Opposition says government plan fails to assist children with autism

The leader of the Progressive Conservatives says the new autism program announced by the Ontario Liberal government will hurt not help Ontario familIes.

On Thursday during question period at Queen’s Park, the government and Opposition parties debated the issue following Monday’s throne speech, in which the government’s policies on children with autism were announced. PC leader Patrick Brown spoke against the government plan.

“This government has put families with children with autism through unimaginable pain,” Brown said. “How could this government turn their backs on these vulnerable children and their families? How could they look them in the face and blatantly lie to them?”

The speaker called on Brown to withdraw his use of the word “lie.” He did.

Michael Coteau, the minister of Children and Youth Services, addressed concerns and clarified the party’s plan. He said the government is establishing a new program that will open up 16,000 new spots for children who were once on a now eliminated intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) wait list, as well as offer financial support, up to $10,000, to parents.

“What we’re planning to do is … build a new system that will allow for children to be diagnosed earlier,” Coteau explained, “a system that allows young people to reach their full potential.”

Brown argued that many parents have yet to see any of these promised funds.

“The first thing we did was we sent out a letter to 24,000 families here in the province of Ontario,” Coteau rebutted. “We set up a 1-800 number where parents … could call in and get real-time information about the transition that’s taking place.”

The new Ontario Autism Program is set to be implemented in June 2017.