New autism advocacy group launches

    Parent-run initiative focused on making main autism therapy more

    TORONTO, April 2 /CNW/ - Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, hundreds
of parents of children with autism in Ontario are uniting to combat government
discrimination against their children and to make autism therapy more
    "My son has been waiting for a year and a half to receive
government-subsidized therapy, and we have another one to two years to go.
Hundreds of other children in this province are in the same boat. Instead of
helping our children make key gains in their early years, the government has
abandoned them. We've had enough. We're going to expose this injustice and
fight for our children's rights," says Sharon Aschaiek, founder of Autism
Resolution Ontario (ARO), and mother of Jaiden, 3, who has autism.
    At 9:30 a.m. at the Queen's Park media studio (room No.148, main floor)
in Toronto, the parents of ARO will present their plans to launch an ongoing,
province-wide, high-profile public awareness campaign to alert the public
about how the provincial government is neglecting and violating the civil
rights of children with autism, and to achieve greater access to ABA therapy.
    ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is a teaching style that uses rewards
and repetition to teach individuals with autism communication, socialization
and other life skills. The approach relies on systematic observation and data
collection to measure results. With more than 30 years of research showing its
effectiveness, ABA is the most scientifically proven autism intervention.
    ABA works best during children's early preschool years, and those who
receive it intensively - 30 to 40 hours a week of one-on-one instruction - can
make great strides in catching up to their typically developing peers.
    The Ontario government has a provincially funded program in place to
provide children with autism this therapy. However, children must wait three
to four years, or longer, to access it; as a result, they lose out on the
opportunity to maximize their early years, and many regress in their symptoms.
Currently, about 1,400 children in Ontario are waiting for subsidized autism
treatment or eligibility assessments. Many parents pursue private ABA, but its
high price - about $50,000 a year - puts it out of reach for most families.
Still, Aschaiek says, many parents go into serious debt trying to pay for
private ABA.
    "We can only afford a few hours a week of intensive ABA for my son," says
Leah Kalvari, mother of six-year-old Mendy, who has been waiting for three
years for subsidized ABA. "Our son's early years are going to waste. He is
suffering, and there's nothing we can do about it."
    In addition to advocating for more timely therapy, ARO
( is also pushing for more fairness,
efficiency and transparency in the way ABA is administered in Ontario. Once
children finally receive ABA, Aschaiek says, they're under constant threat of
having it terminated. Currently, she says, the government does not consult
with children's therapists, nor review data on their progress with ABA, when
deciding whether to cut off therapy.
    Another ARO goal is to make ABA more accessible in schools. Currently,
Aschaiek says, kids with autism may receive some special education services or
ABA-style support, but true, individualized ABA isn't available, even though
it's widely understood to be the best, and often only, way to help them learn.
Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs communication and social
interaction and causes repetitive, non-functional, and sometimes aggressive,
behaviour. Currently, one in every 150 children is diagnosed autism - that's
up from one in 10,000 kids 30 years ago.
    This dramatic spike in the number of cases, Aschaiek says, is why the
government should act now to prevent all these children from becoming
dysfunctional, social services-dependent adults.
    "Children with autism who receive insufficient ABA go on to cost
taxpayers millions of dollars more in lifetime care," Aschaiek says. "The most
cost-effective approach is to help these children now, so that they can become
independent, contributing adults."

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Sharon Aschaiek, Autism Resolution Ontario: (416) 352-8813,

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