Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, speaks at the microphone at the Queen's Park daily COVID-19 briefing in Toronto on Thursday, June 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rick Madonik - POOL

Ontario’s new needs-based funding model for autism treatment is being criticized by advocates who say the plan places caps on the services a child can receive regardless of their needs.

Social Services Minister Todd Smith announced, on Wednesday, that 600 children with autism will be selected for the province’s new Core Services Plan -- the Progressive Conservative government's second attempt at redesigning the autism treatment program.

After receiving a diagnosis and a treatment plan, families would work with a care coordinator to identify the severity of the child’s needs before accessing new funding of between $6,600 to $65,000.

“No government has ever provided such a well-rounded program for the autism community,” Smith said during a news conference on Wednesday. “We’ll be the gold standard.”

Families of children with autism insist, however, the plan cannot be a truly needs-based program because the government placed age requirements for funding and limits on how much each child can receive.

Here is the breakdown provided by the province:

  • Children aged 0-3 could receive from $10,900 to $65,000 yearly
  • Children aged 4-9 could receive from $8,900 to $65,000 yearly
  • Children aged 10-14 could receive from $7,600 to $41,400 yearly
  • Youth aged 15-18 could receive from $6,600 to $31,900 yearly

Kristen Ellison, whose 10-year old son Carter was approved for $71,499 in treatment under the previous Liberal government’s autism treatment plan, says her son would now see a 42 per cent decrease in funding under the PC party system.

Ellison says her son, who wears diapers, is non-verbal, and is considered a flight-risk, has benefitted from nearly 25 hours of therapy per week but said the new system penalizes Carter for aging with autism.

“I didn't expect to have an arbitrary age funding cap that made it so no child over the age of nine would ever get intensive services,” Ellison told CTV News Toronto. “No child, based on that chart will ever get remotely, intensive needs-based amount of therapy.”

The assessment was shared by a number of other autism funding advocates who say the cuts could lead to regression.

Nancy Silva-Khan, whose twin boys both have autism, said the $65,000 cap in funding per child wouldn’t pay for intensive applied behavioral analysis therapy her sons need -- which she said would amount to a total of 30 hours per week.

“This announcement is a 10-hour therapy cut to ABA therapy, Silva-Khan said in a n NDP news release. “They just announced that my kids will lose one-third of their therapy.”

Smith acknowledged a funding cap of up to $65,000 “for the most extreme cases” which he said would pay for roughly “20 hours of therapy per week.”

Smith also said the current funding envelope of $600 million -- which was doubled by Premier Ford amid intense backlash from parents -- will not be increased going forward.