Toronto school boards urge province for ‘additional and urgent’ autism funding

Toronto’s Catholic board is urging the province to “reconsider” changes to the autism program given the lack of information for schools that are expected to take in a number of students who will see cutbacks to their behavioural therapy.

“We are disappointed that the provincial government has not yet consulted or provided school boards with the pertinent information about the impacts of their recent autism announcement,” says a statement released Friday by the Toronto Catholic District School Board and Chair Maria Rizzo.

Toronto Catholic District School Board and Chair Maria Rizzo, seen here in January, wants the province to “reconsider” changes to the autism program.
Toronto Catholic District School Board and Chair Maria Rizzo, seen here in January, wants the province to “reconsider” changes to the autism program.  (Metroland staff photo / Metroland staff photo)

“We do not know how this funding will support better continuity in service delivery from JK to Grade 12 and beyond and what it means for in-school teams and processes within our schools.

“We still have yet to hear how the government will support students with autism transitioning to school.”

Meanwhile, in a letter also released Friday, Toronto District School Board Chair Robin Pilkey says it is expecting about 250 elementary schoolchildren “who may be increasing their time in our schools, or registering for the first time” when the changes come into effect April 1.

The number of students “has required us to develop a strategy to support our students and staff. This strategy, which would need to be implemented in a short period of time, puts strain on our schools and staff, requiring from us to redirect existing staff, and potentially hiring additional support staff in some specific locations and situations,” Pilkey wrote to Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod.

MacLeod has said the government’s priority is to eliminate a 23,000-long wait list in the next 18 months under a new system giving families “childhood budgets” to choose the services they want.

They’ll be eligible for up to $20,000 a year for children under 6 — with a lifetime maximum of $140,000. Children older than that can access up to $5,000 a year up to age 18, to a lifetime maximum of $55,000.

However, children, with severe needs can require up to $80,000 a year in therapy and thousands of families now receiving such care are worried about drastic cutbacks, and if the school system will be able to handle their children’s needs.

Hundreds of families protested at Queen’s Park on Thursday, and a number of school boards and service providers have also expressed concerns about the autism plans.

In the legislature last week, MacLeod said “of course, there is a diversity of opinions (on the new plan) whether it’s parents, whether it is service providers, whether it’s those who have lived experience with autism.

“But I will tell you, the opinion of this government is that we are going to clear the wait-list of 23,000 children, or three out of four children in Ontario.”

The education ministry has started to reach out to school boards to get an idea of numbers and resources they have to deal with the changes.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Source link

WWWHive Digital
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)