Why The 100 Percent
On February 6th 2019, the provincial government announced its overhaul of the Ontario Autism Program in an attempt to clear the waitlist of approximately 23,000 children.
Under the changes, which come into effect on April 1st 2019, families of children with autism will be provided with direct funding through the New Childhood Budget that will allow them to purchase the eligible services that they believe are most helpful for their child and family.
The new Childhood Budget means families will be eligible for:
- - up to $20,000 a year for children between 2-5 years old
- - up to $5,000 a year for children between 6-17 years old
The maximum Childhood Budget is up to $140,000 if the child enters the program at the age of 2.
This may sound great in principle. However, autism is a spectrum disorder and the proposed program does not provide sufficient funding to support children with complex needs.
Children with autism who need an intensive amount of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) are usually clinically prescribed 20-40 hours a week for a few years. The cost of this therapy can be anywhere between $55,000 to $80,000 per year, which means that most families will only be able to afford a fraction of their child’s therapy needs under this new program.
Therapy for a child on the spectrum is their education as well as a medical necessity. It allows a child to connect with the world and prepare them for school. Therapy that is based on individual needs helps children to thrive and reach their potential. Without it, they are at increased risk of requiring costly support as adults.
Imagine if you were asked to pay 75-100% of the costs to send your child to elementary school or for a knee replacement surgery to maintain your quality of life. This is what is being asked of families with children on the spectrum. To give their child the best chance at life, some families will be forced to drain their bank accounts, sell their house, take on additional work or significant debt to pay for as much of the life-changing therapy as they can afford. Lower income families may not have those options. They will receive the maximum amount of the Childhood Budget but may not have the financial means to afford any additional therapy. It’s a lose-lose situation. The majority of children will not have access to the clinically prescribed amount of evidence-based therapy that they need to thrive because they will be limited by what their families can afford.
The old OAP fully met the needs of 8,400 children that were currently in service (25%), while 23,000 children (75%) remained on the waitlist to access services. The Minister of this program has stated that she could not support an unsustainable program through which the government denies services to 3 out of 4 children. Her solution is the creation of the new OAP which will use the money budgeted for the program but now divide it between 31,000 children. To do so, it strips away the fully funded supports to 8,400 children by providing limited funds to all families and even further reducing it for children aged 6 and over. Since the announcement of the new OAP, families with children that are currently in service as well as those on the waitlist have presented a united front to let the government know that #WeAreThe100Percent, we share a strong voice and our children deserve to have access to autism services that are based on their individual needs.
Families with children on the spectrum and their loved ones are reaching out to their MPP’s for help. Protests are occurring across this province. Yet the Minister of this program has told opposition MPP’s that they are giving families false hope by amplifying their voices. Our MPPs wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t bring the stories of families to Queen’s Park. As a community, we continue to hope that changing this program is possible for every child on the spectrum, their families, as well as the professionals and schools who support them.
#WeAreThe100Percent and we stand united in our relentless fight for an equitable program that provides quality and needs based support to children with autism. Thank you for your support.