Local Families “Devastated” By PC Government’s Changes To Autism Funding

"Talk to any parent, it’s devastating. They’re taking the funds that they have and thinning it out even more"

The provincial government announced Wednesday that an overhaul of the Ontario Autism Program was on the way, and that the changes would ease the wait list for over 23,000 families.

RELATED: Queen’s Park Overhauling Ontario Autism Program

But some local families say the government isn’t being entirely forthcoming with their announcement, that they are “pushing Peter off a cliff to pay Paul”.

The government has touted the changes will clear the current wait list, but it will also mean children who are currently receiving funding will have their funds cut, and they will be transitioned back in to schools. The government is also putting in an age cap: Children between the ages of 2-5 would be eligible for $55,000 until they are 18 years of age. If the child is over 9, they would receive $40,000. There is, however, a yearly cap on these funds of lifetime amount of $4,000 a year for services that currently cost upwards of $80,000.

This clinical therapy is proven to work because of it’s intensity. 7 and a half hours a month is, essentially, useless. It’s basically a slap in the face to my daughter

Beth Kleinsteiber

Beth Kleinsteiber’s 9-year-old-daughter, Paige, has a low-functioning form of autism and is partially non-verbal. Under the new rules, Paige would receive approximately 7.5 hours of therapy a month, which Kleinsteiber calls “basically useless”. The young girl attends IBI Behavioural Services in Barrie, and her mother says the changes in her since then have been completely life changing; Paige can now express to her mom if she isn’t feeling well, or what she wants for dinner. Her mother worries that the changes in funding will mean she has to sit back and watch her daughter “not reach her full potential”

9-Year-Old Paige Plug of Barrie
9-Year-Old Paige of Barrie attends IBI Behavioural Services in the city

According to Amanda Baysarowich, owner of IBI Behavioural services, the affects of these changes will reach far and wide. Baysarowich says the existing school system is completely ill-equipped and ill-prepared for these kids to enter the school system, and there is no transitional system set up to for the kids to be successful while they transition out of therapy.

The politicians are putting in a “one-size-fits-all” and that model doesn’t work. Children with autism need to be judged on their individual needs

Amanda Baysarowich
175 local kids receive therapy at IBI Behavioural Services, and that doesn’t include their waitlist

Baysarowich says that the changes to funding will mean parents of children with autism will have to liquidate assets, sell or re-mortgage their homes or dip in to their savings to provide therapy for their children.

Next step? Activism. A series of rallies and protests are being planned, with further details to be made available soon.

Barrie-Area MPPs Andrea Khanjin and Doug Downey have been asked for comment, a response is expected early next week.