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(Canada) Ont: Autism number "seemingly continues to grow"; 50K on waitlist

May 5, 2023, For parents of autistic children, accessing help a big challenge

Megan Ball Rigden didn’t sign up to be an activist constantly chasing down government officials, but like most parents across Ontario with children on the autism spectrum, lobbying has become a second job.

Roughly one out of every 66 children in Ontario is diagnosed with autism. The number seemingly continues to grow, but for parents such as Rigden, so do the number of hurdles and the length of wait lists families have to fight through to get needed assistance.

“We are already vulnerable families,” said Rigden, whose young son and daughter have both been diagnosed with autism. “There are many other things I’d rather apply my time to than constantly advocating, but as a parent you would do anything for your kids. “I’m political by need, not choice.”

Soon after taking power in early 2019, Ontario Premier Doug Ford sent parents with children on the autism spectrum into a frenzy when his government tore up the blueprint for autism funding, promising to devise something better.

A group of concerned parents and supporters protested outside the Windsor office of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services in February 2019, expressing their concern.

The government held extensive consultations, but the plan was slow to unfold before finally beginning to roll out in 2020. It was then further hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wait lists for both funding and getting support for their children with autism escalated rapidly for parents. As of last month, there were estimated to be over 50,000 children across the province whose families are waiting to secure needed funding support.

Many of those parents with enough money turned to receiving care under private programs and therapy to help their children, but the majority of parents have had to sit tight and wait. Many parents say they did not receive adequate therapy, education or assessment for their young children with autism for years.


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