John

Age: 3
Provincial Riding: Whitby
My wonderful son John is three years old. He's very affectionate and has the best laugh. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine, and learning about colours, numbers, and the alphabet.

When John was 18 months we realized that he did not experience the typical "language explosion" and also did not engage in joint attention (pointing). We started private SLP, and heard many differing opinions about what was happening developmentally with our son. A few months after his second birthday, John was diagnosed with ASD. At first we were emotional about his diagnosis, but we now embrace it. Within a month we had arranged for private ABA services in his daycare.

Since starting ABA therapy, John has flourished. He went from non-verbal to being able to communicate using more words than we can count, however, he still has a long way to go in terms of his back-and-forth communication. His social skills are developing every day and his issues with transitions are easing. We are constantly learning better ways to support and understand our precious little guy.

Paying for private therapy has been a financial strain for our family. We were hopeful that it would be a temporary measure until John was off the OAP wait list, but now we realize that this is likely to be a very significant long term expense for our us, which jeopardizes our other plans such as traveling, paying off our mortgage, and our eventual retirement.

The uncertainty of John's future, and how he will adapt as he grows and encounters new challenges, has weighed on us every day since diagnosis. But since the Ford PC announcement, I feel like I cannot escape this worry even for an hour each day It breaks my heart to know that the government does not value my son's future, or the future of so many other wonderful ASD and non ASD children who need specialized support. The short-sightedness of the plan frustrates me - if these children are not given the building blocks to succeed, what will happen to them as adults? There have been so many layoffs of ABA therapists already and there are surely more to come - how will Ontario be able to attract and retain qualified professionals? And how can the Ford PCs justify discrimination against ASD children over 6, as the funding essentially ends at that time? My son, and so many other children, deserve better than this plan and I urge the government to pause the plan, engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders, then reconsider these changes to the OAP.

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