QUEEN’S PARK — NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre Joel Harden was joined by a member of an Ottawa family today during Question Period to speak out against the Ford government’s callous cuts to autism services. Harden was joined by Laura Kefalas, a parent of seven-year-old Noah, who has autism. After years spent on a waitlist, Noah has finally begun to receive ABA therapy, and has made huge strides, including sleeping in his own bed and being able to sit at the table with a non-preferred food item.
"Families like Laura's were forced to spend years on wait lists — sometimes shuffled from one wait list to another — while their children fell behind, not getting the supports they so badly needed to progress,” said Harden. “Where the Liberals let these families down, Doug Ford is putting these already vulnerable people in an impossible position, cutting the funding that was available to each child.”
Earlier this month, the Ford Conservatives shocked and outraged families by capping total direct funding available to children under six at just $20,000 per year, and at $5,000 for children aged six and over. With families typically paying about $70,000 annually for their child's intensive autism therapy, the Ford government's allotment is nowhere close to sufficient. And families must have a household income of less than $55,000 to even qualify for the top end of these very limited amounts, meaning many will be left with less.
“I am terrified of what losing therapy for Noah will mean," Laura said. "With only the two hours of ABA he is getting now, I have seen it help in numerous ways. In one year, he has learned to sit at the table with food for five whole minutes, which is an incredible feat. If Noah doesn’t get to continue the ABA he is getting now, which will be over on May 24, he will lose all of the progress we have worked so hard for. I may have to sell my house, like many of my friends have already done, to fund the therapies he needs.”
Harden said families deserve so much better than a government that cuts vital supports to children with autism.
“New Democrats will continue to partner with families and push back against these cuts. We need to invest more into autism services, and give families the resources they need to access evidence-based solutions that put the needs of children first.”
Laura was among about 200 people representing families from throughout the province who joined the Official Opposition Wednesday at Queen’s Park to take their stories straight to the Ford government — all families with a child with autism, all devastated by Ford’s cut to autism funding.