitting there and their lives have been put into chaos.”
Despite the province pledging to revamp the autism program, Sattler says the fact it won’t come into force until April 2020 is too long.
Meanwhile Rasmussen says her family hasn’t even been offered the chance to apply for funding despite having two autistic children.
Her oldest child Maggie is also on waiting lists for therapy, “There’s no spots for her anywhere, she needs speech and occupational therapy. I can’t even find a person even if I pay privately.”
She says for now, all she can do is continue to fight for her children’s future.