The mother of a young East City boy with autism is speaking out against the provincial government’s new autism program.
Kristen Locklin says her five-year-old son Noah’s recovery is at risk because of funding changes that are scheduled to come into effect April 1.
“He is smart, bright, happy and excited all the time,” Locklin says.
“The personality is in there. They just need a little help getting it out and this is the only thing that works.”
She is talking about Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Noah has been getting the treatment since December, 25-30 hours per week.
“He’s responded amazingly. He’s talking so much now, he’s singing, he’s playing. He’s initiating with other people. He’s so social,” said Michelle McCullough, clinical supervisor for Noah’s ABA team.
That wasn’t the case before his treatment began.
“One of the worst things was self-harm. He often carved numbers and letters into his own skin with his fingernails. He still, to this day, has the number five etched into his arm. If someone touched him, he would cry, scream, yell for 30 minutes like someone was peeling off his skin, his mother said.
ABA is not cheap. The most severe cases can cost as much as $115,000 a year.
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Locklin will qualify for just $5,000 under the Tory government’s program that aims to clear wait-lists for diagnosis and therapy.
“Without ABA services, he may go back to that place where he’s not interested in the classroom or his environment around him,” according to Morgan O’Dwyer, a senior therapist with On Solid Ground.
“Saying we’re only going to give $5,000 or $20,000 is just not acceptable,” she said. “It needs to be based on the needs of the individual so that we can determine how much treatment they should be getting. It shouldn’t be based on how old they are or how much their parents make.”
Kristen gave up her full-time job as an accountant to stay at home with her bilingual son.
Her spouse is a government worker but there are no benefits to help autistic children, and neither is there private coverage available.
“No one chooses to have a child with a disability. Our choice is what we do about it,” she said.
Locklin has organized a protest with other parents outside the office of Peterborough-Kawartha PC MPP Dave Smith on March 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1123 Water Street.
WATCH: Lisa MacLeod responds to questions from parents of children with autism