This is the story of a young, first generation immigrant family who came to Canada with lots of hope for a better future. Over the past two decades, our family (all engineers working in the tech industry) has contributed a significant amount of our life and experience to building better academic practices, supporting young engineers and promoting Canada in the global stage at every opportunity.
And here is our autism story:
Our son was diagnosed with Autism level two at the age of two. The first days after the diagnosis were one of the worst times in our lives. The hours were stretched and the days were too long. Within weeks, and with the help of people in the community and professionals, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We spoke with many families who have benefited from intensive ABA therapy for their children and told us if it wasn't for the help of the government funding, they'd have had to sell their homes to get their children the help they need.
Over the past few months, we've willingly spent all of our savings in paying for our son's speech therapy, occupation therapy and ABA therapy. Based on his needs, the costs for his therapies are well above $40,000 per year. We did so, hoping once he receives the funding, we'll no longer have to worry about our family's financial future and how we whether we'll be able to retire.
The new Ontario Autism Program proposed by the provincial government is taking a way all of our hopes for our son's future and our family's wellbeing.
Based on the new age and income level criteria, our family may receive up to $7000 per year which is less than 20% of our son's therapy costs. This leaves us with no choice but to tap into our RRSP, and eventually having to sell our home to pay for the remaining 80% of the costs.
We'll get through this. There's no doubt! But what will remain forever is the bitter memories of these days when instead of being supported and heard, we were left to make decisions that no parents wants to make for their child.
I'll end our story with a poem by the great Persian poet Saadi:
"Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain."