Parents of kids with autism calling for more support from Ford government

With over 50,000 kids waiting for core services in Ontario, parents of kids with autism say the province is failing and kids are falling behind. Maleeha Sheikh reports.

By Maleeha Sheikh

As more than 50,000 kids with autism in Ontario are currently on the wait list to get treatment, one parent says the Ford government needs to make these kids a priority as they continue to fall behind.

“Autism treatment is medically necessary. People should be using their health cards, not Visa cards,” says Jamie Peddle who has a son with severe autism.

Peddle stood outside of Premier Doug Ford’s constituency office Saturday in Etobicoke, desperate for help. Peddle’s 10-year-old son is currently receiving about 12 hours of treatment a week but Peddle says he should be getting around 30 to 40 hours.

“These service providers are not treating the children properly. They’re just reducing the waitlist, getting more kids off the waitlist and not giving them their treatment,” says Peddle.

He says Ford isn’t making this group a priority, “what about autism care? Our children need help. They need help big time. They need to adapt to society. They need to have a chance at life. For a G7 country like Canada, this is wrong how they’re treating our children.”

Kay Narula is a board-certified behaviour analyst with Hope Autism Services. She says access to services was difficult even pre-pandemic but the situation has gotten much worse over the past couple of years. And the cost is taking a toll on families.

“Services are very expensive. I have parents that have maxed out their credit cards, taken on second mortgages. A family I’m working with is looking into getting a third mortgage,” says Narula.

She adds treatment is especially important to start when children are young, around two years of age, which is why such a long waitlist is worrisome.

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“This will lead into when our individuals with autism are not able to get that help, they’re going to… as they get older and they’re stronger, their behaviours will get worse. We’re going to be putting in at that time way more money and facing more challenges in dealing with those behaviours,” says Narula.

CityNews reached out to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the director of communications wrote, in part: “In 2019, we doubled the Ontario Autism Program budget to $600 million. Approximately 40,000 children are now receiving supports, which is nearly five times more children than ever in the history of Ontario.”

The ministry added, “our government took the recommendations of the Ontario Autism Advisory Panel, an expert advisory group made up of parents, clinicians, researchers, providers, and self-advocates to inform a truly needs-based Ontario Autism Program.”

Delays have been a big problem. The province says they remain on target to launch the Independent Intake Organization this spring which will bring 8,000 children into core clinical services by the fall. However, back when Todd Smith was the former Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, who has since been replaced by Merrilee Fullerton, he had promised to hit this very target in December of 2021.

Fadia Dalla, who is a mother of a young boy with autism, says she has been waiting far too long for help. She can only afford to pay for three days of treatment per week and it simply isn’t enough.

“Before he speak [sic]. He do well with us as a family [sic]. But with staying home, without therapy, without education, without attending school, he stopped talking. It’s a very bad situation,” says Dalla.

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