According to newly released documents obtained through a freedom of information request, the wait-list to receive specialized autism treatment in Ontario is climbing – and families are upset.
Angela Papais is the mother to seven year-old Mason, who has autism. Mason is non-verbal and struggled with communication through the early years of his life. He was wait-listed for his applied behaviour analysis (ABA) treatment at a young age, putting stress on his family.
“Mason was [waiting] forever. He was 175th on the wait-list, and it was taking forever. We just kind of threw in the towel,” Papais said, frustrated.
For nearly three years after he was diagnosed, until kindergarten, Mason did not receive any ABA or intense behavioral intervention (IBI) services. Since then, he has been accepted into a school that offers IBI therapy funded through CEAP (Central East Autism Program). The family has noticed immediate results.
“He goes there daily, they work on his skills … it’s ten fold. He’s picking up words, he’s realizing that his words have power and his voice has power,” Papais said. “It’s incredible just to see the difference that its making in his life and the way he can communicate”.
In order to seek ABA and IBI therapy, children with autism have to undergo many appointments and tests, and they have to wait in a very long line after to receive treatment.
FOI reveals long wait-list
Monique Taylor, an Ontario NDP MPP and critic for Children and Youth Services, applied for the freedom of information request where she found that nearly 16,000 cases are waiting for ABA and IBI therapy.
“We need to ensure that kids are getting this service at the prime age, before the age of seven years old,” Taylor said. “If they’re not getting the service before the seven-year mark, it’s harder for them to adapt to the program, and to have any real progress.”
She said that in order for the wait list to disappear, the government needs to increase the provincial budget.
Taylor urged families to contact the government to tell them how critical the therapy is for their child’s development.
“You will talk to any parent that has had treatment for their child, and it’s a world of a difference,” Taylor said.