By Julia Lloyd and Angela McLean
Following the provincial government’s announcement of major reductions to autism funding, those most affected — families with children on the spectrum — rallied together outside Queen’s Park on Thursday. Their message was clear: the new funding amounts simply don’t cut it.
The Ryersonian attended the rally and spoke with several families who shared their experiences and concerns. These are some of their stories.
“Our daughter is going to go from 100 per cent funding to basically zero. We have been spending up to $60,000 a year and now the Ford government is telling us we are going to get $5,000 a year. Basically, if you are under the age of six then you are allowed up to $140,000 but at a $20,000 cap a year.”
“If your kid is over the age of six, then the amount of funding from the government is $55,000 until the age of 18 with a cap of $5,000 a year, which isn’t even remotely enough to support one child on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.” —- Kristen Visser
To Doug Ford: “Stop telling us what we need. Listen to what we need.” — Justin Visser, husband of Kristen
“These changes will put too much pressure on the schools who are very ill prepared and underfunded and it is going to be a heavy shock. They have to make up for what’s not done in the homes and agencies. On top of it all, this is a human rights issue.” — Leslie Sheriff
“Ideally Ford will bring back the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) we already had, which was needs based. And just acknowledge that this is what is needed by the people and acknowledge as well that autism is not isolated to just families who have autism. It is a society and cultural issue and we can’t be shunned away and hidden.” — Kelly Vanwalleghem
“I have five kids total but two kids on the spectrum, specifically on opposite sides of the spectrum. I have a son that is high-functioning and I have a daughter that has severe autism and is non-verbal. My son has never required intensive support, so essentially with this new program, my son is going to be receiving the same amount of support as my daughter who cannot speak and that still wears a diaper. It is completely ridiculous for us. She is going to the most intensive IBI (intensive behavioural intervention) that you can at this moment. This will stop in May due to these new changes and she will have nothing and her therapy costs roughly between $70,000 to $80,000 a year.” — Lily Stacy
“I have a nine-year-old son who is on the spectrum. Overall, I hope this rally will force Lisa McLeod (minister of children, community and social services) and Doug Ford to go back to the table and rethink this.” — Kelly McGarry
“I have heard, the Green party has heard, and I know all the opposition parties have heard that autism does not end at Ford. I heard you on the floor of that house, I can tell by the premier’s eyes that he heard you too. So, now we need the premier to tell his minister that her plan is flawed and it needs to be thrown into the trash.” — Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green party
(All photos by Julia Lloyd and Angela McLean)