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Mother of adult child with autism fears more families heading towards crisis

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Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa


Published Tuesday, February 19, 2019 3:58PM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2019 3:59PM EST

An Ottawa mother who made national headlines years ago when she left her son at a government office is speaking out again for parents of children with special needs.

Amanda Telford says the Ontario government’s changes to autism funding will leaves families in crisis once again.  It’s been six years since Amanda Telford made a gut-wrenching decision, admitting she and her husband could no longer care for their 19-year-old son Philippe, worried about keeping him safe in their home.  The towering teen had multiple developmental disabilities including autism.  Her story, she fears, may become the story for other families now.

It’s been years since CTV last interviewed Amanda Telford.   But like any mom, she’s proud to catch us up on how her son Philippe is doing.  He is 25 now and living in a group home in Cornwall. 

‘He’s well-integrated in the community,” Telford says, as she flips through photos of him, “and Philippe is a very happy camper.”

But it took a defining moment in April of 2013 for both Philippe and his parents to get there. Exhausted and fearing for his safety, the Telfords left Philippe at a provincial government office, turning a spotlight on a system in crisis.

Telford says she thinks of that day often.

“I don’t regret what I did,” she says, “It kept my son safe.”

Her only regret she says is that the system wasn’t more responsive to parents desperate for help, a situation she sees playing out once again as parents of children with autism mount rallies in protest.

“We need to be finding more innovative ways of supporting our autism community,” says Telford, “and it doesn’t mean throwing more money at it but doing things better, smarter and differently.”

Today, as the provincial legislature resumed sitting, the NDP resumed its attack on the Ford government’s handling of the autism file, demanding Lisa MacLeod be removed from her role as Social Services Minister.

“It’s bad enough he betrayed his promise to be there 1000%,” Andrea Horwath, the Official Leader of the Opposition said of Premier Doug Ford during Question Period, “but the Minister who is supposed to be the voice for families at the Cabinet table threatened families and stakeholders. If she will not resign,” Horwath continued, “will the Premier show leadership and remove her from her role?”

Minister Lisa MacLeod responded to that question, “Iwill be unapologetic in making sure that 100% of the children that require support from their government when they have autism receive what they need.”

Amanda Telford has heard that message before; she worries the reality could force history to repeat itself.

“I would imagine there are people who would consider doing what I did,” she says, referring to that decision six years ago, “just out of pure desperation.”

Telford says her advice to parents is to keep advocating for their kids but to look after themselves, too.  She says these struggles take a toll on their health and their marriage.

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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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