Friday, August 17, 2007

Ontario Autism Coalition Rejects McGuinty's Autism Half Measures

In Ontario the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government has announced a raft of measures, on the eve of Ontario election 2007, to address the needs of autistic children in Ontario.

The Ontario Autism Coalition has responded pointing out a number of deficiencies in the announced plan - including wait times for autistic children to receive treatment measured in years rather than weeks.

In addition education policies which effectively prevent Intensive Behavioral Intervention from being used in public schools are also condemned. The OAC describes the announced plan as little more than half measures and partial solutions. Meanwhile, Autism Ontario which receives $1.5million under the plan, to provide respite services, including a web site, gave the announcement a very positive review.

The Ontario government Press Release:

McGuinty Government Investing In More Services For Children And Youth With Autism

    Increasing The Number Of Children Receiving IBI, Providing Relief
Services For Thousands Of Families

TORONTO, Aug. 17 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is investing more than
$12 million this year to provide Intensive Behaviour Intervention treatment
for 210 more children and youth with autism, bringing the total number of
children receiving the specialized care to approximately 1,400 - a 160 per
cent increase since 2004, Minister of Children and Youth Services Mary Anne
Chambers announced today.

"Our government has been taking steps to increase the capacity of the
sector by training and recruiting more therapists for kids with autism," said
Chambers. "As a result of our capacity building efforts more children with
autism will have access to Intensive Behaviour Intervention therapy and more
families will have access to much needed respite services."

With the government's policy of not discharging kids from the Intensive
Behaviour Intervention program on the basis of age, the resulting increased
demand is being addressed by building a continuum of service for children and
youth with autism and their families and by more than tripling annual support
since 2003-04 to more than $140 million in 2007-08.

In addition to taking 210 children off IBI wait lists, the $12 million in
additional funding announced today will be used to hire more IBI therapists
and provide temporary relief services to more than 3,000 families across the

"I am very pleased that over 200 additional IBI spots have been funded
while children over age 6 continue to remain in this program," said Tammy
Starr, a parent of a child with autism. "I have confidence that Minister
Chambers and her ministry will ensure that families will be able to access
these services quickly and that children will be receiving high quality

"Autism Ontario is encouraged to see this additional investment in
support of children and families with autism. Respite services are so vitally
important for families dealing with the day to day challenges of autism and
Autism Ontario is pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Government
and parents to further understand and deliver respite options that meet the
unique needs of families from communities across the province," said Deborah
Kitchen, President of Autism Ontario.

"We have listened and learned from families, service providers and
specialists, that our efforts to provide supports and services for children
and youth with autism spectrum disorders need to consider the incredible
demands placed on families involved," said Chambers. "I have seen the enormous
benefits that our government's support for respite services, including summer
camps, provides for both parents and children alike."
Other ways the government is working together with community partners to
support children and youth with autism include:

- No longer discharging children from the Autism Intervention Program
on the basis of age and assessing all children referred to the program,
regardless of age

- Creating the Ontario College Graduate Certificate Program
in Autism and Behavioural Science and increasing the number of qualified
professionals graduating from the program to at least 220 by 2008-09;
the program is being expanded to include three more colleges, bringing the
total number of colleges participating to 12 across the province, effective
September 2007. More than 200 trained therapists have graduated from the program
province wide since 2006

- Hiring nearly 300 new therapists since 2004

- Reducing the number of children waiting for assessment for the Autism
Intervention Program by 752 or 69 per cent since 2004

- Through the Geneva Centre for Autism, training up to 1,600 resource staff in the child care sector
and child care workers and 5,000 educational assistants who work with children
with autism

- Providing nearly $6 million in further investments to support school
boards in providing Applied Behaviour Analysis for students who need it beginning
in the 2007-08 school year

- Investing $530,000 in summer 2007 to help send more than 800 children and youth
with autism to supportive camp environments

- Providing $900,000 over three years to expand, a
centralized website operated by the Geneva Centre for Autism. Effective September
2007, the site will link 35 communities across the province, providing information
on relief services to families caring for an individual with a disability,
including autism

The Ontario Autism Coalition recognizes that 210 new program spaces and
funding for respite is most welcome, but the OAC is still concerned
about the growth in the wait list and the lack of IBI in schools.
Increases in funding?including today?s announcement?have barely kept
pace with the growth in the wait list. The Minister says that as of July
2007, there were 1,082 children waiting for IBI, up from 985 in the fall
of 2006. This was despite Minister Chambers? last announcement of 225
new spaces in January of 2007. More information about growth in the
wait list can be found at
The bottom line: wait times for children with autism are still measured
in years, not weeks.

The OAC has repeatedly pointed out that the wait list could be eliminated
if money was targeted through direct funding to families and if the
Ministry of Education would allow special education funding to be used
for IBI in schools. This is done is many other jurisdictions across
North America.

The need for the Ministry of Education to step up to help children with
autism in schools is clear. 60% of children currently on the IBI
wait list are of school age, as are 45% of the children on the wait list.
Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne announced in March 2007, that ABA
would be introduced in Ontario schools, 3 ½ years after Premier Dalton
McGuinty promised to do so. But she also indicated that the intensity
that is so important for children with autism would not be required, and
that not all school boards would be prepared for September 2007.

Students in Ontario are able to access many accommodations for
education, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy. Children with
autism are specifically prevented from accessing IBI, the
best-researched, most effective method of teaching, in a memo from
Deputy Minister of Education Ben Levin issued in March, 2007 (The memo
can be read at IBI
instructor therapists are still barred from entering the schools to
support children with Autism.

Families touched by autism do not need half measures and partial
solutions. We need a wholehearted embrace of the best teaching methods
for children with autism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our daughter has been receiving ABA therapy for the last seven years and has undergone a remarkable transformation. She's evolved into a talkative, affectionate 10 year old young girl who is surprising us daily with her new accomplishments. She was in the Ontario Autism Initiative Program from age three to when she aged out at six in 2002. We were in the direct funding option and our service provider was and remains the same organization that trained the therapists in our region. We never stopped her therapy although we've had to reduce the number of hours she receives due to the financial burden. We have over seven years of videotaped sessions and have retained all of her data, programs, etc. Our family was thrilled last year to hear the program was no longer aging the children out at six -- the implications of her re-entry into the program were immeasurable. We contacted our regional center and quickly received an assessment appointment for, what we were told, was a required formality to get her going. After two hours of tests and interviews, her results were reviewed by the clinical director -- and she was denied eligibility to the program. This person, who has never met our daughter, had formed an opinion that she would not benefit any further from continuing her therapy. That she has progressed well, but now at 10 years of age, hasn't closed the gap to where she should be. Interestingly enough, they had no data to compare her results of last year to, so to date we are still unclear how this opinion was formed. Despite seven years of data and progress we had to force them to look at, and despite our psychologist's ability to refute everything this person says, we've spent the last eleven months unsuccessfully trying to get a reason why she is not eligible. The Ontario government may profess to no longer aging children out at six, but their arbitrary decisions that do not have to be accounted for that fly in the face of factual, measurable data accomplish the same thing. Our daughter is not in this program because she is ten years old.