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London mom urges action as her son languishes on years-long waiting list for autism services

Jessica Ashton, MPP Peggy Sattler, and Bruce McIntosh of the Ontario Autism Coalition at a media conference in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Ontario NDP

A London mother is putting pressure on the Kathleen Wynne government to cut wait times for autism therapy services.

READ MORE: PC Leader Patrick Brown blasts Liberals over 2016 handling of autism program

After waiting more than a year for her son to get diagnosed, Jessica Ashton learned there’s a roughly three-year long waiting list for services. Her son is currently 989 on the list.

“All the research that I can find, all the conclusions are the same: early intervention is essential for their future progress and preferably before the age of four,” Ashton told 980 CFPL.

Ashton decided to take action and started a petition that gathered roughly 6,500 handwritten signatures over the course of two months.

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“Everywhere I went I was asking people to sign my petition. I was, in turn, telling my story, and I heard lots of other stories from people that were affected by autism.”

READ MORE: Ontario launches new autism program; practitioners to be regulated

London West MPP Peggy Sattler presented the petition at the Ontario Legislature on Thursday, urging the premier to take action.

“In Ashton’s case, this is a little boy who every day that he is not able to access therapy is a day that could be lost forever,” Sattler told 980 CFPL after the petition was presented.

“Early intervention is absolutely critical for children with autism. To have to sit there without even being able to get the diagnosis before you’re referred to service is very frustrating, so there’s a lot of things that have to be looked at to ensure that children get the diagnostic services that they need in a timely way, and then get access to the therapeutic services that they need as well.”

Sattler is urging the Ontario Liberals to explore ways to cut the wait times, including expanding capacity so that other health care professionals can provide a diagnosis.

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