Rally in Port Hope protests changes to autism support program

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A group of concerned citizens gathered in Port Hope Friday morning to protest the changes the PC government made the Ontario Autism Program – Feb 15, 2019

A rally outside Northumberland-Peterborough-South MPP David Piccini’s constituency office saw a group of autism advocates condemning changes made to the Ontario autism program and they were chanting and calling for social services minister Lisa MacLeod to resign.

“At the end of the day, the services need to be done equitably, meaning based on individual needs and not equally dumping five thousand dollars a year for my son when his therapy costs $80,000 a year,” said Suzi Panovska-Guarrasi, whose six-year-old son lives with autism.

READ MORE: Lisa MacLeod apologizes for pressuring group to support autism program

The protestors entered Paccini’s office, attempting to speak with him and to share their concerns and give suggestions but staff said Piccini was out of the office and in a meeting, but he was open to hearing from his constituents.

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“We weren’t able to actually speak with him (Piccini) but the constituents are going inside to leave their names and numbers and ask for an appointment with the MPP,” said protestor and autism advocate Tara Stone. “But unfortunately many of the phone calls are not being returned and those appointments are not being made.”

A petition was circulating on behalf of the Ontario Alliance Against The Ontario Autism program which is made up of a collective of parents and supporters.

Even some therapists were the to hold signs and lend their voice, saying the changes to the autism program will leave families underserved whole calling the plan flawed because the funding is based on age, rather than individual needs.

READ MORE: Group says Ontario minister told them to support new autism program or face ‘4 long years’

“The money that they are offering is not going to be able to provide the evidence-based treatment that they so badly need,” said senior therapist and autism support worker Mary MacNaull. “The money is going to pay for in my opinion at best respite, we won’t be able to pay for ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) training.”

Protestors are saying the one size fits all support system put in place now doesn’t work and are calling on the government to reverse its decision. They hope to deliver the petition to Queen’s Park next week.


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