Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Service, makes an announcement about Ontario's autism program, at Queen's Park, in Toronto, on March 21, 2019.

Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

The Ontario government has backed off some of the reforms it proposed last month to the province’s autism program, after desperate parents spent weeks staging protests at Queen’s Park out of fear the changes would leave them facing massive bills for intensive treatment.

Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative government’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, announced the changes on Thursday. Among them are a pledge to consult parents and “explore” how to provide more money for autistic children with more complex needs; the scrapping of proposed income tests for families seeking autism funding; and a six-month extension for children currently receiving therapy under the old system.

Parents whose children currently receive full funding for autism therapy said they were relieved, but still concerned.

Story continues below advertisement

Toronto parent Marguerite Schabas said her seven-year-old son’s intensive therapy had been set to end in June, and she was concerned about him regressing. The program still won’t cover her costs, but she acknowledged the government was starting to listen to parents.

“They should be completely ashamed of themselves for putting families through this for the past six weeks,” Ms. Schabas said. “At least six months gives more time to prepare a proper transition into school with the proper supports.” Under the changes, first announced in February, many parents said their children who received intensive therapy and attended school on a modified day would be forced to attend school more frequently, even full time, because their funding would be cut.

Ms. MacLeod said she and MPP Amy Fee – her parliamentary assistant and herself a mother of two autistic children – convinced Premier Doug Ford to provide more “flexibility” on the funding of the new autism program, which sparked outrage when first revealed last month.

She credited Ms. Fee’s advocacy for changing Mr. Ford’s mind.

“The Premier has listened to Amy and I, and the concerns of families,” she said. “Thanks to him, Ontario will now spend the most per capita on autism in North America.”

But Ms. MacLeod would not say how much cash would be added to the $331-million the government has already committed. A spokesman for the Premier would not elaborate on what discussions took place.

In addition to the other changes, Ms. MacLeod said the government would allow parents to use autism money for speech and language pathology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

Story continues below advertisement

With the scrapping of its proposed income test, the government says the new plan will instead provide $20,000 in annual funding for all diagnosed children aged 6 and under, with older children receiving $5,000 annually. A $140,000 total cap for each child was to remain in place for now.

Ms. MacLeod said she is still committed to her original goal of providing some level of funding to all 23,000 children – 75 per cent of those diagnosed with autism – left on the wait list for treatment under the former Liberal government’s system.

The original reforms meant that families who currently receive full funding for intensive therapy will only get a fraction of that financial support, and their children would have less access to services. The government was planning to allocate funds based on age and household income, saying it wanted to spread resources among all families and clear a wait list of 23,000 children.

Last month’s changes prompted protests at Queen’s Park and saw groups of parents pack the public galleries, some sobbing quietly while others were ejected for shouting at Ms. MacLeod or the Premier. An aide to Ms. Fee who is also the father of an autistic child resigned last month over the plan. The minister herself, who vehemently defended the original plan, faced death threats.

Ottawa mother Kate Logue, who has two children who receive autism therapy, said while she still has concerns, she was relieved that treatment for her five-year-old son can continue past April: “I’m not going to lie, I literally had tears in my eyes that I didn’t have to worry about the next six months.”

Julie Koudys of the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA), which represents autism treatment providers, said the government’s plan is still flawed, as it arbitrarily cuts funding for children over six, even though many older children still need expensive therapy.

Story continues below advertisement

Dr. Koudys, a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor at Brock University, also said the plan does nothing to address key factors behind the wait list, including a shortage of professionals who treat autism and the lack of regulation of those who do.

She welcomed the government’s consultation plans. ONTABA is meeting with the government on April 2. But she said neither ONTABA, nor a government-appointed panel of autism experts on which Dr. Koudys also sits, were consulted before original reforms were launched in February.

With a report from Laura Stone

Opinion: As parents of complex special-needs kids, we know inclusive education doesn’t work

Opinion: You can’t say inclusive education doesn’t work. We haven’t even begun to try

Ontario to look into school exclusions of children with autism

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies