The story of Sophie Barrette, a mother in Ontario with a nine-year-old autistic son, who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars due to long wait times for publicly funded therapy services, emphasizes a significant issue facing many families.

Only four months covered

Sophie Barrette’s son Dax was diagnosed with autism at the young age of 19 months. Five years on, thanks to private ABA therapy, Dax is thriving today. The only worry for Barrette, Dax’s mom,  is that she doesn’t know how she will continue to afford the expensive private therapy fees if the government is still reluctant to fund the much-needed therapy services as promised. The Barrette family has been compensated only two one-time payments of $20,000 each for helping with the therapy costs, but the money only covered four months of therapy.

“There’s no transparency, no consistency from region to region,” said Barrette. “It’s been tough for families like ours who have had to pay out for these costs. We have no sense of my son’s number on the waitlist – the biggest concern with the autism community.”

Ontario’s Ford government

She mentioned that since 2019, when Ontario’s Ford government attempted to revamp the system for core services for children with autism, Dan was added to the list of 60,000 children waiting. This number has more than doubled since then, with no end in sight for families like hers who have had to finance the expensive therapy fees with no certainty of when they’ll receive government help.

It’s not just the Barretts who are struggling. Families of autistic children are demanding the Ford government take action to help them access much-needed therapy services. Many are exhausted from waiting too long for the government to accomplish its pledge of helping those in need, and some are worried their children may not get the therapy they urgently require.

Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) response

In response to the demand for action from families of autistic children, the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) urges the Ford government to increase transparency surrounding the waitlist for therapy services.

“With three different ministers in charge of the same portfolio & no progress, it’s no wonder that autism families in Ontario are confused, unable to resolve administrative issues, or just completely out of the loop,” said Kate Dudley-Logue. “It’s unacceptable, and we demand action from the Ford government to clarify waitlists and provide much-needed therapy services.”

Minister of Children’s response

Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children and Social Services, has promised that the government will continue to work towards reducing waitlists for therapy services and providing more resources for those in need. She also said that as of January, every child on the list is welcome to access the procedure. However, this isn’t clear whether all the children on the waitlist will receive the funds.

The Barrette family needs answers to plan accordingly. “if it’s going to warrant another one year of waiting, then it’s bad we may have to consider a different route.”

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