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(Canada) Ontario: 50,000 on waitlist for ASD services for 'more than six years'

Feb 24, 2023,

CBC: London families trapped for years on Ontario's autism program waitlist speak out

After more than four years waiting for funding for autism supports for her son, Sarah Farrants has had enough.

"It is exceedingly frustrating," said Farrants, whose seven-year-old son Mason joined the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) waitlist in November 2018 after waiting another year and a half for a diagnosis.

Right now, this wait is still "indefinite," she said. "We could be looking at another year."

The waitlist for autism services reached about 50,000 children in 2020, according to provincial figures. The Ontario Autism Coalition launched the 50 K is not OK campaign last year to highlight figures that it says has doubled under Doug Ford's government….

Sarah Farrants was considering leaving Ontario for a different province after her son Mason waited more than four years on the Ontario Autism Program waitlist.

Farrants decided to enroll to train in different therapies and interventions in order to fill some gaps, but that's meant she hasn't been able to leave her home for work in five years. Mason is now too old for daycare, and before and after school programs haven't been able to accommodate his one-on-one support needs, she said.

The frustrations with the OAP drove Farrants to consider moving from Ontario. …

Londoner Jessica Ashton's nine-year-old son has been on the OAP's waitlist for more than six years — since he was two and a half years old. She was already speaking out about the wait at Queens Park five years ago.

"When my son first got diagnosed, I was horrified to hear that the waitlist would be around four years. Now, they're hitting more than six years," said the founder of the Autism Advocacy Group.

"It's a hard pill to swallow to know you've put so much energy into advocating and you want your voice to be heard, and to think that it's only getting worse," she said. "It's exhausting. It's frustrating."

The wait is also expensive, said Ashton, who spends more than $8,000 [$6,000] per year for two hours a week of behaviour therapy for her son, diagnosed with level 3 autism. It's a number she says is low compared to other parents she knows paying between $25,000 [$18,000] and $80,000 [$60,000] per year and taking second mortgages on their homes to cover costs. …

The province doubled its investment in OAP to $600 million [$440M] annually To address the waitlist, the ministry of children, community and social services committed to providing 8,000 children with funding for core clinical services by fall 2022. …

The enrolment target was reached by mid-December of last year, said ministry spokesperson Kristen Tedesco in an email to CBC News. Registration, however, doesn't ensure families are already receiving funding for services yet. …

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