“It was emotional,” says Kelly McGarry, mother of her nine-year-old son Braedon St. John who has autism.
McGarry was one of more than 200 parents sharing their stories with the Ford government on Wednesday at Queen’s Park, about raising an autistic child and the government’s cuts to autism services.
“I am happy I went. I think it is very important for parents with autistic kids to advocate for, not only our own children but all children across this province,” says McGarry on her return from Toronto.
NDP MPP for Kingston and the Islands Ian Arthur spoke on behalf of McGarry’s son Braedon, during question period.
“Braedon waited nearly two years for intensive treatment, but it was worth it. The treatment was life-changing,” says Arthur. “Under the new program, he would not even have qualified for the intensive intervention because of his age.”
“It is very important that politicians understand that these programs affect families in Ontario,” says McGarry. “We have sacrificed for our children. We have done everything we can do for our children. Now, we need the government to step up and do their part. We can’t do it alone.”
WATCH: MacLeod answers more questions about autism funding at Queen’s Park
Now the family isn’t sure what’s going to happen next.
“Many of us are re-mortgaging our homes. We are definitely changing our lifestyles,” says McGarry.
McGarry’s husband, Scott St. John, quit his management job in 2018 to stay home to take care of Braedon.
“It was tough, but we are dedicated to our son. And we will support our son,” says McGarry.
When the Ford government’s cuts come into effect this coming April, McGarry says they will only receive a fraction of the true cost for intensive autism therapy for Braedon.
With the government cuts, Braedon will only receive $5,000 per year, with a clawback of $2,000.
“For intensive services, it will cost $60,000 to $80,000 per year. So $3,000 a year will not cut it,” says a frustrated McGarry.
Now, McGarry says parents will unite and fight for their children.
“There will be demonstrations and protests rolling throughout the province. March 7, there will be a protest outside Queen’s Park,” says McGarry.