The Ford Government is completely overhauling how funds for autism treatment in Ontario are allocated and distributed. The changes are made under the guise of equality and fairness but in actuality are going to end the effective treatment of autism in Ontario.
In Ontario if you have a child with autism your best hope at progress, treatment, and a normal life is intensive therapy such as IBI. Researchers and therapists have concluded that for effective treatment a child needs roughly 30 hours a week of therapy. For 30 hours a week a family will have to pay $60k-$90k a year. This is an extreme financial burden for most families and very few can afford the treatment. The plan before the new change was that thousands of families would receive significant funding to reduce or eliminate this financial burden. This would be budgeted monthly and would ensure that the families would receive 32.5 hours a week in funding. In this system the kids enrolled receive the best treatment available. This system has been proven effective and has tangible results to speak for it. Children in this program learn to communicate better, express themselves, become more independent, and connect more with their families. The downside of this program was that there was not enough money to help every child in Ontario. Because of this there is a backlog of 23,000 children who sometimes have to wait years before they receive any treatment or therapy.
The Ford Government’s new plan is to eliminate the backlog and to distribute all of the funds between all of the eligible kids. This new plan will give every child $140k total if they start at age two, if the child starts later, such as at age five, they will receive $55k total spread out until age 18. After they use up their money they will receive nothing. The way the Ford Government has presented this is by telling everyone that they have cleared the back log, all kids will be treated equally, and now all kids will receive treatment.
The problem is that now zero kids, besides from very wealthy families, will be able to afford and receive effective treatment. They clearly do not understand that if anything we need more equity, not more equality. Research has shown that effective treatment is around 30 hours a week of intensive therapy, which costs $60k-90k a year, this new plan give families at most $140k total spread out over the ages of 2 to 18. Now instead of some kids getting effective treatment, while others are on a waitlist, this new plan will give virtually no kids effective treatment but all will receive a small amount of funding.
The Ford Government either does not understand what effective treatment entails or does not care and is using this as a “political win” by parading the misleading notion that they have cleared out the autism backlog with their new plan.
There are really only two ways to ensure that kids receive proper treatment for autism:
Option 1 is the plan we had before the Ford Government changed it. Some kids will receive effective treatment in a way that is tangible and up to the standards that the specialists and experts have deemed is best. While other kids are on a backlog and will have to wait to get treatment. Currently 8300 children are effectively treated a year in Ontario.
Option 2 would be a theoretical new plan in which every single child gets the full funding they need for effective treatment. This would obviously be perfect however the Ontario government could not afford to give tens of thousands of children $60k-90k a year.
Then there is Option 3 which is what the Ford Government has given us. All kids will receive funding, but it will only be an extremely small amount of funding, which will guarantee that for most families in Ontario their child will not receive effective treatment. It is now more “equal” but now no families will be able to afford any reasonable treatment at all. Since basically no kids under this new plan will be able to afford therapy, it means that essentially no children on the spectrum in Ontario will have a chance for a better life.
It should be obvious that a backlog is not an ideal situation, nobody wants to tell a family that they may have to wait years before their child receives any funding. However at least some point they likely will get funding, and at least the people who are enrolled will receive very effective treatment. Now everyone will get a negligible amount of funding, and no one will receive effective treatment. The new plan the Ford Government has implemented will essentially end effective treatment for autism in Ontario.
Written by Daniel Govedar (Feb 2019)