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(Canada) Ontario: Family waits for over 2 and a half years for autism support

Feb 27, 2023, New Market Today: WHEN ENDS DON'T MEET: Family struggles while awaiting autism support ‘'It’s going to get better.’ I’ve heard that lie so many times,' says Newmarket father after waiting years for twins to get into Ontario Autism Program

Andrea and Claudio Nanu-Garofalo are at their wits' end trying to get government support for their twin six-year-old children, Mia and Sebastian, who are on the autism spectrum.

The parents say they have fought to get stable funding for the past three years but have been unable to get into the province’s new Ontario Autism Program. After burning through their savings and downsizing to a different home to help fund their children’s expensive therapies, the two now rely on the food bank and other supports to get by and keep some of the therapy going….

The provincial government has faced controversy in recent years in failing to support parents of children with autism. The provincial government reportedly missed its internal targets for enrolling children in autism therapies this fall, although it pushed back and said it has met its targets.

The family has three children, with twins Mia and Sebastian diagnosed with autism in September 2019, which is when they applied for government support. They have been on the waitlist but have yet to get into the program and have fought to get a better idea of when they might be able to get more government help.

While waiting, the parents acted to support their children. They sought to get them into recommended speech therapy programs. The cost for these is approximately $24,000 per year, they said, but they could see it making a difference in their children’s development and behaviour. They added that total medical expenses for the two, including physical and occupational, got up to approximately $70,000 [$52K] in a year….

But their savings have dried up, they said. As such, they have had to cut back on how much therapy time their children get, and rely on support from friends, family and the food bank to manage it all….

According to the province's financial accountability office, 2019-2020 financial year numbers reveal about 50,000 kids were on the waitlist for autism services then. …

Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services spokesperson Kristen Tedesco said the province has doubled annual funding from $300 million to $600 million for the Ontario Autism Program and adopted recommendations from an advisory panel to improve the system….

“If Mia and Sebastian don’t get the therapy they need right now, their chances to actually be independent are significantly reduced.” …

The Nanu-Garofalo family is waiting to get provincial funding to support two of their children, Sebastian (left) and Mia (right), diagnosed with autism in 2019. Also pictured are father Claudio, daughter Sofia and mother Andrea. Joseph Quigley/NewmarketToday


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