'This plan is not even a plan,’ says Brampton father about autism program changes
A Brampton father says he is worried he won’t be able to afford his son’s therapy after the Ontario government makes changes to the autism program.
Jamie Peddle’s son, Jacob, was diagnosed with severe autism when he was three years old. Four years later, he is non-verbal and his father says the boy has difficulty eating and is not completely toilet trained. But, Peddle notes, therapy is helping.
“He has come a long way,” Peddle told CTV News Toronto.
Under the current autism program, Jacob’s therapy is fully funded by the provincial government, which directly pays the treatment centre. Under the government’s overhaul of the autism program, that funding will be significantly reduced.
The new Progressive Conservative program will provide children under the age of six with a maximum of $20,000 per year in funding, while children between the ages of seven and 18 will be eligible for $5,000 a year. Each family will be provided with the funding and will be able to use it as they see fit.
Funding will also vary depending on the family’s annual net income.
“I’m disheartened. I’m heartbroken,” Peddle said of the program changes. “I'm worried about my son's future. What’s going to happen when he gets older? He’s not going to be able to get a job or have a girlfriend or nothing like that. He’s going to struggle with life, you know? This therapy is so important to help him. “
“Jacob needs at least $60,000 worth of therapy, easily, a year.”
Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod has explained the changes were made to reduce the waitlist of 23,000 children who are still waiting for funding; however, newly surfaced government documents suggest the ministry froze funding for autism treatment in early October, effectively keeping families on the waitlist until March 31.
In the legislature, MacLeod called the claim that her ministry artificially inflated the waitlist “erroneous.”
Peddle said that he called Ontario Premier Doug Ford to try and offer him some ideas to improve the new program, suggesting that autism funding be included under OHIP.
“All he did was complain about the Liberal debt,” Peddle said. “You’re dealing with speech, (occupational therapy), behavioral issues. This is a brain disorder.”
“This plan is not even a plan,” he said.
Peddle said that he is remortgaging his house and is trying to come up with extra money to pay for his son’s therapy.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Heather Wright