Si­mard con­demns PCs’ autism cuts

The Glengarry News - - News - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff

Glen­garry- Prescott- Rus­sell MPP Amanda Si­mard stood with par­ents who had gath­ered at her Hawkes­bury con­stituency of­fice on Satur­day to protest the gov­ern­ment’s changes to its autism pro­gram.

Ms. Si­mard, who was elected as a Con­ser­va­tive MPP in June be­fore the gov­ern­ment’s decision to can­cel plans for a French lan­guage univer­sity prompted her to sit as an in­de­pen­dent, says that the gov­ern­ment’s decision will have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on peo­ple liv­ing with autism.

The PCs in­tro­duced sweep­ing changes to the autism pro­gram, in­clud­ing drop­ping the amount of fund­ing a fam­ily re­ceives to $5,000 per year once the autis­tic child turns six. That was bad news to fam­i­lies with chil­dren who re­quire mas­sive amounts of ther­apy, some­times to the tune of $100,000 per year.

Late last month, there was a glim­mer of hope as the gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would ex­tend ini­tial fund­ing for an­other six months, but sev­eral par­ents are afraid that once that time is up, the PCs will re­main locked on their cur­rent course.

Ms. Si­mard says she would like to see at least two changes in the gov­ern­ment model - elim­i­nat­ing the age cap and en­sur­ing that autism fund­ing is needs-based on a child-by-child ba­sis. She says that the gov­ern­ment made its decision be­cause it wanted to elim­i­nate the wait list for fam­i­lies try­ing to ac­cess ther­apy. Un­for­tu­nately, she says the so­lu­tion was to re­dis­tribute fund­ing among all the fam­i­lies, leav­ing ev­ery­one with a pid­dling amount that isn’t enough to ac­cess the ser­vices they need.

“This doesn’t help,” she says. “Fam­i­lies need the nec­es­sary re­sources, not the crumbs.”

She says the gov­ern­ment’s decision just re­as­sured her that she made the right decision to sit as an in­de­pen­dent.

“I don’t like this style of gov­ern­ment,” she says.

But Stor­mont-Dun­das-South Glen­garry MPP Jim McDonell is quick to de­fend his gov­ern­ment’s decision. In fact, he says that the Con­ser­va­tives had added $75 mil­lion to the prov­ince’s autism plan just to get kids off the wait­ing list.

He also men­tioned that the new plan will pro­vide schools with an ad­di­tional $12,500 for ev­ery stu­dent who is on the autism spec­trum.

Re­gard­ing the fund­ing cap at age six, he says that’s be­cause the science says that the best re­sults usu­ally come when autis­tic kids get treat­ment be­fore that age.

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