Families protest changes to Ontario’s autism program at Queen’s Park

Families protest changes to Ontario’s autism program at Queen’s Park

Hundreds of parents, therapists and union members gathered outside Queen’s Park on Thursday to protest the provincial government’s changes to Ontario’s autism program.

Families of children with autism say the plan unveiled last month by Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod will leave kids without access to the level of treatment they need.

MacLeod has faced severe criticism over the revamped program, which aims to clear a wait list of 23,000 children by providing direct funding to all kids diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Families will get up to $20,000 per year for treatment for children under six and $5,000 a year for children six to 18, but intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year.

The new program kicks in on April 1, and families say they are still lacking details of how it will work. Critics say it will leave thousands of children with autism in schools without the proper supports.

Will and Nev Dundas attended the protest together. The couple has a young son on the autism spectrum who had been receiving intensive behavioural therapy, which is usually administered in a small group setting by a registered therapist and overseen by a psychologist.

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