Following Doug Ford’s budget cuts to the Autism Support Program, many parents are outraged at the proposed revamp.
Both Ford and Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod were bombarded by angry parents and threats at a protest at Queens Park last Thursday, following their announcement.
Other protests have erupted in Peterborough and Ottawa.
Starting April 1, new stipends for families with children up to age 18 on the autism spectrum will be available based on household income rather than health needs. Families currently on the waiting list may wait to receive their funds up to 18 months.
MacLeod stated that all of the children on the wish list would receive the funds until they’re 18. She stated that a family’s income will determine the amount that each child will be receiving, which has been the focal point of the backlash.
— Colin D’Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) February 8, 2019
Parents with autistic children are furious because of the changes. Following the first protest, MacLeod was approached by angry parents and threatened. Ottawa police have charged a woman for alleged threats made towards MacLeod via email and telephone calls. MacLeod refused to attend the protest in Toronto because she feared for her personal safety after the treatment she received in Ottawa. The accused is currently facing three counts of uttering threats and one count of criminal harassment.
Partial Learning Centre employee, Alexandra Innocent, has worked as an Applied Behavioral Analyzer for the last two years. She said she found the announcement of budget cuts to the provincial program heartbreaking.
“My workplace has started fundraising to help the families impacted by this announcement. A lot of the parents of our clients were a part of the protest. Many of them are overwhelmed because the funding they’re receiving now has a strong possibility of getting cut in half, based on their income rather than being based on the child’s needs,” Innocent said.
After graduating from Seneca College in social work, she intended to work with at-risk youths but found her calling helping autistic children.
There are moments I wish my daughter didn’t have autism. None of them occur when skipping epic lines at Disney. #autismcuts
— Sean Daly (@seandaly72) August 17, 2011
Innocent shared her concerns about the cuts and expressed how much children and families benefit from this program.
“I know one family, for example, that have one child who is currently in our program, but also have an older daughter that they’ve been trying to enroll in the program for a long time. But the process is already hard for a lot of parents considering enrollment. The funding, the government and the entire process is really lengthy and challenging,” she said.
Working in this field, Innocent experiences many different perspectives.
“People think working with or being around them (children on the autism spectrum) is draining and they shouldn’t be acknowledged. As hard as it may be some days, (there’s) the rewarding feeling of teaching your clients something they’ll use for the rest of their lives,” she said.
She said children benefit substantially from the program, which helps them find their strengths.
“A lot of these children are so gifted in so many areas. I have a client that despite his challenges in other subjects, when it comes to math he has instant knowledge. And it shocks me because how could you possibly know that?”
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