Parents of children with autism are rallying across Ontario, to demand that the provincial government reverse their decision to scale back access to intensive behavioural therapies.

Approximately 60 people gathered at City Hall in Kitchener, Ont. on Friday, where they protested a recent government announcement about cuts to autism funding.

A new program being launched by the government will integrate intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) and applied behaviour analysis therapies, however, the changes limit IBI to children between the ages of 2 and 4.

For its part, the government says it will reduce IBI wait times, but parents said Friday that will come at the expense of children who are 5 or will turn 5 in the next year or two, given that they will no longer qualify for the specialized therapy.

The new program is set to begin in 2018, and in the meantime, children five and older who are being cut from the IBI waitlist will get $8,000 to buy therapy on their own.

But parents say that covers only a fraction of the cost for annual IBI therapy.

“That’s enough to fund about two months of therapy when we were expecting one, two or even three years of this therapy,” one demonstrator told CTV Kitchener.

In Ottawa, protesters demonstrated in front of local MPP Yasir Naqvi’s office. Rally organizer Tanya Corey, who has a four-year-old son with autism, said it was “devastating” to hear about the de-funding.

“We’ve been waiting 17 months on the waitlist,” Corey said, adding her son will be removed from the waitlist when he turns five, “with none of the services that he was eligible for and we were expecting to get.”

Corey said her son deserves to have his “potential” explored through therapy, “and it’s basically been taken away from him.”