This is Owen. He is a very happy 3.5 year old. He loves jumping (on the couch, bed, trampoline etc), running, swimming, cuddles, climbing, and Paw Patrol. At 2 years old we noticed our previously talkative boy had begun to stop using new words and by 2.5 had regressed to using less than 5 words from 75. Owen had a hearing assessment and it was there that we were first asked if there were any developmental concerns. Up until that assessment it appeared to us that Owen had been fairly on par with his peers, however this made us realize some differences in his social interactions and lack of functional play from his friends of the same ages that would come visit. In June of 2018, one month before his 3rd birthday, Owen was diagnosed with Autism. He was accepted into the Ontario Autism Program in August and was given a Family Intervention Worker to assist with referrals, finding out wait times, and to facilitate communication between all of Owen's upcoming therapies. In September of 2018, we were told Owen would be next in line for the upcoming Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program run through REACH. In January 2019 we asked again about the assessment stage of the program and we were told while the spots were available the provider must be waiting for the announcement regarding the fiscal year in April. With the February 6th announcement Owen’s intake was put on hold until providers could determine their next steps. It quickly became apparent that the Minister had frozen intakes into services and Owen was a casualty of that decision.
Owen is non-verbal and has not learned to communicate aside from pulling us to things and places he wants and so we must make our best guesses as to his wants and needs. Owen has been going to a private Speech Language Pathologist in Brantford (45 minutes away from home) twice a week for about a year. Recently he was seen by the public Speech Language Pathologist for our area so he can begin learning to use the PECS to help him express himself. It is our hope that with continued support from our wonderful SLP Owen will be able to easily communicate with his family and friends.
Owen will be 4 years old in July and he has yet to receive services through the OAP. Due to the callous freezes imposed by Lisa MacLeod, our son has been missing out on realizing his potential for 9 months and the window for early intervention is closing. The changes and “enhancements” to the OAP do nothing for children like my son who were not receiving services. We are told we must wait to be called regarding a childhood budget and that even though we’ve already been waiting, even though the government itself recognizes the importance of early intervention therapies have on children with ASD, even though he was right at the top of the list for services in our area, we must wait 18-24 months to hear what decisions the Doug Ford government has in store for us.
For children like my son who have never had any assessments aside from a diagnosis, it is impossible to put a price tag on their therapy. Owen may only need some assistance for the next several months while he finds his voice, or he could require intensive behavioural therapy to help him understand and navigate the world around him. The Government of Ontario should be working with families like my own to properly fund and support vulnerable children so they can become as independent and active as every other person within our society.