Uncertain provincial funding puts Ont. camp for children with autism at risk
The battle between the Ford government and parents took a new turn this week with news that a lack of confirmed provincial funding may put a camp for children with autism at risk of shutting down.
For the past eight years, Ottawa’s Camp Kaleidoscope has run a five-week, all-day summer program for kids on the autism spectrum.
But this year the camp’s plans are uncertain as they wait to find out whether Ontario provincial funding cuts will affect their ability to operate, impacting more than 200 children.
The camp is held in Catholic School board schools, with a provincial grant allowing the camp and others like it to use facilities and custodial staff free of charge.
But Ontario’s Ministry of Education has not confirmed that the grant will be renewed.
“March 3rd last year we had an email from the school board saying here is your application for the school,” Executive Director Brenda Reisch told CTV Ottawa.
But this year, “that date has come and passed.”
The Ottawa Catholic School Board said it’s still waiting for word from the Ministry of Education before any decisions are made.
It’s unlikely that any decision from the Ford government will be made before the provincial budget, which is set for April 11. But by then, it could be too late for Camp Kaleidoscope to book facilities and hire staff.
“This could be the death of camp Kaleidoscope as we know it,” Reisch said.
Parents like Andrew Robinson say that removing funding for camps like Kaleidoscope would severely change summers for families like theirs.
“We can’t do all those things that they can do at the camp when he is at home with us,” Robinson said.
“Families like ours depend on the programming and the province to take care of us,” said Krista Brosseau, another parent.
The camp is encouraging parents to write to their MPPs and ask for change before it’s too late.
The news is another blow for parents of children with autism, coming just weeks after the Ford government announced proposed changes that parents say would make it impossible for them to afford essential therapy for children on the autism spectrum.
Intensive therapy for a child with autism can cost upwards of $80,000 per year. The Ford government says it will only provide families with $20,000 per year for treatment for children under six and $5,000 for children from 6 to 18.
Parents argue that funding should be based on a child’s need, not their age.
Earlier this week, hundreds of parents and autism advocates gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto to protest the Ford government’s decision. Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod did not attend the protest, saying she’s received threats and has concerns about her personal safety.
Since then, security guards have joined Macleod at public appearances.