8 July 2006

A special bulletin with news of the setback to funding children’s autism services in Ontario, and also two pieces of good autism news in Ontario. For announcements of events and other news items, please click on last week's bulletin at: http://www.ont-autism.uoguelph.ca/news-20060701.html

Ontario appeal court upholds restricting of autism treatment
Read Kirk Makin's article in The Globe and Mail, which begins:
”The Ontario Court of Appeal took a wrecking ball Friday to a 2005 ruling that had ordered special autism treatment within the school system for children over age 6. In a decision that appears bound for the Supreme Court of Canada, the
Ontario court came to a strong conclusion that the province did not discriminate against older children when it arbitrarily restricted treatment known as ABA/IBI to those under 6.

”The court questioned whether the treatment is useful for children over 6, and stressed that governments are in a better position than the courts to determine what kinds of treatments to finance. The judges said that while they felt a moral tug based on their “profound admiration and respect for the struggle of the infant plaintiffs and that of their families to manifest their children's full potential,” that doesn't justify using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to guarantee their success. “That remains the terrain of legislators,” the court said. “In our view, the policy choices made by the government when it established and developed [the program] fell within the range of reasonable alternatives to provide an effective program across the province that balanced the needs of all autistic children.”

”Lawyers for the province had argued at trial that
Ontario is more generous than most provinces in supplying autism treatment, and that it should not be punished for focusing its efforts on some children rather than all. Scott Hutchison, a lawyer for 29 plaintiffs who have autistic children and launched the lawsuit, said he intends to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. His colleague, Mary Eberts, criticized the judges for having “totally obliterated” Ontario Superior Court Judge Frances Kiteley's assessment in favour of a viewpoint that is its polar opposite.”

Read a summary of the varous issues in the court case and appeal at this link: Synopsis of Wynberg, R. et al v. H. M. Q. in Right of Ontario

This is an excerpt:
”The Ontario Court of Appeal has allowed
Ontario's appeal against a successful constitutional challenge to Ontario’s failure to provide a program consistent with its Intensive Education Intervention Program (IEIP) to autistic children age six and over.

”The IEIP is an intensive program offered by
Ontario to children with autism, between the ages of two and five. The primary constitutional challenge claimed discrimination on the basis of age and disability. The Attorney General of Ontario brought the appeal, from the decision of Justice Kiteley, dated March 30, 2005.

”From the late 1990s, the
Ontario government undertook to design a program to assist children with autism. These efforts culminated in September 2000 with the release of the IEIP Guidelines and the commencement of IEIP services to autistic children age two to five

”The trial judge found that the IEIP was in many respects an exemplary program for autistic children age
two to five.  She also found that for school age children, in comparison to children age two to five, there was only modest research about the efficacy of intensive intervention. However, she held that Ontario violated the equality rights of the infant plaintiffs on the basis of age because of the upper age limit of the IEIP. 

”The Court of Appeal applied the equality law jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court found that the claimants had been accorded differential treatment based on age, in that children with autism age six and older were denied the benefit of the IEIP, which children age two to five received. However, the Court found that the respondents had not established that this differential treatment constituted discrimination against them.

”The Court found no doubt that all autistic children, regardless of age, have historically suffered significant prejudice and disadvantage as a result of their disability because of stereotyping and misconceptions about their human potential. However, the ground of discrimination in this case is age and the Court of Appeal found no evidence that autistic children age six and over have suffered historical disadvantage compared to younger autistic children as a result of stereotyping on the basis of their age.”

Building And Improving The Continuum Of Services For Ontario Children And Youth With Autism
Coinciding with the publication of the Court of appeal's judgment, the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services posted an update on its website about its provision of a continuum of services to support children and youth with autism.  The province's investment in autism services is now more than $112 million annually. Click on title to read this.

Canadian Senate Studies Services for Children with Autism
During the past few months, thanks for the efforts of Andrew Kavchak of Ottawa, Canadian MPs and Senators have concerned themselves with autism issues. Canadians are urged to speak up and tell the Senate Committee, for example, your view of the issues. Andrew Kavchak suggests that people concerned with autism send a message of thanks to Senator Munson, for his efforts on raising the profile of autism issues.
Telephone: (613) 947-2504
Fax: (613) 947-2506

Overcoming 'tidal waves': Since joining specialized autism program, twins have made huge steps and are now dealing with 'ripples'
Michael and Kevin have made huge strides during the three years they've been in an intensive program to treat their autism. The Cambridge twin boys had common autism symptoms when they started the program shortly after being diagnosed -- playing alone, not talking, avoiding contact, flapping their hands and banging their heads. While the Ontario Government pays for eligible children with autism to have Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI), the twins' parents decided to go with a different program created by a Toronto autism specialist whose intervention combines behavioural therapy, special diet and attitude training for the whole family. The twins get one-on-one therapy in playrooms -- as much as 40 hours a week -- where they are constantly engaged with questions, playing and talking by a parent or trained worker.

Jason's Journey
An outstanding success story in the Hamilton Spectator, 29 June 2006.
Jason Sher, who has autism, recently graduated from Ancaster High School. More than 40 people gathered at his home recently to celebrate his achievement. With his parents, they helped him grow from a struggling child to a young man on the edge of a bright future.


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Gerald & Elizabeth Bloomfield