Listen: Fighting for their lives: The Ontario battle over autism funding
"Heard the stories desperate mothers somehow lifting entire cars off of their children are fighting off wild animals to save their babies. There's not much research supporting that phenomenon but if you wanna see in an action politically at least in Canada, head to Queens Park, the provincial government legislature in downtown Toronto. All of all of the. I'm lose out. All of these kids are going back into the schools without the support they need without the therapy. They need this evidence. He's cats are desperate. See couple of weeks ago. Doug, Ford's conservative government announced changes would be coming to autism funding in the province. We'll get to the details of that funding. But suffice it to say that for parents of autistic children who've spent years battling for every scrap of help for their kids. It was not a welcome. And so these parents did what they've been doing since their children were born they called, and they showed up and the organized, and they fought with everything they have. Will the government backed down in the face of that orig- on Monday, Tori, MPP gave the premiere and the minister of children's services a standing ovation. So not yet. Anyway, is there was there ever a good way to handle the autism file and Ontario has any government gotten this issue? Right. And has Ford's government, which is held tough too many reforms in the face of anger from across the province finally met, the people that it should not under any circumstances. Have messed with. What happens next? I'm Jordan heath Rawlings. And this is the big story, Cynthia mulligan is the city news reporter at Queens Park. She's been covering this file for years since since it's been a file. How chaotic has the past week being at Queen's Park. Has been incredibly chaotic and you have to remember the session only just resumed on Tuesday. And by Wednesday all the media here in the gallery felt like we had already been at it for three months, right? It's very intense lots of emotions I mean, lots of parents, come in just absolutely desperate begging for help for their for their child. And they're they're desperate because they think that they're going to lose all hope for their child with with autism. So take me back to the beginning of the changes to the autism funding that that started this outcry well early February, I think it would February six minutes. Lisa MacLeod made an announcement. They they were talking about changing the rules around autism therapy and keeping buying and I've stressed this. My stories no government has ever gotten this. Right. It had it is a difficult. File it is challenging and parents have had to fight. Over and over and over again for years for their child to get them the funding that they need because autism therapy can cost up with eighty thousand dollars every year for the intense therapy. So we knew that the liberals back in two thousand sixteen tried to change the wait list and they backed down after about three months because the parents were so upset and then and so they eliminated the cop on age. That's a big distinction. Parents don't want their child to age out of therapy at the age of six they wanted to continue on. But we do know research suggests that the more intense therapy, the earlier the better, but it doesn't mean that you have to cut it off. And that it has no impact whatsoever. After the age of six which is what parents are arguing for. So I'm sort of going around in circles here, but minister McLeod inherited a massive, wait list. She says it's twenty three thousand and I've been doing this story for oh my God decades and. You have kids who are on the wait list therapy for years before they get off the wait list and get their Affi that they need, and it's a massive problem. And it grew that weightless grew under the liberals' Doug Ford promised to make it better. What they decided to do is eliminate the weightless within eighteen months and give more children less therapy. And they're capping the therapy. And it's also capped based on age. So a child under the age of six will get twenty thousand dollars worth of therapy a year, and then once they turn fix they'll get five thousand dollars worth of therapy a year. And remember it's it can be up to eighty thousand a year. So parents are absolutely devastated and desperate, and they say that their child will not get enough therapy. We've been showing up Queens Park. Yes. And they are promising many rallies. I have heard that there's one on Wednesday. And there's also another one being planned for early March. Next week, and but they have been coming. They've been packing the gallery they've been in the hallways. Just absolutely devastated. And you know, they they are very impactful because they are coming and there's just up salute fear in their eyes there crying, and they're desperate. They have nowhere to turn. They've run out of money. You know, one woman was telling me I've used up all my IRA Ps. I've I've remortgaged my house, I begged my family and friends for years. And now, I've got nothing left. Can you give me a sense of the scope of this problem? How much money is at stake, and how many kids are we talking about an Ontario? There are roughly forty thousand children with autism and on -tario right now the budget for the autism file is three hundred twenty one million dollars. Do we have any sense of how long these plans have been in preparation for have have we done any has the government done any research gone back to two experts where did this come from and win. Well. It's interesting because ministers taking a lot of backlash over the experts that have endorsed this file, and I've been trying to ask her tell me, the experts that said this was a good idea, and she points to Holland, bluer view, and Chico which is a hospital in Ottawa, but their diagnostic centers, and what she did was she doubled the money for diagnostics. So it would make sense that they would think that that's a good plan. But I said to her okay? But what expert authorities said it's a good idea for you to give more children far less funding. She pointed to the two diagnostic centers as well as Aaron oaks who did write an Email in support of her and this plan, but I have contacted them repeatedly. And they won't answer my questions about it. Now about what they thought was a good idea."