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Ontario government's autism program not enough, families and critics say

Families and advocates of children with autism protest outside Queen's Park on March 7, 2019. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

The Ontario government is rolling out the first phase of what it says is more support for families with children on the autism spectrum Friday.

The province made the announcement in a news release on Tuesday, saying it will provide “foundational family services” to support the learning and development of children living with autism.

The government says those services include mentoring, caregiver workshops and coaching tailored to unique regional and cultural needs.

Last year, Premier Doug Ford’s government changed the way it pays for autism treatment in a bid to eliminate waitlists, but the measures reduced the average amount paid to families.

Following a backlash, the government announced it would create a needs-based program starting next year.

NDP critic Monique Taylor says the Ford government promised families a fully implemented program by April 2020 and failed to deliver.

“We’re in August … in the midst of a pandemic and families are receiving no service,” Taylor said in an interview.

“The Ford government should be ashamed of themselves for making this announcement when families were expecting real core services.”