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(Canada) MORE ON ONTARIO AUTISM PROGRAM; 23,000 children on waiting list

Feb 6, 2019, CTV News: Parents angered by changes to Ontario autism program aimed at cutting wait list TORONTO -- Ontario is overhauling its autism program in an attempt to clear a waiting list of 23,000 children, but families and advocates say that backlog will be eliminated at the expense of the amount and quality of treatment. The changes announced Wednesday by Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod include giving funding for treatment directly to families instead of regional service providers, dependent on age, with up to $140,000 for a child in treatment from the ages of two to 18. Families will receive up to $20,000 a year until their child turns six. From that time until they are 18 it would be $5,000 a year. Lisa MacLeod Ontario's Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, looks on during an announcement in Toronto, on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young But intensive therapy can cost between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, said Ontario Autism Coalition president Laura Kirby-McIntosh, which means that families will quickly burn through the funding…. Parents of children with autism launched protests against the previous Liberal government in the spring of 2016 when it announced that kids over four would be cut off from funding for intensive therapy. … The program will be means tested, with support targeted to lower- and middle-income families. Those making more than $250,000 won't receive any funding, MacLeod said. A child entering the program at age seven would receive up to $55,000 until they're 18, the government said. Kristen Ellison's eight-year-old son spends 25 hours a week in treatment, at a cost of nearly $6,000 a month. … "There are lots of two year olds that are potty trained or talking and have deficits in other areas. There's lots of eight year olds that are in diapers, who don't go to school because they can't integrate, who harm themselves ... What's going to happen to them?"… Families on the waiting list can expect to receive funding within the next 18 months, MacLeod said. Todd Boyce, whose seven-year-old son has been on the waiting list for 1 1/2 years, said it has been frustrating. … The government is also doubling the funding for five diagnostic hubs to $5.5 million a year for the next two years to address the diagnosis waiting list of 2,400 children, who currently wait on average for 31 weeks. The new program has the same annual budget of $321 million as the Liberal program. …


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