Liberal majority defeats PC motion to restore IBI therapy for kids over five

May 19, 2016   ·   0 Comments

An opposition motion calling on the Ontario government to restore funding for Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for children over the age of 5 was defeated in the Legislature Tuesday.

Introduced by the Progressive Conservatives and supported by the New Democrats, the motion was spoken to by nine PC members, among them Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones, who read to the House a letter a Dufferin mother had written to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The writer said she knew from experience what life is like for parents of autistic children “now and what it will look like in the future.

“You see, Premier, I have lived it every day for the past 39 years. I am a parent of an adult non-verbal son with autism who lives at home with us, his parents. If this treatment had been available 39 years ago, I would have fought with everything in me to have him enrolled! I speak from first-hand knowledge when I say I know what impact this disorder can have on children and their

“My son cannot speak, write or read and maybe functions at about an age three level. He lives in a world with no voice and where sounds, touch are painful. What I wouldn’t give to have him say, ‘Mom,’ for him to have even some of the things we all take for granted. He will have to rely on others his whole life for his most basic needs, his safety and care. As parents you hope and pray that when you are gone that those entrusted to care for him do that and pray he is not abused. This is a constant worry. This is the future you are asking the parents of these children to endure.”

Ms. Jones highlighted the fact that Autism Ontario, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, the Ontario Association of Behavioural Analysis, the chair of the government’s expert panel, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, ETFO, OSSTF, the OFL, CUPE, OPSEU, and municipalities have united to oppose the government’s decision.

“How many more experts have to come forward before the Minister understands removing IBI therapy from kids over 5 will impact children’s ability to communicate with their family, succeed in school and thrive in our communities,” she said.

Before the vote, Tracy MacCharles, the  Minister of Children and Youth Services, said she wanted “to clarify a number of elements of the new autism program and dispel some myths about recent changes to the Ontario Autism Program.”

Agreeing with the opposition speakers that autism does not end at age five, she said the government “is committed to improving the lives of the 40,000 children and youth with autism in Ontario, and the lives of their families as well.

“In recent years, accessing therapy and services has become challenging and sometimes confusing. Wait times are unacceptably long. Spaces for therapy are too few in number, and the way we have historically delivered services has not been responsive to the unique needs of each child with autism.

“Without action now, Speaker, we know that challenges will only grow. Children will be stranded on wait-lists for years, not months. Therapy that should come sooner will be delayed. Fixing these challenges is what motivates our government and what motivates me personally, as the minister: to help families, to ease their burden, to increase opportunities for children with autism, and to get them the services they require when they need them.

“For all these reasons, Speaker, we are creating the new Ontario Autism Program with an historic investment of $333 million to improve and expand children’s autism services over the next five years. With this new funding, 16,000 more children will receive the critical interventions they need. Let me repeat one more time: Our investment, Speaker – a third of a billion dollars in autism services – will ensure that 16,000 more children receive the services they need when they need it and how they need it.

“In two years, we expect the wait-list to be cut in half. In five years, our goal is to cut the wait times to less than six months.”

Ms. Jones responded that while there were  many other areas she could delve into after the minister’s speech, “I’m only going to leave you with one: What are these families supposed to do for the next two years while you try to get this right?”

She added, “It amazes me that we are couching this in some kind of, ‘It will be better when….’ These announcements are already in effect.

May 1 is when the change happened, and yet we’re talking about, ‘In two years it will be better; just be patient.’

Well, you know what? In 2003, the leader of the Liberal Party said that the ‘lack of government-funded IBI treatment for autistic children over six is unfair and discriminatory.’ That was Dalton McGuinty in 2003. Have we learned nothing since then?”

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