Parents of autistic children will be closely watching Tuesday’s news conference at Queen’s Park.
No details have been provided ahead of the announcement, but provincial politicians are promising more support for families after a controversial revamp of the treatment program.
The Liberal government announced early this year that the new program, slated to officially come into effect in 2018, will combine Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) and Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapies into one stream.
The changes included limiting IBI to children between the ages of two and four on the recommendation of so-called experts, who claimed the therapy would be most effective in that developmental window.
That argument has been challenged by many impacted parents, including Heather Bourdon from Ottawa.
She spoke out against the controversial revamp in the spring, describing the heartbreaking sacrifices her family has had to make to keep her son Jacob in IBI therapy.
“The breaking point came when Jacob had a double abscess in his mouth,” she said. “He had no functional language and was unable to point due to limited motor coordination. We had no clue he was in so much pain until it was too late. It was absolutely devastating. So at the age of 4, we enrolled Jacob into private IBI at a cost of $5,000 a month.”
When the province announced the new age five cut-off, 835 children waiting for intensive therapy were removed from the wait list and given a one-time lump sum of $8,000.
As Bourdon pointed out, that amount barely covers a month of therapy. The family of five was forced to sell all of their possessions and move into a one bedroom apartment.
“When Tracey (MacCharles) and Kathleen (Wynne) said that they empathize, that they understood that this was a difficult transition, I had to ask myself, ‘do they really? have they give up all of their possessions to uphold the dignity of their child?’ Their child’s right to health care and education, basic human rights,” she said.
The Liberals also claimed the changes would allow 16,000 more children will receive services and that IBI wait times will go down, but critics insist wait lists have continued to grow longer.
“How can this government cut thousands of children who need IBI, replace it with an unequal and ineffective ABA program and call that an enhancement?” Bourdon said.
“What the government is doing is unethical and wrong. Stop using our children as pawns in a political game, denying them the basic human rights of health care and education, penalizing them because they were born in the wrong year and neurologically different,” she continued.
Parents have protested at the legislature four times and launched a social media campaign to speak out against the changes.
Ontario’s new Minister of Children and Youth Services, Michael Coteau (pictured), will begin Tuesday morning’s news conference shortly after 9a.m.
While Coteau’s predecessor Tracy MacCharles and Premier Kathleen Wynne hinted they were considering tweaking the transition to the new program, Coteau is indicating he will look more broadly at the entire program itself.