Rino Strazzeri is reduced to tears, fed up with the province’s recent changes to Ontario’s Autism Program.
The move affects not only one, but two of his kids, who are both diagnosed with Autism.
“I would never give up on my kids, so I don’t know why these people are giving up on my kids and everybody else’s kids,” said the father of three.
Sebastian, who is seven, is enrolled in Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI), but under the new changes, he now no longer qualifies for the program.
The province has made it so only children under the age of five qualify for IBI.
The seven-year-old has only been enrolled in the program for a year-and-a-half, but already, the family said he’s changed dramatically.
“The head banging has decreased, the yelling and screaming has decreased, he’s communicating more, interacting more,” Strazzeri explained. “He’s a totally different kid, without it, I don’t think he’d be where he is today.”
Now he and thousands of others could be shifted to another provincial program, one the family feels won’t be as effective.
“I think he would lose everything that he already gained after that,” Strazzeri said.
Under the IBI program, Sebastian spends four hours, five times a week with a therapist. The family was looking forward to their other son having that same support.
Like his brother, five-year-old Gaetano was also on a two year waiting list for the IBI program.
The family was forced to pay out of their own pocket for his therapy during that wait, spending thousands of dollars every month.
That would have been only temporary, since the Strazzeris were expecting a call for Gaetano’s IBI enrollment any day now. Instead, they learned the five-year-old no longer qualified.
The province will instead give families who have kids over the age of five on the IBI wait list $8,000 to help cover treatment costs.
For the Strazzeri family, that’s little incentive.
“It’s only going to last about two months,” he said.
This change has also heightened the family’s fear that their kids won’t be receiving provincial support as they get older.
“Our worry is will our kids go to school and get a good job,” Strazzeri said. “We don’t even know if our kids will have a job.”
The Strazzeris are planning on joining other families and taking their concerns to Queen’s Park in a rally sometime this month.