Ten Questions for Ontario’s Political Parties
From the Ontario Autism Coalition
ISSUE #1: THE IBI WAITLIST
In 2003, there were roughly 1,100 children with autism on the waiting list for IBI therapy. Recent figures indicate that today, now more than 1,500 are waiting. Wait times are still two to four years long, and families continue to sell assets, re-mortgage their homes and go into debt to pay for therapy while waiting for government funding. All the research on autism tells us that in order to be effective, intervention needs to be both early and intensive. The Ontario Autism Coalition has repeatedly told the provincial government that the IBI waitlist could be reduced without a significant increase in spending if more funding were put towards the Direct Funding Option, rather than the more expensive and bureaucratic Direct Service Option. . However, regional programs continue to pay themselves first, giving only small leftovers to DFO providers. There are also serious concerns about eligibility assessments, the lack of accountability for the Regional Programs that administer the IBI program, and the premature discharging of children from IBI without proper discharge assessments. (See OAC Recommendations # 4-18)
1. If elected, what steps would your party take to reduce the IBI waitlist and ensure that all individuals with autism who need IBI receive it in a timely fashion?
2. Will your party commit to ensuring that all families of children with autism are given a choice between DFO and DSO funding?
3. How would your party ensure accountability for the Regional Service Providers?
ISSUE #2: AUTISM SERVICES IN SCHOOLS
Students with autism still face significant challenges in Ontario’s schools, as do the teachers and other professionals who do their best to help them. Although some educators (14,000) have received ABA training , the vast majority of them (114,000) have not. School boards are scrambling to meet the needs of the 1 in 110 children who are now diagnosed with autism , and although some specialized programs and pilot projects have been successful, the availability of these programs is very inconsistent across the province. Students with autism are frequently segregated from their peers, bullied, suspended because of their challenging behaviours, asked to stay home from school, or permitted to attend school on only a limited basis. IBI therapists trained to work with children with autism and deemed totally acceptable to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services are still routinely barred from entering classrooms —even when families are willing to pay out of their own pockets in order for their child to receive this crucial support. A large number of students with autism do not get the support of an Educational Assistant (EA) or a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) at all, and many EA’s & SNA’s have no specialized training or experience with autism. The Ontario Autism Coalition has recommended that those who are supporting children with autism in a classroom setting must be appropriately trained in ABA and should be periodically supervised to ensure the integrity of their technique. (See OAC Recommendations #19-25)
4. If elected, what steps will your party take to ensure that appropriate, evidence-based practices are used in all Ontario classrooms to ensure that students with autism receive the educational programming they need?
5. Would your party allow IBI therapists to enter schools to provide the additional support students with autism so desperately need?
6. How will your party ensure that those working as assistants supporting students with autism are properly trained and supervised?
ISSUE #3: REGULATION OF IBI THERAPISTS
The Ontario Autism Coalition has been urging the Ontario government to regulate IBI therapists since 2005, and yet no move has been made to do so. As a result, there is no minimum level of training for therapists, and no regulatory agency that families can appeal to if a therapist behaves in an unprofessional or unethical manner. Individuals with autism and their families deserve to know that the professionals who work with them are properly trained, supervised, and held accountable for the quality of their work. A regulatory framework would also ease possible concerns for teachers, EA’s and SNA’s when IBI therapists seek to work in a classroom setting to support students with autism. (See OAC Recommendations #26-29)
7. If elected, will your party commit to establishing a regulatory body to oversee IBI therapists in Ontario?
ISSUE #4: FUNDING
Families raising children with special needs, including autism, face huge challenges when it comes to managing simple day-to-day tasks. Driving to specialist appointments, accessing community programs such as sports teams or summer camps, finding babysitters who can handle a special needs child, purchasing specialized equipment and even keeping up with housekeeping all place additional stressors on special needs families. To access funding and support, families in Ontario must navigate through a complex system of applications, programs and bureaucracies that often do not collaborate effectively with one another. The Special Services at Home program went from having no waitlist in 2008 to a current waitlist with over 7,000 families on it. The Passport program now has over 4,000 people on its waitlist. The ODSP program has been criticized for failing to provide people with disabilities with an adequate standard of living, and for the inconsistent provision of benefits. (See OAC recommendations 37-45)
8. If elected, will your party commit to eliminating the SSAH and Passport waitlists?
9. What steps would your party take to improve the ODSP?
10. How will your party improve the lives of adults living with autism?