Parents left reeling following autism treatment cuts

Parents left reeling following autism treatment cuts

CORNWALL, Ontario – The provincial government’s decision to terminate intensive therapy for autistic children in Ontario is being interpreted as a slap in the face by parents.

Dominique Chabot-Payment, the mother of two young boys in the spectrum, said the termination of Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for those aged five and above will make it more difficult to help children early.

“They say early intervention is key….yet they take the key away from us,” she said, and the scoffed at the government’s decision to provide families with up to $8,000 to hire their own therapists. “They give us money in hopes to recruit our own therapists, a needle in a haystack, and run with it.”

Chabot-Payment ridiculed the government’s offer to families seeking the money to hire a therapist. She said a typical therapist charges an average of about $40 an hour to treat a child.

At that rate the $8,000 from the province can be used up in a matter of weeks – leaving families to cover the balance on their own.

“It works out to about six weeks of IBI – not enough,” she said.

This week the provincial Liberals voted against a Progressive-Conservative motion to reinstate the life-changing autism therapy for children over the age of five.

Local MPP Jim MCDonell said his heart goes out to parents of these children.

“Families of autistic children have spent years waiting for life-changing IBI therapy only to be told they no longer qualify,” he said. “Over the last couple of months, the PC Caucus has shared the stories of families that were counting on IBI as a ray of hope for their child’s future and those of children whose lives were changed by IBI. The government’s callous cut of IBI eligibility for autistic children over the age of five deprives them, and their families, of the brighter future they deserve and IBI offered.” 

The government’s decision to cut autism therapy has been met with disbelief by affected families. By the Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ own numbers, approximately 85 per cent of children who receive IBI therapy are over the age cut-off.

“Autism doesn’t end at five, but the Liberal government continues to cut autism therapy even though it has benefitted so many children above the age cut-off,” said McDonell. “Parents and families are pleading with the premier and this Liberal government to reverse the cuts and afford children the best chance to succeed in life, they deserve nothing less. After years of mismanaging the province’s finances, the Liberals are now making autistic children and their families pay. It is unacceptable.” 

Chabot-Payment said her eldest son Kalem enjoyed IBI treatment for four days a week, seven hours a day for two years.

“He can move mountains now,” she said. “Not only are the parents having to do all of the leg work in finding a therapist, they cannot work while the therapist works with the child. Someone needs to be present as IBI is mainly conducted out of the family’s home. I had to quit my job when Kalem did IBI.

“So on top of everything parents need to do for their special needs kids they need to recruit a therapist and create a plan and be there from start to finish. Don’t we have enough on our plates in dealing with the day to day?”

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