Changes to Ontario’s autism program have left many families across the province frustrated that their young children no longer quality for Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) to treat autism, unless they are under the age of five.
Under the new rules which go into effect in May, children over five will instead move to a less intensive system of treatment: Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). They will also receive eight thousand dollars in funding for other supports and services.
“I’m concerned that at the age of five children will no longer get the intensive treatment that they so desperately need,” says Monique Taylor, NDP critic of Children and Youth Services. This echoes the sentiments of hundreds of parents across the province, many of whom have emailed CityNews flagging their concerns.
“Eight thousand dollars is going to do nothing for those families,” says PC critic Sylvia Jones.
But Children and Youth Minister Tracy MacCharles stands by the Liberal government’s new plan.
“The dynamic of autism has changed. Evidence has changed,” she says, referring to the clinical expert committee that provided research to the province.
“Doing nothing is a big concern for me, not making changes following the evidence.”
But Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children, says the changes leaves a gap in services.
“The strategy presented by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services seems to take a service for children and their families away without replacing that service, at least in the minds of those who have been depending on it,” he says. “This implementation strategy seems problematic.”
But concerns are being raised surrounding whether or not this new system will provide Ontario children with the treatment that will make the most impact.
Monique Taylor says a campaign is underway involving petitions and letters are being sent straight to Queen’s Park. Next week, families impacted by these changes will also hold a press conference to highlight their concerns.
“We’re ringing bells, quite frankly, to say that this isn’t fair,” says Taylor.
Full statement by Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children:
“We should all aspire to a province where a child in need gets what they need, when they need it. The recent ‘Ontario Autism Program’ is limited in this respect. It is limited to considering the management of two waitlists, IBI and ABA services, rather than ensuring an approach that ensures children and their families will receive the services they need throughout the stages of their development and lives. In addition, the strategy presented by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services seems to take a service for children and their families away without replacing that service, at least in the minds of those who have been depending on it. This implementation strategy seems problematic. The glimmer of hope I can see is in the ‘advisory committee’ the government indicated it will create to manage the transition. It is my understanding that parents will be involved and, I would hope, young people as well. It is through their lived experiences that a way forward can be found. I have asked for a briefing from the Ministry where I can learn the details of the plan and express my concerns.”