Sunday, September 16, 2007

NDP's Hampton Speaks Up For Autistic Children, Promise Breaker McGuinty Blasted by Autism Parents

A group of approximately 25 autism parents protested at Dalton McGuinty's Ottawa South constituency office yesterday according to a report by the Ottawa Citizen. The protest was part of the Autism Day of Action organized by the Ontario Autism Coalition. Meanwhile Howard Hampton and the NDP left no room to doubt their commitment to autistic children and students.

A McGuinty spokesperson appeared and listed some of the actions taken by the McGuinty led Liberal government during the past term of office including elimination of the age cutoff with about 60 per cent of children in the IBI program now being six years of age or older. The number of children receiving IBI was stated to have gone from 531 in 2004 to 1,400 today, the McGuinty government more than tripled spending on autism services for children and youth from $44 million in 2003-04 to $140 million in 2007-08, and created a college program to train new therapists.

Those numbers are significant but they do not actually address the enormous challenge in Canada's most heavily populated province. The Citizen article tells the story of the Lander family of Kanata who spend $40,000 a year for behavioral, speech and occupational therapy for their autistic son. With waiting lists for diagnosis and receipt of services the wait for autism services has grown to four years. Four years! Unless a child is diagnosed at birth they would miss completely the important early development period for treatment between ages 2 and 5. The Ontario Autism Coalition wants waiting lists eliminated, proper training and accreditation of therapists, and specialized instructors to work with autistic children in schools.

Sam Yassine, an Ottawa member of the Ontario Autism Coalition executive committee points out recent Liberal spending commitments for autism have come at the end of the McGuinty government 's term.

"For the last four years he denied our children, "Now, before the election, he announces $10 million. We find this very cynical. It's another promise to be broken."

Andrew Kavchak, who has maintained a vigil for years at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa seeking a national autism strategy, including Medicare coverage of ABA treatment for autism, is blunt in expressing his feelings about the Promise Breaker:

"We don't want Dalton McGuinty re-elected, he doesn't deserve our trust."

Despite the focus on the Promise Breaker and his betrayal of autistic children and their families there was good news from NDP Leader Howard Hampton yesterday:

Hampton Offers New Resources For Children With Autism

September 15, 2007 - 12:00am

Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton joined NDP York-Simcoe Candidate Nancy Morrison and other families at a local playground to announce the NDP’s plan to support families with autism.

The NDP will put children and families first by providing publicly funded Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) services in classrooms for all children with autism, and clear the waiting list for autism services.

“Every child who needs IBI autism therapy should have access to it. That’s the only fair thing to do. It’s a practical, doable and sensible thing we can do that will make an immediate difference to the day-to-day lives of today’s families.” said Hampton.

During the last election, McGuinty wrote a letter to Morrison promising to provide autism services to Ontario children who need it. McGuinty broke his promise. As of March 31, 2007, 1,100 children were languishing on waiting lists for autism services. That's an increase of 1,200 per cent from when the McGuinty Liberals took office.

McGuinty even wasted $2.4 million of public money fighting parents in the courts for the right to break his promise.

“Dalton McGuinty wasted $2.4 million dragging families through the courts instead of addressing the pressing need for autism services for today’s working families. That much money could have funded special treatment for 50 children with autism for a year,” said Hampton.

McGuinty’s priority was to give himself a $40,000 raise and slush fund money to his friends. New Democrats will stand up for a fair deal for today’s working families.”

Howard Hampton, and the NDP, are absolutely right. Provision of therapy to autistic children is practical and doable IF it is a real priority of government to get it done. In the past that has not always been the case. The Ontario Autism Coalition, and parents of autistic children, are making sure that persons with autism occupy a more deserving spot in the hierarchies of government priorities in Ontario. Mr. Hampton and the NDP have indicated clearly and unambiguously where autism needs would be placed in an NDP government list of priorities.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Ontario NDP both deserve credit for advancing the best interests of autistic children in Ontario.

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