My husband and I have 2 beautiful boys, Logan (7) and Parker (4). Logan was diagnosed with Autism, level three - he requires a significant amount of support- Logan is nonverbal and uses Proloquo 2Go to communicate. Parker was diagnosed at level one - he requires some supports.
Logan's birth date slotted him into the group of children that were almost bounced off the waitlist when the age cap was considered the first time. Thankfully that idea was scrapped and he's been getting 20 hours of IBI therapy for the last 18 months. Logan has made amazing developments. He is learning to dress himself, use utensils, is managing his emotions and is almost fully potty trained. Although these may not seem like small achievements to you, they are amazing for his quality of life and our family's lives.
Throughout the last year, I've been able to watch Logan attend IBI and go to school and I've watched the way the two systems work together. Logan learns life skills and learns how to manage himself at IBI. This allows Logan to attend school and learn things similar to other children his age. Logan has learned his numbers, alphabet, colours, weather and calendar and is now working on expanding in all of these areas. I truly believe that Logan is capable of accomplishing so many wonderful things if he is allowed to continue in this way.
We cannot afford to continue IBI therapy without the support of the OAP. Logan is 7 and continues to grow and change everyday. I can state without question that he continues to benefit from these services and we cannot afford these services without the support of the OAP.
Parker has shown us an entirely different side of the Autism Spectrum. Parker speaks well and articulates his thoughts and feelings and is able to attend school in a regular stream class with some supports. Parker is attending private speech therapy and will need to the support of social skills groups in the future. Parker is my ultimate example that the spectrum truly is a spectrum. Trying to look at autism as a 'one size fits all' issue is not appropriate and does a disservice to both ends of the spectrum.
Professionally, I work in the child welfare sector and have seen another side of autism as well. Having a child with special needs can be challenging - it has an impact on your employment, your own mental health and your support system. Families are challenged in ways that cannot be fully understood until you live through this experience. Families that are struggling to cope and are not well supported come into contact with the child welfare system - there are children on the spectrum who come into the care of the Society. This is not ideal for any child or any family - it is heartbreaking to watch. From a fiscal perspective, placements for children with high needs are costly and account for a high percentage of the money being spent on children in care - I cannot imagine that this is the way we wish to spend money in our province. It is so much better to give families the support they need to care for their own children.
Please reconsider the decisions that you are making with the OAP. The age cap is hurtful to children and to the families who are working tirelessly to support them. The fee-for-service models are placing more financial strain on families who are already struggling to care for their children - there are several studies that have been completed that conclude that there is a significant loss of income when a family is parenting a child on the spectrum - not to mention statistically higher incidence of divorce - I implore you to read these studies, truly consider the information being provided here. I'm not saying the current model is perfect - financially speaking there are other countries that have found more efficient ways to deliver services. But the changes that you are suggesting are not responsible and are not looking out for the best interests of our children.
You have likely heard many insults, profanities and anger over the past months since you have announced these changes. I implore you to see through this anger for what it represents - fear, fear that you are making decisions that will harm our children - Fear that our children will be physically or emotionally harmed when they are placed in school placements that do not meet their needs. Anger and fear that you think our children are undeserving of services that they require - fear that you think they don't matter.
Please come up with a better plan. My children matter.