Demonstrators take to Owen Sound streets in response to autism funding cuts

Protesters angry with the cuts to autism funding for children demonstrate in front of MPP Bill Walker's office in Owen Sound. April 2nd, 2019 (Photo by Kirk Scott)

A crowd angry with changes to funding to help children with autism and their families demonstrated in Owen Sound.

About 50 parents, teachers and service providers protested in front of MPP Bill Walker’s office. The Ford government has revamped the way services are funded and provided. Under the previous government, families were funded according to the child’s needs. The Ford government’s changes base the funding on age. Claire Wiltshire’s has a five-year-old daughter with autism. She says the new funding is not nearly enough.

“At one point we were actually contemplating moving to Alberta where services are much better. Or some parents are actually having to contemplate selling their house or take out a line of credit for an obscene amount of money,” said Wiltshire.

Under the Ford plan, a family would get $20,000 a year until the child is over the age of six. After that, $5,000 a year. Parents say it can cost $50,000 to $70,000 a year for proper care for a child with autism.

Deanna Pietramala has a six-year-old son with autism. She and the others are demanding the government sit down and talk to the parents and service providers.

“We’re relentless, we’re going to fight this and we’re going to make sure our voices are heard and we’re going to get the therapy that the kids need. We’re not going to get a drop in the bucket we’re going to get what the kids need because to abandon these children is a disservice to the community, to the families and any citizen of Ontario,” said Pietramala.

Claire Wiltshire and Daughter Elizabeth take part in the demonstration outside MPP Bill Walker’s office in Owen Sound in response to cuts to autism funding on World Autism Awareness Day. April 2nd, 2019 (Photo by Kirk Scott)