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Hundreds march to Queen's Park to protest autism funding changes

Last Updated Apr 29, 2019 at 1:23 pm EDT

Hundreds march from Nathan Phillips Square to Queen's Park on Monday, April 29, 2019, to protest the government's changes to autism funding. Erica Natividad/CITYNEWS

Hundreds of protesters marched from Nathan Phillips Square to Queen’s Park to protest the province’s changes to autism funding and share ideas for solutions.

Organizers say they are not happy with Education Minister Lisa Thompson’s announcement last month to extend the funding deadline for each student with autism.

Critics have said the announcement addresses a problem of the government’s own making, as hundreds of kids may soon enter school amid funding cuts for therapy.

Before the march, MPP Lisa Gretzky, along with Autism Advocacy Ontario, said they were marching for inclusion and needs-based support for children and adults with autism.

“Every child is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all, based on age plan,” Gretzky said. “Individually based needs must be assessed and therapies must be prescribed accordingly.”

Parents taking part in the march shared that sentiment.

“We are marching for needs based therapy for children with autism,” one woman told CityNews. “We are facing major cuts from our provincial government … they’ve moved to a flat rates funding system where children with high needs will be out to lunch, and put into distress and families are scrambling. We are in a terrible situation.”

“I have twin boys who have severe autism and they have a genetic mutation where they will likely lose the ability to walk, hear and see, so they need therapy,” another added. “We are desperate for the Ford government to come up with a solution.”

Sherri Taylor, a Windsor mother who has joined Autism Advocacy Ontario’s call for change, said the province is running under the belief that all individuals with disabilities are the same, and that is not correct.

“All disabilities are not autism and therefore the government has left a whole group of our broader disability community behind,” she explained.

“The previous and current government has set up, time and time again, inequity by only funding therapy for autism and by basing funding on age instead of individual need.”

The group is also calling for the government to invest in appropriate housing for adults living with disabilities, saying the financial strain is causing many of the city’s most vulnerable residents to be living in poverty.

The province has been under fire since the government first announced it was overhauling autism funding shortly after Premier Ford took office.

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