QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPP Chandra Pasma (Ottawa West-Nepean), NDP Education critic, hosted a press conference with parents from the Ontario Autism Coalition after the government abruptly changed the Legacy Autism program with no transition plan. This means that starting now, approximately 4,000 children who have never attended school or been in a regular classroom can be put in school and taken out of the Legacy Autism Program with no support.
“Forcing children who have been in full-time therapy for years to be in busy classrooms without the supports they need is deliberately causing harm to their development,” said Pasma. “Once again, the Ford government has made decisions without giving families adequate information or even a transition plan. This is unacceptable.”
For children with autism, consistency and routine is critically important for development. Changes like the one imposed by the Ford government can have huge impacts on a child’s development and stress for the families as their child is left without the support that they need.
“Time and time again, the government continues to make harmful choices that leave parents and children without support, information, and a way forward,” said Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain), NDP critic for Children, Community and Social Services. “The Ontario Autism Program was broken by this government, and now families across the province are in an endless cycle of waiting, with about 60,000 children on waitlists.
“Without adequate resources and a transition plan for these children, we are putting the safety of children and education workers at risk,” said Pasma. “That’s why we are calling for a proper transition plan that prioritizes the safety of our kids and adequately funds schools to provide the supports these students need.”
Pasma and Taylor are standing with the Ontario Autism Coalition and parents to call on the government to establish a proper transition plan, invest adequate funding to schools for supports, and communicate effectively with parents with accurate information about the future of their kids.
Kate Dudley-Logue, Vice President of Community Outreach with Ontario Autism Coalition
“We have great concern that schools are not going to be able to handle the sudden influx of kids with high needs that is coming. This will lead to further instances of exclusions and put further stress on our already stretched educators who are desperately trying to do the best for all their students. Abandonment of these kids at school will lead to tremendous regression, communication and a plan needs to be made between Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services and the Ministry of Education, including investments to cover the extra costs associated with supporting the needs of ALL kids with special needs in schools.
Michelle MacAdam, mother of two children in the Legacy Program
“The growth of my girls has been due to one thing – consistency. The consistency of their routine and their full-time programs have been life changing for them. In September, both of my daughters who only have known their centre, will be thrown into an already overcrowded public school system. That consistency will be gone as they are now faced with having to attend two different schools, take buses for the first time ever, and be placed in before and after care, all while being non-verbal and not understanding what's happening to them. Transition programs are not in place for them."