This is my son, Quincy. Quincy is the happiest, most loving boy on the planet. Everyone who meets him loves him, he is a joy to be around. If it is raining outside, he will insist that it is sunny. His first word was "Happy". He was 6 months old when he said it (but I heard it clear as day). By 18 months, he hadn't spoken again...
Quincy was diagnosed with autism at a very young age as we identified his delays at 18 months with the help of a KidsAbility SLP at our local Early Years Centre and received a referral to a developmental pediatrician working out of KidsAbility in Waterloo.
Our income level at the time of diagnosis was very low and we were unable to pay for ABA therapy on our own. At the time, PC Children's Charity was funding ABA therapy and we were selected to receive a 6 month grant. Quincy learned to speak and make simple requests using a combination of words and pictures during this time. PC Children's Charity no longer provides funding for autism therapy and families like mine who are lower income rely on the government to fund therapy - there is nowhere else to turn.
During this time, we were on the OAP waitlist, but like many families, we were not 'languishing' as Minister MacLeod keeps saying. My son was attending 6 hours a day of preschool funded by Waterloo Region Subsidy where he received extra support from the "SNAP" team from KW Habilitation Services. He received a couple rounds of Speech and Occupational Therapy at KidsAbility. He was selected to attend special needs Junior Kindergarten at KidsAbility in Waterloo. Midway through Junior Kindergarten, his turn came up for 21 hours a week of IBI at KidsAbility in Kitchener.
For our family, the Direct Service Option worked best with our low income and our son's schedule. He was able to be at JK in the morning at KidsAbility and then bus to KidsAbility Kitchener's IBI program in the afternoons. He received 21 hrs/wk of IBI therapy at KidsAbility in Kitchener from Dec 2014 - Jun 2016. He also received a fully supported transition to full-time school from Jan 2016 (SK) - Dec 2016 (GR 1) via the "Connections for Students" process.
He has attended school full-time since the start of Grade 1. He is in Grade 3 now and receives 1:1 EA support in school to help him attend to lessons and work through his assignments. He also requires shared EA support during recess as he is vulnerable. Quincy happily gets on the bus each morning and comes home happy at the end of the day. He is loved and supported at school and I never worry about him once he is on the bus in the morning.
Quincy has been on the OAP waitlist since late 2016 (after his last round of ABA). His name was due to come up for service around September 2018, but since the waitlist was frozen, his name never came up. He is not languishing on the waitlist, and he continues to learn and grow at school. I was looking forward to having a new assessment done and participating in a social group to continue to grow his social skills.
I do not believe $5000 is required for him at this time. However, if his needs were more severe, I know that $5000 would be insufficient and that with no home to mortgage, no family to borrow money from, no charities to turn to - we would be out of luck.
An OAP that is not based on needs is wasteful and ineffective. Families like mine who are low-income may qualify for the full $20K or $5K as proposed but neither amount would have given my son the full-time IBI therapy that helped him to be so successful today. These changes are heartbreaking and cruel, denying our most vulnerable children the very services that make such a huge difference in their ability to live an independent life.
My son has come so far, I know his future is bright thanks to the investments made in him, please give other children the same chance.