'We are desperate': Ont. family selling home to keep son in autism therapy
Published Monday, March 18, 2019 9:41AM EDT Last Updated Monday, March 18, 2019 11:19AM EDT
A Toronto couple say recent changes to the Ontario government’s program for children with autism have led them to decide to sell their home.
Selling a home in Toronto will give Will and Nevena Dundas a significant amount of money to put toward therapy for their five-year-old son Dylan -- but they don’t expect to make enough to cover all the support he’ll need to become a self-sufficient adult.
“It is very frustrating, and we are very desperate,” Will Dundas told CTV’s Your Morning Monday.
The provincial government announced last month that it was changing its funding model for children with autism in an attempt to get some money to all families seeking treatment. Under the old model, there was a wait list of 23,000 children receiving no targeted funding at all.
Will Dundas said the government was putting $90,000 per year toward Dylan’s therapy under the previous plan. The family will now receive less than $2,000 each year.
“We [were] looking at a few months, maybe a few years, of therapy, and now we’re talking about a lifetime,” he said.
The changes have prompted significant opposition from parents and advocates in Ontario’s autism community, hundreds of whom held a protest outside the Queen’s Park legislature earlier this month.
There are 1,105 children with autism in Ontario who are enrolled in full-time therapy treatments rather than school. Parents who will no longer be able to pay for those treatments will instead have to place their children into the school system, even if they may not be ready to spend their days in a classroom environment.
Dylan’s parents say they hope the proceeds from selling their home will allow them to afford therapy long enough for their son to progress to the point where he would be ready to properly enter the school system. If the money runs out before that happens, they don’t know what they’ll do.
“In the short-term we have a plan, but that plan may not be sustainable,” Will said.
Nevena Dundas says she wants to see the province back away from the new, one-size-fits-all approach and move toward a model that supports each child based on their individual needs.
“I think the government is thinking that everybody needs these high dollar amounts, and it’s not sustainable for them to pay $90,000 per child -- but that’s not the case,” she said.
“We need needs-based funding for these children, so that they get what they need.”
Just as not all children with autism require as much support as Dylan, not all families will receive as little funding as the Dundases under the new program. Ontario’s lowest-income families will receive up to $20,000 a year from the province until a child turns six, and $5,000 a year after that.
All of the changes are scheduled to take effect April 1.
With files from The Canadian Press