Autism therapy wait-list swells to more than 16,000 kids

Posted on November 4, 2015 in Education Debates – News/Queen’s Park – New Democrats reveal Ontario wait-lists for applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) now top 16,158 children.
Nov 03 2015.   By: Robert Benzie, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

Linda and Antonio DiMambro were tired of waiting for government-funded autism therapy to help their son Anthony.  With the support of family, friends and neighbours in Hamilton, the DiMambros raised money to pay for the $60,000 treatment that has benefited the seven-year-old during the past 18 months.  “Kids like him need help and we need it today, not tomorrow,” Antonio told reporters at Queen’s Park.

“So many more children are being diagnosed … and it costs a lot of money,” added Linda, tears streaming down her face.  “The one-on-one, it helped us toilet-train him. He’s just much more social. He can’t talk, but he can count. People underestimate these kids and they deserve so much more,” she said.

Their comments came Tuesday as the New Democrats revealed the Ontario waiting lists for applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) topped 16,158 children in 2014-15.

That’s greater than the 10,817 youngsters receiving publicly funded ABA and IBI therapy.

“Far too many families are waiting far too long for the vital support that they need,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.  “We have to do better.”

NDP MPP Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain), who filed the freedom of information request to get the waiting-list data made public, said it is “unconscionable” that families have to endure such delays.  “The evidence is clear that early intervention is essential and, for far too many children, that is just not happening. Those children and their families are suffering each and every day,” said Taylor.  She noted that there were just 753 kids awaiting services in 2005-06.

Autism Therapy By the numbers
2,192 – Children awaiting intensive behavioural intervention (IBI)
2,245 – Children receiving IBI paid for by the government
13,966 – Children awaiting applied behaviour analysis (ABA)
8,572 – Children receiving publicly funded ABA
Source: Toronto Star

Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said autism funding has increased by $100 million annually since 2004, to $190 million this year, but conceded more can be done.  “We know that the prevalence of autism has increased in recent years, from 1 in 100 to 1 in 68, and ‎we know that we need to make further progress for these children and their families,” said MacCharles, who has an expert panel looking at the issue.

Speaking to reporters, the minister said she would be seeking more money from the cash-strapped treasury to fund additional autism services.  “That’s my job: to bring the strategy forward,” she said, stressing she has much sympathy for families affected.  “My heart goes out to families. I have a child with special needs, though not autistic … so I know what it’s like to try to navigate the system … to try to get the services for your child.”

Autism Ontario’s Katharine Buchan said stressed that early detection and early intervention is “so important for children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) to learn to their fullest potential.  “ABA programs are designed to be delivered at the age where social relationships are critical and these programs set the stage for growth and development throughout their lives.  “We need to build capacity into our funding so families are not waiting for these essential services,” said Buchan.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said it’s a matter of the Liberal government’s “priorities,” or lack thereof.  “Because of their mismanagement of Ontario’s finances, key areas are being crowded out.
“This is the result of their governance,” said Brown.

For the DiMambro family, whose son is getting IBI they pay for, coming to Queen’s Park was about helping others.  “We lived through the wait list. We waited four years. But I’m here because I need to help other families and I want to be a voice for other families because every child deserves a quality life,” said Linda.  “In the end, I just want the government to do more for us. I don’t know what else to say.”

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2 Responses to “Autism therapy wait-list swells to more than 16,000 kids”

  1. cynthia says:

    My guess is that it would cost more than funding more ABA programs in order to shorten wait lists. Not even half the amount of children and youth with Autism are getting ABA treatment or other interventions because they are on wait lists.********

  2. Cynthia says:

    Waitlists for many mental health programs are happening all across Ontario. The problem with our society is that many people think that help is out there in order to have your child succeed to the best of their ability with the help of EBP. Many people who don’t have to use these programs don’t know the struggles and wait lists that families endure in order to receive the help for their child with Autism. As mentioned in the article, early intervention is vital with regards to the child growing up with independence, maintaining social relationships, and living a quality life. You should ask yourself, with out early intervention, what are these children and youth facing as an adult? Through my experience as a child and youth worker, these children and youth face having to use long-term group homes in order to function daily. They need one:one support in order to get basic routines done throughout the day. How much do these kinds of programs cost the government to fund? My guess is that it would cost less than funding more ABA programs in order to shorten wait lists. Not even half the amount of children and youth with Autism are getting ABA treatment or other interventions because they are on wait lists.


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