Mr. Peter Tabuns: Like our leader, Andrea Horwath, I want to express my respect and admiration for the parents who are dealing with autism in their family, many of whom are here today. They’ve embraced their children, they have fiercely defended them, and it is clear that they are willing to go down the line to make sure that these children have a future and lives that they want to live, and that these parents will enjoy with them.
I also want to acknowledge the energy and the commitment of my colleague from Hamilton Mountain, Monique Taylor, who, like the parents, has been fierce in her defence of these children, with incredible energy and incredible commitment.
Speaker, I have to say that this decision by the government to effectively abandon children-to tell them that when they reach the age of five, they’re no longer going to be getting the treatment they need and, frankly, in this society, deserve-may be one of the most callous things I’ve ever seen in government. I’ve been involved in politics for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff, but this is extraordinary to me.
Many good arguments have been made today, many good statements have been made, but I have to say that I think the parents are far more eloquent than anyone who’s down here on the floor of this chamber. I want to read briefly in my remaining time from an email that was sent by a constituent of mine-Steven Sherwood, who is here today-to the Premier and copied to me back in April. It’s a simple letter. It’s not full of flourish. It’s plain, it’s direct, and I think it expresses what the parents, the families, are going through.
“Dear Premier Wynne,
“We are writing to you today to express dismay over the recent announced changes to funding directed toward helping children diagnosed with autism. Our lives are touched personally by this issue, as our beautiful four-year-old son Peter received a diagnosis of autism in July 2014 at the age of two years and three months.
“We immediately looked into having Peter assessed for the … IBI program in Toronto, as we were learning how very expensive private therapy is in Canada for autism-related issues. He was assessed and ultimately found to be well qualified for the program, and immediately put onto the wait-list, which we were told was roughly two years long. We started to plan for his future based on this information.
“We are a middle-income family who live in Toronto with our four sons under the age of eight years old. We have struggled financially over the past two years as we have worked very hard to provide Peter with a variety of private therapies both in our home, as well as at more formal centres. A small minority of Peter’s sessions were through publicly funded 'blocks’ of ABA therapy which Peter was eligible to receive-the vast majority at significant cost paid for by our family….
“To now hear that our son may no longer receive this crucial treatment, after working so hard to prepare him for IBI, often to the detriment of our own quality of life, happiness, and at times sanity, is beyond unfathomable. How could this government do something so cruel to families already promised hope and help for the future?….
“Ultimately, additional funding and awareness for autism is a wonderful thing, but an autistic child’s potential doesn’t end at age five, and the $8,000 payout offered under the proposed program would cover only the equivalent of two months of IBI therapy vs. the years offered in the original funded program. Unfortunately, the way this new program has been rolled out to existing patients” and families “is nothing less than a train wreck.
“Steven Sherwood and Marguerite Schabas.”
I have nothing to add, Speaker-nothing.