(Aneta Rebiszewaki/Ryersonian)

The government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been undoing a lot of the policies of previous governments.That has included making changes to OSAP funding and, most recently, the Ontario Autism Program (OAP).

The government announced on Feb. 6, that changes to the program will allow families with autistic children to receive direct funding from the government, instead of getting it from regional service providers, according to Global News.

The government’s changes to the OAP raise concerns with families of children with autism and advocates. Only families with an adjusted annual net family income of less than $55,000 will be eligible for the full amount of funding.

The government will cap funding for each family at $140,000 to pay for treatment for a child  between the ages of two and 18.

However, $140,000 over a span of 16 years does not provide sufficient therapy for most kids. The changes will cap funding at $20,000 annually for kids five and under and $5,000 for kids six to 18.  

In Ontario, on average, a parent caring for a child with autism costs an estimated $60,000 a year, according to a report by Autism Speaks.

Conservative writer Michael Taube wrote an opinion piece for the Toronto Star arguing that Ford’s new changes to funding “isn’t even a drop in the bucket,” to what it actually costs.

Taube is a father whose son has autism spectrum disorder and said that therapy can sometimes exceed $100,000 per year. Global News reported that intensive therapy could cost up to $80,000 per year — well above the amount provided by the government.

Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, said in a CBC article, that the changes are going to help clear the autism therapy waitlist of 23,000 children within 18 months.

But, the waitlists will only be cleared because fewer people will have the money to receive adequate therapy. It will not be because the Ford government made it easier or simpler for families struggling to provide care for their child with autism.

Some of the major concerns for parents are that their children will receive fewer hours of therapy and possibly be pushed into schools that are unable to properly accommodate them.

The president of the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) told the Toronto Star, “there is a tsunami headed for the school system.”

The OAC published a press release the day after the announcement of changes to autism funding from the government was released. The press release details the possible scenarios that could happen due to the flat-rate amount of funding for every child.

The release said that one result of the change “will be that children with higher needs will no longer receive adequate funding for life-changing applied behaviour analysis at the high intensity level they require.”

Another result could be that a child at the mild end of the autism spectrum could receive more funding than needed.

Both these results are because of the government’s approach to treating children with autism as “one-size-fits-all.”

Autism is a spectrum and every individual and case is different. The Ford government is completely in the wrong with these changes to autism funding. This is not about equality, but equity.

This is a joint byline. Ryersonian staff are responsible for the news website edited and produced by final-year undergraduate and graduate journalism students at Ryerson University. It features all the content from the weekly campus newspaper, The Ryersonian, and distributes news and online multimedia, including video newscasts from RyersonianTV. Ryersonian.ca also provides videos, images, and other interactive material in partnership with the School of Journalism.

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