Autism doesn't end at age 5
(May 27, 2016) Recently in the Ontario Legislature I joined my PC colleagues in demanding the Liberal government restore Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for children age five or older.
I was honoured to speak on behalf of autistic children and their families. Someone has to stand up for them. Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal cronies sure aren't looking out for these individuals.
As you might know, the Liberal government recently announced its new autism programing, and in doing so it changed some of the rules surrounding who gets provincial funding for IBI therapy.
Now, children age five or older don't qualify.
Ontario's Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles says the new autism programing is based on expert advice, and that the age window of two to four is the best time to focus on IBI therapy.
It may be expert advice but it's flawed advice nonetheless.
I say it's flawed because Moms and Dads across this province say it's flawed, and there are no greater experts than them.
Thousands have demanded the government not go ahead with this change but in true Liberal fashion, no one in government is listening.
The Liberals like the change to who can access IBI therapy because it allows them to play a numbers game. Sadly, that game involves our children.
Suddenly a whole lot of kids – age five and older – don't have access to provincially funded IBI.
Using numbers from the Toronto Sun, "the move effects 1,377 children five and older who are already receiving IBI, 835 children in that age group who are on the wait list, and a further 1,331 who are expected to turn five while they are still on the wait list."
And this leads me to talk about Adam Laver.
He's an 8-year-old boy who lives in Beeton. His mom Nancy recently visited with me at Queen's Park.
Adam's parents applied for IBI funding in May 2013 and were put on a wait list. Now, because of the rule changes, Adam will never get provincial support for IBI.
And that's sad, because if he'd qualified he'd get a minimum of 20 hours per week.
At any rate, Adam's parents put him in private IBI in August 2014. They have been paying a staggering $1,200 a month for almost two years. That's a lot of money. That's a mortgage payment for many people in our community. And for that amount of money, Adam gets nine hours of therapy a week.
His mother Nancy told me: "He's done well on the nine hours. He's a different kid. With the limited amount he gets he's doing fantastic. He now talks in eight to 10-word sentences. Before it was two to three words a sentence."
Adam's parents know how expensive IBI is because they have been paying for it out of pocket. If they could get the IBI support from the province that their son deserves, developmentally he'd be even further along.
No one is arguing that IBI isn't expensive. It's a lot of money. But it makes a world of difference for the children that receive it.
If we don't do everything in our power to help these children then we are not the caring society we like to portray. We are letting these children fall behind. And that will cost us in so many ways.
The government needs to do what's right and restore IBI funding.
You can also sign my petition, which calls on the government to restore IBI funding. Copies of the petition are on my website at www.jimwilsonmpp.com.
Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.