Monday, April 5, 2010

1,478 Kids Are Still Waiting

This recent article in the Toronto Star is the latest occasional reminder that pops up in the media about the number of kids waiting for Ontario's Autism Intervention Program.  The waiting lists continue to grow, while the Ontario government attempts to gain some control by pushing off as many kids as possible into an inadequate and unprepared school system.  This is why so many parents "wait it out" for the Direct Funding Option (DFO) offered by the government program.  The DFO program allows parents to hire private providers to provide therapy.  For parents like us, who are already spending thousands of dollars every month on private therapy, it is ideal, since we can keep our existing team.  Many informed parents also worry that their funding will be cut off if their child fails any of the milestones laid out by their regional autism provider; having DFO allows parents to re-assume these astronomical costs again if needed to avoid being thrown into the schools when their children simply aren't ready yet.

Please don't get me wrong:  I'm not saying the schools have to be this way.  They could be more adequate if ABA therapists were allowed to work alongside teachers and teachers had the training they needed to provide ABA based learning.  But those resources are not available and we are not seeing any changes coming soon.

Ontario is facing a staggering deficit of $22 billion this year.  The Ontario Liberals claim they have removed the age cutoff for receiving IBI (true, but only after they fought it tooth and nail in the courts) and increased funding (also true, but the incidence of autism is growing and waiting lists are still ridiculous).  While I could forgive them for saying parents with children with autism must do their part, they have elected to spend millions more extending full-day kindergarten to many students in Ontario.  This program is estimated to cost $500 million annually to start and $1.5 billion annually when it is fully implemented.  Clearing the waiting list would cost the government $163 million.  Cutting it by half would cost $80 million.  That is with the current model - by giving all parents direct funding (a model used in BC), we could probably service many more children without paying the bloated costs of the regional autism providers (all government workers with benefits).

I am happy for those parents who can take advantage of full-day kindergarten next year.  Alanna's therapy costs will increase by 8% as the HST comes into effect in July, taxing her IBI services and helping to pay for full-day kindergarten.  Too bad Alanna won't likely be able to attend - she is still waiting with the other 1,478 children to get the skills to function in kindergarten.

1 comment:

  1. It's such an injustice that children with autism have to wait to have access to life altering therapy (if they qualify and only for as long as they qualify) while our government spends an absurd amount of money on a poorly planned full-day kindergarten program. Sadly our politicians just don't care.