Age: 4
Provincial Riding: Sudbury
I’m so grateful that Anthony is trying to learn new words. Especially since he looks up at me in anticipation after pointing to these images on his pyjamas, waiting to hear me repeat them:

“Downtains”… “Mmmountains”.
“Racoo”… “Racoonnn”.
“Skuh”… “Squirrellll”.

I try to stress the consonants he is struggling with. We’ve waited so patiently to reach this kind of interaction – eye contact, new words, turn taking.

Anthony is our 4-year-old, playful, loving, intelligent, little guy. He loves causing trouble with his little brother, going to school, trains, and a million other things. It’s quite amazing to watch him grow up and develop his personality and his skills. He’s talented at so many things – lately it’s riding his car down the hill in front of the house, sorting numbers up to 100, and singing. But Anthony has always had trouble in certain other areas that most other kids develop naturally. As you might have already realized, speech and social interaction are some of the important skills that he is struggling to develop.

Anthony was recently diagnosed with Autism, but it came as no surprise because the list of common developmental milestones that were being missed by Anthony has been apparently growing since early on. It was still very difficult news to receive. What did surprise us was, with this diagnosis, simultaneously receiving the news that the Ontario Autism Program would no longer be there to provide the support that we were told Anthony would need to reach his highest potential. Although wait times under the existing OAP were an issue, the vague details of the newly proposed system sounded foreign to us. We thought that health care was universal, Canadians are to get the health care they need regardless of income or age or any other factors. Yet under the new system Anthony’s care would be only partially subsidized and based on annual and lifetime limits, his parents’ income, and his age. We were also told that the next 4 years were particularly critical to Anthony’s development – so we will begin the task of urgently looking for professional intervention and help all while being unclear of what financial assistance Anthony will be eligible to receive from Ontario until the final details are released.

We will continue to do everything we can for Anthony. But it’s heartbreaking to think that his future will be affected by how much support my wife and I can afford for him. We are new to this world, Anthony’s diagnosis has brought us down an unexpected path – we’ve been planning his education, meeting many new faces, trying to set up the immediate support we think he will need, and anxiously awaiting the final details of the new system of care that will be available. While the rest of this plays out, we hope that the decision makers who will help shape the future of Anthony and the other children like him will take stories like ours to heart with compassion and understanding. We look forward to hearing the improvements to the previous system that they will introduce. And of course, we will continue to love every minute of raising our little man, and just like every parent we will try to help him through all of the challenges life will throw his way.

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