Up until this year, Will and Nevena Dundas were able to get up to $90,000 of provincial government assistance to help them afford therapy for their five-year-old son Dylan, who has autism. As of April 1st, 2019, however, that funding is cut off, leaving the Dundases with just $2,000 of assistance per year.
“He’s an energetic boy. He loves to help, he loves to be involved and do things with us,” Nevena says, describing Dylan. “Since his diagnosis a couple of years back, it’s been a journey for us to get him the right support so we are able to do all those things with him that a regular six-year-old would love to do.”
The family knows how important autism therapy is to help their son acquire the skills he needs to function as an adult and be self-sustaining in the future. They’ve read and heard about therapy working for other kids, and they’ve seen huge successes already with their own son.
“These therapies have been proven to work, and it’s very difficult as a parent to know that the support that we were getting is going to disappear, because we do need the help,” says Will. “I don’t know anyone who would be able to support the cost of therapy.”
The Ontario government claims that offering so much assistance to each family is not sustainable and that changing the funding system will free up funds and shorten the long waitlist of 23,000 families hoping to get their children a diagnosis and/or assistance. They’ve decided to offer assistance on a sliding scale based on parental income, and the funds will be capped when children reach certain ages.
Nevena, however, says the government assistance needs to be based on each child’s needs rather than on income so that everyone gets the assistance they deserve. Not all autistic children have needs as specialized and expensive as Dylan’s, but those who do should have their needs met.
Now, in a desperate attempt to raise money for Dylan’s therapy after the funding cut, the Dundases have put their home up for sale. But even selling their house won’t be a long-term solution for a therapy that costs about $90,000 per year. If the government continues to refuse to cover the therapy, the Dundases will only be able to provide Dylan with a small amount of it.
“In the short-term, we have a plan, but that plan may not be sustainable,” says Will. “We’re looking at a few months, maybe a few years, of therapy, and now we’re talking about a lifetime that we have to look ahead to providing if the funding is ultimately cut off.”
The family is still fighting to change the new plan and hopes their funding may be reinstated soon. In the meantime, Dylan will continue to attend therapy for as long as his parents can possibly afford it. Watch the video below to learn more about the Dundases’ difficult situation.Whizzco