Yesterday, the Ontario provincial government announced changes to the funding model for Autism programs. It was framed as giving more money to programs to help get rid of the long waitlists for diagnosis and treatment.
When I talked about this on air, the calls came flooding in.
Amanada Baysarowich owns a local IBI therapy clinic in Barrie. She says parents have been coming in crying over the changes. “It’s devastating news. It’s devastating for families. It’s devastating for children and it’s devastating for us professionals in the field,” she says. “We’re all in a state of shock… a state of despair over this news.” She calls the changes “a disaster that’s coming up” and “a big error on the government’s side”
So, what exactly is going on?
Instead of the government funding whatever therapy a child is prescribed, as what is happening now, starting April 1st, families will be given a lump sum per year for services. For children 6 and under, it’s $20 000 a year but for 7 to 18, it’s $5000 a year. If that sounds like a lot, it’s not. Remembering that autism spans a spectrum, some behavioural therapy costs upwards of $80 000 a year.
A mother of 2 children on the autism spectrum called me to say that she will have to refinance her home to be able to pay for the services her children need- services which are currently being covered. He boys are over the age of 6 so she’ll only receive $55 000 total, per son, from now until they’re 18 while their therapy costs $60 000/y for each child. She says “I’m at a loss. Someone needs to put perspective into these government’s eyes. […] I do not know how these governments think they actually fixed the system. They made it sound good and it’s not good at all.”
A caller with a high-functioning daughter with autism called to say that, for “anyone with a moderately or severe child, $20 000 won’t do a month”
The mother of Noah, who is 12 and has autism, says that the changes are terrible. “I think that they are trying to pit us against each other. They are offering a false choice. They are saying, ‘you can either have adequate service or we can have no waitlists’.” Her son is in therapy 28 hours a week and it is covered by the government under the current funding model. As of April 1st, under the new funding model, she says she will not be able to afford that level of therapy, which was prescribed for her son. When I ask what will happen, she says he’ll just have to go back in the regular classroom with teacher and EAs who are not prepared for him.