Needs-based autism program coming for Ontario kids, minister says

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autism

TORONTO — Ontario will establish a needs-based program for autistic children after months of angry backlash over a revamp that based funding solely on age and family income.

Social Services Minister Todd Smith made the commitment while apologizing to parents for the earlier version of the program, acknowledging it was the wrong move.

His predecessor announced in March that she would eliminate the income testing aspect of the revamped program and look at how to add needs-based supports.

Smith says the government is now firmly moving toward needs-based supports — with funding for the program remaining at $600 million — and an expert panel will provide advice on what those supports will look like.

The original program announced in February capped the amounts families could receive at $20,000 a year for kids under six, with funding dropping to $5,000 per year until they were 18.

The maximum amounts were only available to families earning less than $55,000 a year and parents said that was woefully inadequate for kids with severe needs, whose therapy can cost up to $80,000.

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