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Parents of children with autism hear Ontario program ‘woefully broken’

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Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa


Published Friday, January 11, 2019 5:38PM EST


Last Updated Friday, January 11, 2019 5:39PM EST

“Woefully broken.”  Parents of children with autism say that’s the message they heard this week from the Ford government about a system aimed at helping them.  The wait list for the Ontario Autism Program is getting longer with no solution in sight.

And while they wait, parents face crippling debt and crushing disappointment. The Ford government had campaigned on fixing the Ontario Autism Program.  Parents were hopeful but say that hope was short-lived as the crisis in the system worsens and they sell their homes to save their kids. 

Every day is a challenge with children living with autism.  For Amelia Spiers, it’s double the love but double the difficulty, too.

“We’re blessed with twins,” she says, “We planned for double everything.”

What they didn’t plan for was double therapy for 4 year olds Kael and Hayes, diagnosed two years ago with moderate to severe autism.  While they wait to get provincially-funded therapy under the Ontario Autism Program, they pay for private therapy out of pocket.  That therapy costs them $6400 a month.  Add on daycare at $1500 a month and that’s a whopping $8000 bill, with no end in sight

“Here we are two years on wait list,” says Spiers, “and early intervention is key and here with are with no movement.”

Spiers was invited to a round table discussion earlier this week with MPP’s from the Ford government.  She says the message from them was that the Ontario Autism Program isn’t working.

“In fact, one of MPP’s, Jeremy Roberts, who I greatly admire, acknowledged it is woefully broken,” says Spiers.

The Ford government promised during the election campaign to invest more than $100 million towards fixing this system for kids living with autism.  The minister responsible, Lisa MacLeod, says one of her first moves was to spend more than half that, $62 million dollars towards families who needed it most.

“We are currently evaluating how best to invest the remaining $38 million dollars of our campaign commitment to autism services,” Minister MacLeod said in an email statement, “by consulting with parents and service providers through roundtable discussions held across the province, including a second roundtable in Ottawa scheduled in the near future.”

But parents say the numbers here in Ottawa don’t reflect that.  In 2017, about 2082 children were on the wait list in our region for therapy.  That number has grown to more than 2,255.

Kerry Monaghan knows that first hand.  While her 5-year-old son Jack was approved for therapy, her 3-year-old daughter Charlotte is number 893 on the wait list. 

The family is paying about $4000 a month for private therapy for Charlotte. Monaghan says if the Ford government is spending money to fix this system, she’d love to know where.

“This community has no idea how that money being used,” says Monaghan, “There’s been no announcement.  Lisa MacLeod hasn’t stepped to a podium to tell us what’s happening, and has not told us what the future of the program is.”

She says the future for their family and the 24-thousand others waiting is just as unclear. 

Parents have now launched a petition urging the provincial government to take a leadership role.   They acknowledge there is no easy fix, but hope at least to open the dialogue of what that “fix” might look like.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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