Unless you live in a bubble you know that recently the Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS) has changed the structure of provincially funded treatment for Autism. For those who are unaware of what the changes mean, the coles notes version is that every child over the age of 5 will be discharged from intensive therapy and placed into the regular school system. This is obviously a devastating blow to families of children with Autism. They are being denied the very therapy that could ensure their independence in life. Unless parents have access to over $60,000.00 per year they won’t be able to afford continuing the therapy. For parents with Autism we know what this means for our children, this is why we have been protesting, and creating a lot of noise. For those of you reading this, who don’t have a child with Autism you may sympathize with our fight, you may even join us in the fight, but you probably don’t think this will affect you. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth. This decision will absolutely affect you directly in more ways then one. Here are two very important reasons why people who don’t have children with Autism should be just as angry as those who do.
The School System Isn’t Ready for the Influx of Children
If you have a child in the school system this will absolutely directly affect you and your child. When all of these children are discharged from therapy they are going to be put in public school. Public schools already are over burdened with children who have Autism. There is no funding, very little training and almost no support for teachers. There are limited spots in community classrooms which leave no alternative then to place children with Autism in regular classrooms. Children with Autism can be very successful when taught in the proper environment with the right strategies and support. When placed in an environment that doesn’t meet those needs the children can be disruptive requiring more attention from the teacher. In a lot of cases there is no additional support placed in the classroom leaving the 1 teacher to manage the entire class. Suddenly the classroom becomes less of a learning environment and more about just getting through the day. That means that your child isn’t getting the attention that they need and deserve.
Not only are public schools not prepared for this influx, they weren’t even notified of the changes. There has been no plans made on how to accommodate this influx, nor has there been any funding put in place to help. As a parent with a child in the public school system you should be furious. What does this decision mean for the success of your child at school?
Pay Now or Pay Later
Children with Autism can become successful, contributing members of society with the proper intervention. Children with Autism need to be taught basic skills that come naturally to those without Autism. Unfortunately without that teaching they will have a very hard time completing school getting a job and becoming self-sufficient.
In 2011 when I was advocating for funding for my son I did a research paper documenting why therapy was so important for him. It stated that if the province provided him therapy for 7 years (from age 2 – 9) at a cost of approximately $600,000.00, he had a very very good chance of becoming an independent successful adult. If the province didn’t intervene and he didn’t receive the therapy his chances of succeeding were greatly decreased. If Daniel was unable to support himself he would end up costing the province over $3 MILLION over his lifetime. He wouldn’t be a tax payer instead he would need tax payers to pay for him. With the rate of Autism increasing at an alarming rate that is a lot of people that will need to be taken care, that is a lot of tax dollars needed to support these adults who could have supported themselves.
This decision is a very real problem for EVERYONE. I don’t expect people to understand my life or my hopes for my son. I, like all other parents with children on the spectrum obviously want the best for my son. The best for me means a fulfilling happy life. He unfortunately cannot attain happiness without proper therapeutic intervention. I don’t expect people to stand behind me and fight for his happiness I have that covered as his mother. However, I do think that people who don’t believe this directly affects them should sit back and really think about what this decision means for them. I also have a “typically” developing child in public school. Her teacher is already over burdened with the different needs of students in her class. I cannot imagine how that is going to increase with the addition of, quite possibly, more than one child added to her class with Autism. My daughter already doesn’t get the time and attention she needs in class, it scares me to think how this is going to affect her success.
This is no longer about supporting me as a parent with a child who Autism. One critical decision by the province just made this just as much your problem as it is mine.