Parents gather in St. Thomas to protest autism program changes
Published Thursday, February 14, 2019 6:29PM EST
Parents of children with autism gathered outside MPP Jeff Yurek’s office in St. Thomas Thursday, protesting the Ford government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Mother Elizabeth Reavely is one of several parents who showed up with signs slamming the recently announced changes.
Reavely says her daughter Claire has autism and turns six in April. She says her funding will go from 100 per cent coverage down to five per cent.
“After her sixth birthday the most she’s entitled to receive is $5,000 per year if it doesn’t get deducted based on our family income,” Reavely says, “and $5,000 a year, that works out to be $14 a day. No one can afford therapy for that.”
She says her daughter is non-verbal, but now speaks in short-sentences. Reavely says Claire will still require speech therapy and occupational therapy going forward so she can live independently as she grows up.
“This is devastating for our community. The waitlist is atrocious, I recognize that, but all that wait was for nothing. For $14 a day that’s not going to help any of these kids,” Reavely adds.
Samantha Jacobs also attended the protest, advocating for her three-year old daughter who has autism and is also non-verbal.
“I think the whole Ontario autism program needs to be reworked,” Jacobs says.
“I’ve been waiting for two years for services for my daughter Nova, there was light at the end of the tunnel because I knew in a few months she would be receiving the funding and therapy that she needs, now unfortunately I’m not sure what to hope for at this point.”
Jacobs says the same amount of funding doesn’t work for everyone.
Reavely and Jacobs tell CTV News they have both met with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek several times. They say he listened to their concerns and wrote down questions he will get back to them on.
Reavely says autism is a medical issue and says it should be part of the Ministry of Health, not grouped under the social services portfolio.
“They really need to focus on the needs of each child. Every child is different. They need to hold some of the service providers accountable because some of their fees are astronomical and they shouldn’t be,” Reavely says.
Yurek came out of his office Thursday afternoon to address parents, encouraging them to keep voicing their concerns.
“We’re working as a government, trying to make it a sustainable system. Making sure everybody has access to treatment and with the finances that the province is in, there’s some hard decisions being made, but we’re working to make a sustainable system where everyone can get access to some form of help,” Yurek says.
He says it’s going to be a “long process” to get the province back on track so “the proper programs” can be offered across the province.