Friday, June 16, 2006

BIG NEWS.. but not big enough

I was contacted this morning by GlobalTV to ask my reaction to the news that just came from the provincial govt this morning:

Ontario Expanding Supports For Children And Youth With Autism
$13.1 Million In Extra Annual Funding To Enhance Services

TORONTO, June 16 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is providing funding for
autism therapy to an estimated 120 more children starting this year through an
expanded autism intervention program, as well as other supports to help youth
with autism make a successful transition to adolescence, Minister of Children
and Youth Services Mary Anne Chambers announced today.
"Our government is committed to helping families, children and youth who
live with the challenges of autism," said Chambers. "As children with autism
learn and grow, we need to be able to help meet their changing needs. That is
why we continue to improve and build on the continuum of services we offer
these young people and their families."
The Ontario government is investing an additional $13.1 million annually
to increase the number of children receiving Intensive Behavioural
Intervention (IBI) and provide additional supports for children and youth with
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families. The investment includes:

<< - $8.6 million to provide IBI to more than 120 additional children with autism. As of March 2006, there were 795 children receiving IBI - 1.5 million to help youth with ASD to make a successful transition to adolescence through additional behavioural supports, crisis intervention and skills-based training - $1 million to help Autism Society Ontario (ASO) provide more supports to families of children and youth with ASD, including parent support networks, training, resource materials and access to consultation with ASD specialists - $2 million in each of the next three years to provide training, through the Geneva Centre for Autism, for up to 1,600 child care workers and early childhood educators who work with children with ASD. >>

The new funding brings the province's autism services investment to more
than $112 million annually. Since 2003-2004, the government has more than
doubled spending on services for children and youth with autism, enabling
agencies to hire more than 110 new therapists and increasing the number of
children receiving IBI. With this new investment, the number of children
receiving IBI will increase by approximately 70 per cent since April 2004, and
the number of children waiting for assessments has been reduced by 68 per
Through the School Support Program for children with ASD, more than 180
autism spectrum disorder consultants are now employed to provide consultation
and support to educators in publicly funded school boards across the province.
Minister Chambers made the announcement today at a conference hosted by
ASO, where she spoke to the upcoming launch of the organization's online
registry of Applied Behaviour Analysis providers. When launched, the registry
will give families an additional resource in seeking services for their
children who have ASD.
"These funds will further the development of a continuum of treatment for
children on the autism spectrum." said Margaret Spoelstra, Executive Director
of Autism Society Ontario. "This also represents the first time funds have
been dedicated to this type of support, a need that has been long met by
thousands of parents of children with ASD who also volunteer to help inform,
train and support other parents in their local communities. We are pleased to
work in partnership with the ministry to reduce the burden on parents raising
children with ASD."
Today's announcement is the latest investment in the government's plan to
provide a continuum of services for children and youth with ASD from the time
they are diagnosed through their school years. Since July 2005, children
receiving services through the autism intervention program have not been
discharged from the program based on age - all regional autism providers are
addressing all referrals in a consistent manner.
Other initiatives to better serve children and youth with autism and
their families include:

- Engagement of parents, researchers and autism service providers
through a provincial advisory group on ways to serve children and
youth with ASD and their families
- Providing $10 million more annually to Ontario's children's treatment
centres to provide services to approximately 4,800 more children and
youth with complex special needs, including autism
- Through the Ministry of Education, providing $5 million over two
years to the Geneva Centre for Autism to provide training for
teachers' assistants who work with students with ASD. In 2004-05,
school boards across the province identified approximately 7,000
students with ASD
- In partnership with the Ministry of Education, establishing a
reference group to provide recommendations on effective practices
that school boards can use to improve the learning environment for
students with ASD
- Increasing the pool of qualified autism professionals through the
creation last year of an Ontario College Graduate Certificate Program
in Autism and Behavioural Science, in partnership with the Ministry
of Training, Colleges and Universities
- Advancing research and expertise in ASD, in partnership with the
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the Ontario
Council of Graduate Studies, through the establishment of the first
Endowed Chair in Autism and Behavioural Science at the University of
Western Ontario, as well as an Autism Scholar Awards program
- Together with the Ministry of Education, reviewing the first year
implementation of the School Support Program - Autism Spectrum
Disorder to identify best practices and learn from the experiences of
service providers and school boards.

"Our government is determined to build a system that offers greater
integration of services, best practices and the best trained individuals.
We're working hard to enhance services for young people with autism spectrum
disorder and to respond sooner to their families' needs," said Chambers.

Disponible en fran├žais

How does this news affect us? Well... it doesn't. As of yesterday, we are proud owners of our new home in Calgary. It's too late to turn back now. As I told the reporter, this money that has been injected into the system feels like shut-up money to me. Has the McGuinty government suddenly had a change of heart on how much responsibility the province feels they should have in providing service for our kids? Look back to the previous post referring to the court case and you will see that they are more fervent than ever in proving that they shouldn't have to foot the bill for IBI. The province could dump a hundred million into IBI and it couldn't keep us here.

I imagine living from year to year, waiting for the next shoe to drop, from budget to budget, from election to election.. waiting to hear that the rug has been pulled out from us again. When the boys turn six, would they get chucked out of therapy? People like Bruce McIntosh, who have six year olds who are receiving funded service. They are waiting with baited breath for the court ruling that will determine if their lives will be turned upside down. They might be joining us in Calgary. Every year that the boys are in school, do I have to fight for aides in their classroom? Beg for IBI to be implemented into their education? Still having to fundraise to find the money for the extras... a diaper grant, respite, speech therapy, o/t, etc.. There is no plan in Ontario to ensure that families can count on continued therapy for the kids at least throughout their childhood. It is enough that the futures of our children are unknown (as it is for all kids regardless of their abilities, I know), but we just don't know what will be available to them once they are out of school. Will there be programmes? Will there be disability funding? At least there is an Act in place in Alberta. I can count on knowing that the money is there until the boys are 18. I can deal with annual assessments which will determine how much of that funding the boys will receive. But at least I know it's guaranteed to be there.

Not in Ontario. Unfortunately for us, even $13.1 Million seems like chump change and it's a little, too late.

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