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McDowells making strides against Autism cutbacks

May 28, 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Marni Walsh

 

The Provincial Government recently announced that as of May 1st, intensive behavioural intervention therapy (IBI) for autism will only by available for children between the ages of two and four, potentially reducing waiting time from the current two years to six months, but effectively shutting the door to the life-changing therapy for thousands of autistic children.

Kelly McDowell and her husband Julian, residents of Horning’s Mills, are working alongside other Ontario families to dispute the changes, carrying out with letter writing campaigns, petitions, and a number of protests across the province.

Pressure is building in the hope that the government will reverse, or at least revise the new policy.

The McDowells’ five year old daughter Emily has made incredible strides since beginning IBI last October, but the changes could mean her progress will be stopped in its tracks this month for no other reason than her age.

Provincial Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles, says the decision to limited IBI to kids under five is “based on expert advice to focus on children in that developmental window.”

Autistic children, she says, will transition to “enhanced Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)” services. However, experienced parents and the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA) say that the ABA program is widely accepted “as sub-therapeutic, and does not result in meaningful outcomes.

“I’ve become a lot more involved than I thought I would or could manage initially,” says Ms. McDowell regarding her family’s pushback against the changes. “I took it upon myself to raise awareness at the municipal level, since our [Provincial] Liberal government isn’t listening or willing to discuss.”

Ms. McDowell says she is working to increase media coverage and “raise awareness of the issues, to give our ASD families a voice, even if it’s only within their own communities…and in the bare hope that someone will listen.”

Petitions around the community are receiving a lot of support and, most recently, the McDowell family secured a resolution of support for their cause from both Shelburne and Melancthon Councils.

“Melancthon Mayor and Council shared some stories about their personal relationship with autism,” says McDowell. “The Deputy Mayor spoke eloquently about the ever-increasing rise in autism, and how there are so few who aren’t touched by
it in some way.”

The resolution Shelburne and Melancthon Council passed was written by the Town of Oakville as part of their May Council Agenda. Still, the Town of Shelburne is the first municipality in the province to officially pass the motion and to send a message to the Provincial Government “that this current system is not acceptable or in the best interest of the ASD children of Ontario.”

John Telfer, Shelburne’s Town Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer, says “the Town of Shelburne is proud to be one of the first municipalities to stand up and say no to the Liberal government on this funding cut. Our resolution has been sent to all 444 municipalities across Ontario for their consideration and endorsement.”

The resolution, addressed to the Minister of Children and Youth Services, the Deputy Minister, the Minister of Health and the Premier requests the Province to:

“Amend its policy to one that will allow all children on the current waiting list to receive the IBI services promised them; and

“Remove the age limit for IBI therapy and replace it with a program that provides ongoing IBI services based on need and individual development, not age; and

Ensure oversight by professionals and parents based on ‘development progress’ criteria and milestones; and

“Adopt a Direct Funding Offering model in lieu of the current Direct Service Offering model.”

Now, the McDowells are offering to help families across Ontario approach their local municipal councils in support of the same resolution.

Other families have also been making strides, and so far Shelburne, Pickering, and Melancthon Councils have passed the resolution, with Mulmur, Oshawa, Niagara and Espanola, Richmond Hill, Oakville and possibly Caledon scheduled to read the resolution soon.

“I am hoping it passes unanimously everywhere,” says Kelly. “If our Provincial Liberals won’t listen to constituents, school boards, therapists, experts, and unions, then maybe adding the voice of our local representatives will help.”

The next protest at Queen’s Park is June 6th.

 

         

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