For Immediate Release
Autism Canada’s statement in response to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services announcement regarding changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Try Again, Minister MacLeod
Ontario Autism Program changes are bad policy and set the stage for crisis
February 25, 2019 (Toronto) As a dedicated advocate for Canada’s autistic community and their families, Autism Canada is concerned that the Ontario provincial government’s plan to restructure Ontario’s Autism Program (OAP) is a dangerously flawed policy that will negatively impact autistic children and youth, their families and the broader community at large.
The plan, as stated by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, is misinformed, disingenuous and vague. It has thrown the autism community into crisis and the resulting impact will be felt across health, education and social services in Ontario for years to come.
The consultation process was flawed and not collaborative. Informed and expert input was disregarded, and stakeholders were bullied into, or misrepresented as, supporting the government’s position.
Minister Lisa MacLeod has stated that the changes, which include capping funding for services based on age and income and providing a ‘flat funding’ model not based on need, will reduce the waitlist for services. But, we contend that the challenges facing autistic kids and their families are not simply about a waitlist, they are about adequate service capacity and funding to meet an individual’s needs.
Dermot Cleary, Chair of Autism Canada, says, “It is a failed policy that does not address individual needs, but determines funding instead based on the age of the child or the parents’ income. We do not do this for other health services. We do not limit how many doctor visits or how much medical care a person gets a year based on their age or their income. Why treat those with autism differently?”
“When kids with autism get the essential services they need, such as speech, occupational and behaviour therapy, they can thrive,” says Lisa Boccaccio, Board Member, Autism Canada. “Not providing these services adequately only pushes costs to the community downstream.”
With only five weeks to implement the new plan and few substantive details provided, the province’s new plan for Ontario families living with autism is a crisis waiting to happen.
In addition to removing the caps on autism funding and services based on age and income, Autism Canada recommends:
1) The creation of a cross-ministerial secretariat to coordinate autism supports in the province; for example, between the Ministries of Education, Social Services and Health.
Having a single point of entry and coordination of services for autism families would reduce bureaucracy, duplication, confusion, costs and streamline services. This would also enable more service delivery within schools – a repeated request of autism families that has never been tackled.
2) Autism should be framed as a health issue. Autism is a complex, neuro-developmental disorder, not a learning disability nor a behavioural problem.
The needs of children with autism are also medical, not just ‘social’ or ‘educational.’ Essential health services for those with autism, which includes speech, occupational and psychological therapies, should be treated as a right, not a luxury. Health services for autism should not be conditional and subject to the whims of each new government.
Autism Canada urges Minister MacLeod to sit down with stakeholders and experts in autism and find a new way forward. Try again, Minister.
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About Autism Canada
Autism Canada is the only autism advocacy organization with a national perspective on the issues currently facing those with autism spectrum disorder, their families and other stakeholders. We work collaboratively to share expertise, build consensus and help inform public policy and research. In addition to encouraging the sharing of best practices across provincial and territorial boundaries, Autism Canada actively promotes national dialogue on the most effective strategies for building equitable access to funding and services.
To learn more, please visit www.autismcanada.org.
About Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder causing most individuals to experience communication problems, difficulty with social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour. There is also a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests. With an estimated 1 in 66 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental condition.
Past News Updates:
Minister of Health, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, announced Tuesday that $10 million has now been made available to the Pacific Autism Family Network and the Miriam Foundation to develop the Autism-Intellectual-Developmental Disabilities National Resource and Exchange (AIDE) Network. This funding was part of the $20 million committed to autism-related issues over the next five years, announced in Budget 2018 by the Government of Canada in February of this year.
Autism Canada to develop national education program for Search and Rescue and emergency responders. October 15, 2018 (Toronto, ON) – Autism Canada announced today it will develop a national education program for Search and Rescue and first responders
First-of-its-kind nationwide program launched to help those with autism to communicate effectively in an emergency. April 10, 2018: Autism Canada and MedicAlert Foundation Canada team up to launch MedicAlert Autism Program.
Autism Canada releases comprehensive new report on Aging and Autism. Toronto, April 4, 2018: Autism Canada is pleased to release a comprehensive report today on aging and autism.
One in 66 Canadian children and youth are on the autism spectrum. March 29, 2018: New data underscores the urgent need for services and a synchronized national strategy.
Equitable access to tax fairness for Canada’s autism community. February 1, 2018: Autism Canada is calling on the federal government to take action on the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), including the creation of a clear, transparent and informed application, review and appeal process.
Autism Canada calls for greater equity and transparency in Disability Tax Credit procedures. November 30, 2017: Autism Canada is calling on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to apply the existing criteria for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) equally, consistently and transparently across the board for all applications.
Senators request a meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister of Health on Autism. Senate of Canada, November 1, 2017: Open letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health.
Autism Canada rejects Canadian Autism Partnership Project. June 27, 2017: National advocacy organization calls for an actionable plan that provides equitable access to evidence-based treatments for all Canadians. [en français]
Summary Report – Aging and Autism: A Think Tank Round Table. October 2017: Autism in Later Life: A Think Tank on the Effects of Aging on the Autism Spectrum.
Submission to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, February 1, 2018: Equitable Access to Tax Fairness for the Autism Community.
Five things journalists should keep in mind when writing about autism. October 14, 2016: Media stories that get it wrong can contribute to how others perceive those with autism – and even perpetuate potentially dangerous stereotypes.
Why universal screening for autism is a good idea. April 23, 2016: We don’t want to see Canadian children reaching school age before being identified as having autism. But that is precisely what is happening too often already.