Mar 11, 2019, Woodstock (ON) Sentinel-Review: School board pushes for more funding for special-needs students https://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/news/local-news/school-board-pushes-for-more-funding-for-special-needs-students/wcm/54161ea6-8e20-4b05-825c-15825f16415d Although she welcomed the resources officially announced Monday by the Ford government, Laura Elliott said only time will tell if the $12,300 per special-needs student is enough to cover the needs of new autistic students coming into schools. Although she welcomed the resources officially announced Monday by the Ford government, Laura Elliott — director of education for the Thames Valley District school board — said only time will tell if the $12,300 per special-needs student is enough to cover the needs of new autistic students coming into schools. “We are looking forward to having more money to support our students with autism, but we need more financial resources from the province overall for our students with special needs,” Elliott told The Free Press. … Education Minister and Tory MPP Lisa Thompson made the announcement Monday, as hundreds of kids may soon enter school because they will get less funding for therapy. Families say that recently announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program that will kick in April 1 mean many of those children currently in government-funded, full-time therapy will have to instead transition into school. The government says there are 1,105 children with autism who are not in school. … “(The education minister) made the announcement and she said $3 billion, but that was the same budget. Before it was $3 billion, and now it’s $3 billion. So it’s the same amount of funds for thousands of more special needs children, that sounds like a cut to me,” Ashton noted. The Thames Valley board spends about $4 million of its own money on top of what it receives from the government to support students with special-education needs, Elliott said…. The government is aiming to clear a wait list of 23,000 kids by spreading an existing pot of money to all children diagnosed with autism, instead of fully funding the treatment. Families will get up to $20,000 a year for treatment for children under six and $5,000 a year for children six to 18 — with the maximum amounts available to families with incomes under $55,000 — but intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year. Many families say they will be unable to cover the difference to keep their kids in full-time therapy. Parents and educators are raising the alarm about what the autism funding changes will mean for the school system. They are concerned that already-stretched educational assistant resources will be spread even thinner…. Hundreds of parents and advocates protested on the lawn of the legislature last week, calling for the government to fund autism therapy based on children’s individual needs, rather than just their age and family income.
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