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Ontario autism supports hard to reach, says mother of special needs daughter

For one Ontario-based mother, navigating the province’s supports in taking care of a child with special needs hasn’t been easy.

Carrie Adelstein is the mother of a five-year-old diagnosed with autism living in Napanee, Ont. Her daughter, she said, received an official diagnosis — kickstarting the process of obtaining an Ontario Autism Program number. The province defines the program as offering “support to families of children and youth on the autism spectrum.”

The types of services include family services, caregiver-mediated early years programs, core clinical services, an entry to school program, and urgent response services.

According to Adelstein, it took her five years to get the funding for her services. For the number itself, that process took three months.

Ultimately, for her, the process of finding out her daughter’s diagnosis and receiving the care her daughter needs has been an uphill battle.

“The amount of grief that you go through is insurmountable,” she said, adding that she went searching for the resources she needed.

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Even with the supports she’s been getting, Adelstein said she feels the supports are out of reach. To her, it feels as if the province wants to make such supports a more private sector responsibility.

“Families are struggling to pay their grocery bill right now, let alone get services for their children that they need,” she said. A more private focused support system could end up pushing families with special needs children out of the way, she said.

“We talk so much today about how important diversity, equity and inclusion is. This government needs to put their money where their mouth is and help families.”

As part of the program’s services, the province also provides services for children at home, resources for teaches in childcare settings, rehabilitation services, and other related programs.

Adelstein’s concerns coincide with the province’s recent announcement of a multi-million-dollar funding boost for autism supports. The boost is part of the Ontario government’s latest budget, bringing total funding to the Ontario Autism Program to $720 million.

And yet, there are concerns that thousands of children would be unable to access the therapy they need.

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