Ontario’s New Autism Policy Will Overwhelm Schools, Advocate Says

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TORONTO — Changes to Ontario’s autism program are raising concerns that thousands of autistic children who will receive fewer hours of therapy will be pushed into schools unable to properly accommodate them.

The government announced last week that in order to clear a backlog of 23,000 children waiting for publicly funded autism therapy, families will get up to $140,000 to pay for treatment, though funding will be subject to an annual cap of $20,000 for kids five and under, and $5,000 for kids six to 18. But intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year, advocates say.

Parents, advocates and some within the school system say if children with autism who are currently in intensive therapy no longer have those costs fully covered, they will be in classrooms before they’ve had the chance to develop necessary skills. That also means already-stretched educational assistant resources will be spread even thinner, they say.

“There is a tsunami headed for the school system,” said Ontario Autism Coalition president Laura Kirby-McIntosh, who is also a teacher.

“Somewhere out there there’s a kid that’s going to get off the school property that’s going to get seriously hurt or worse. Somewhere there’s going to be a kid that’s going to be restrained for too long and is going to be seriously hurt. There’s an education worker who’s going to set off a kid who goes into a massive meltdown and someone’s going to get really hurt.”

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Educational assistants who work in classrooms with special needs children do their best, parents say, but it’s not the same as therapy.

“There is no replacement for one-on-one, consistent, quiet, individualized learning,” said Kristen Ellison, whose eight-year-old son is in therapy 25 hours a week and attends school part-time. She worries what it will mean if her son and others need to share existing educational assistant support.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson’s office said the ministry will continue to work with school boards to help students transition between community-based Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy and school, “where they will be supported by ABA instructional methods, as appropriate, and enhance the capacity of educators in supporting students with (autism spectrum disorder).”

About $3 billion is going toward special education in 2018-19, and a spokeswoman said they “will have more to say on further supports in …read more

Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel

      

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