*Disclaimer: Alliance Against the Ontario Autism Program (AAOAP) is a parent-run community group. AAOAP is not a branch of the Ontario Autism Coalition Incorporation (OAC). AAOAP is not affiliated with fundraising efforts of the OAC.
On March 29th, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services announced its strategy of eliminating the wait lists for autism therapy services including intensive behavioral intervention (IBI). The announcement focused on the major investment of $333 Million dollars into autism services over the next 5 years. The announcement did not focus on how this new money would be spent or what the long-term negative effects would be for the thousands currently awaiting IBI or, indeed, what the new Ontario Autism Program would mean for ALL children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) living in Ontario.
The new OAP would not, as was proclaimed, provide “services they need when they need them most”. Instead, it included the expulsion of some 3,000 children from the current IBI program based on age, including some 1,300 currently undergoing therapy – without reference to their clinical performance. Some children being expulsed and referred to the far less intensive ABA Services wait list, have been waiting 4 years for services for which they were clinically eligible. Instead of the globally recognized best practice intervention for children with autism (a minimum of 25 hours/week of intensive behavioural intervention) children will be moved into an “enhanced” ABA Service that will, at some point, be more than 1-2 hours/week for a maximum of 3 months to “moderate” intervention. For older children, who have not received intervention during their wait, for those at the severe end of the ASD spectrum, and for those with dual diagnoses, such as apraxia, developmental delay, and others, the new OAP is a symbol of our province’s indifference to them, as citizens and people of this province, and to their welfare as future adults. Instead of moving forward, our government has turned back the clock and redefined children with autism as unworthy of the same kinds of supports parents across this province expect to have available when their child is in distress.
Immediately following the March 29 announcement, a group of Ottawa parents began an online petition to gather attention to the negative impact these changes would have on thousands of Ontario families and to encourage Ontarians to speak up in support of kids with ASD. Alliance Against the Ontario Autism Program, was created, to allow parents and supporters to join & get involved in a community movement against the provincial government’s dangerous and discriminatory approach to cost-mitigation.
We have since organized multiple protests throughout the province, and have begun circulating a paper petition (instant download link) to be presented to the legislature. We encourage everyone to participate in the letter writing campaign, protests, MPP outreach, and other calls-to-action, which you can find more information about throughout the website or Facebook page.
We want the Ontario Government to leverage the lower cost, flexibility and transparency of a direct funding model so that all children with ASD for whom IBI has been prescribed by a qualified clinician are able to get the intensity and duration of intervention they need in a timely manner, regardless of their age.