Jill Andrew MPP, Toronto–St. Paul's

Government of Ontario

Autism Roundtable

Report from Autism Roundtable - March 11th, 2019

Jill with members of Autists 4 Autists (A4A) Ontario

On March 11th, 2019, I held a community roundtable at Christ Church Deer Park to discuss the Ford government's changes to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). While there were a variety of perspectives in the room and even some disagreement, we listened to one another with care, compassion, and respect. 

Members from A4AOntario were in attendance and emphasized the need for a broader recognition of neurodiversity in society. They called for a focus on integration rather than mere inclusion and were critical of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy, arguing that these therapies are harmful to autists. A few autistic adults in the room shared their experiences of trying to hide their autism or "masking," and the depression and "autistic burnout" that ensued. Throughout the roundtable, A4AOntario maintained that "any initiative for autistic people should be led by autistic people." 

Some parents and health care providers in attendance spoke of the benefits that they have seen from ABA/IBI therapy. They also noted that, while the previous system was far from perfect, its needs-based funding was better that the new age and income-based funding. Many parents in the room also questioned whether schools can properly support incoming autistic students during the 2019-20 school year.

TDSB Ward 11 Trustee Shelley Laskin and TCDSB Ward 9 Trustee Norm Di Pasquale join me, along with approximately 30 community members, for an Autism Roundtable on March 11, 2019.

Ultimately, I believe that a variety of options must be available to support the wide range of needs that exist. Most certainly, we must work toward to a more accessible society. We must prioritize listening to autistic adults. 

Thank you to the autistic self-advocates, parents, health care professionals, elected officials, and concerned residents who attended this event. Thank you for generously sharing your experiences. I look forward to continuing this conversation.