Growing wait for subsidized ABA a violation of children's human rights

    TORONTO, June 30 /CNW/ - More than 1,500 children with autism in Ontario
are waiting for years to receive government-funded ABA therapy, and as a
result, they are regressing in their skills and missing out on the chance to
live a normal life, says Sharon Aschaiek of Autism Resolution Ontario.
    "ABA has been shown to be most effective in children when they receive it
intensively in their early years, yet in Ontario, children with autism spend
their early years languishing on a waiting list," says Aschaiek, mother of
Jaiden, 3, who has autism, and core member of the parent-run advocacy group,
in response to new waitlist information released by the Ontario NDPs. "By
denying this vital intervention to children with autism in a timely and
sufficient manner, the government is neglecting their basic developmental
needs, and violating their civil rights."
    Today, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath issued a public statement with
information on the newest waitlist numbers for the province's publicly funded
autism intervention program. As of March 31, 2009, there were 1,513 children
waiting for treatment - up from 1,063 in December 2008 - and 389 children
waiting for assessments to qualify to receive publicly funded ABA. In total,
more than 1,900 kids with autism are waiting to receive, or waiting to qualify
to receive, government-funded ABA.
    "This is an area we know is suffering greatly from lack of government
resources. It's time that this government became a champion of children, not a
champion of waiting lists," said Horwath in her statement about this issue.
"Parents are paying exorbitant amounts out of their pockets to obtain services
in the absence of a good government program."
    Indeed, parents of children on the waitlist have no choice but to pay for
expensive private ABA, which costs about $50,000 a year or more. This extreme
cost causes immense financial hardship for parents, and ultimately puts
sufficient therapy out of reach for most children.
    "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. "Not only has our son lost his invaluable early
years, but our whole family has suffered tremendously seeing him lose skills."
    Also revealed in Horwath's statement was the fact that 102 children also
had their subsidized ABA therapy terminated by the end of the first quarter of
this year. As well, Horwath learned through a Freedom of Information Act
request that a pilot program that was to be developed to bring IBI into
schools still doesn't exist, despite the McGuinty government's claim to the
    "Both the Ombudsman and the Child Advocate have said there should be more
services for children with special needs, but the McGuinty government is
cutting services instead," Horwath said. "Every child in Ontario has the right
to an education and should receive the supports required to meet their
educational ability."
    Raising awareness about and working to change the ABA waitlist situation
is a central objective of ARO, along with addressing the ongoing premature
termination of children's ABA without evidence-based cause, and making
sufficient and customized ABA available to kids in school.
    At its launch on April 2, 2009 - World Autism Awareness Day - the
advocacy group issued the government a one-year challenge to live up to its
obligation to address the basic developmental needs of some of its most
vulnerable constituents by making publicly funded ABA more accessible.
    Currently, ARO is leading an ongoing, province-wide, high-profile public
awareness campaign to alert the public about the provincial government's
neglect of and discrimination against kids with autism, and to promote
practical and cost-effective solutions to resolving the autism crisis in
Ontario. This fall, ARO is initiating a caravan to meet directly with GTA
families in the autism community and to achieve its goals.

For further information:

For further information: To learn more about ARO, including the upcoming
caravan, and to get involved in achieving social justice for kids with autism,
contact Sharon Aschaiek at (905) 370-9871 or,
or visit

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