Hundreds gather at Queen’s Park to protest the new Ontario Autism Program, in the hopes of reversing the Ford government’s move to cap funding based on age and income on March 7, 2019.
Dave Abel / Toronto Sun
Mr. Doug Ford,I am one of the 17 people who lost their job here in Windsor. It’s a strange feeling knowing you’re one of the 17 when you see that number blasted all over social media and news outlets.I am a first time mom at home on maternity leave. I was nine months into my maternity leave when I received the call that my job was terminated effective immediately.Autism treatment can be difficult to understand. Perhaps if I explain to you what we have been doing for these past years, you will have a better understanding. Knowledge is power, Mr. Ford, and I fear you’ve made a decision without understanding its impact. As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve lit a fire in a community that has spread across our province.Do you know that autism is a spectrum disorder? This means no two persons with autism are the same. Their ‘autism’ ranges on scale from low to high. Still, two persons with low-functioning autism are vastly different. That means that for every child who comes into our program, a course of treatment is created specific to that child’s needs. Once a child has received a diagnosis and is admitted to our program, we perform a series of baseline tests to determine their development age and core deficits to be targeted.Each client (little boys and girls), has a very large binder filled with evidence-based programs that we implement intensively for six hours a day. Each program has a specific method to teach the behaviour, to correct a wrong response and to track each trial. When I say trial, I mean over 100 trials a day. That’s how intensively this programs works. This doesn’t even begin to cover the negative behaviours that we track, divert, redirect and reduce. Have you ever taught a child intensively while simultaneously dodging hits, kicks, slaps, bites or head butts to the face? We have.All the information we’ve gathered, trials we’ve tracked and progress we’ve made gets computed into data. This gets transferred into graphs to track progress so we can see trends and know how to continue or alter treatment for the next day.This job isn’t easy, Mr. Ford, and it isn’t a job that many can do. We go through years of schooling and practicums to learn the theory behind this job. Then, we go through intensive training ourselves in order to keep our jobs. Then, we are constantly monitored and evaluated while doing our jobs. We are videotaped, we are critiqued and we are required to do our job with perfect precision. Many people have tried to do our job but are unsuccessful. It’s very hard.That’s why this intensive treatment is so effective. If it were easy, perhaps it wouldn’t be so effective. Do you know what happens to children with autism? They turn into adults with autism. Autism doesn’t go away and it cannot be cured. It can be treated, though. Treated so that these young people with autism can turn into well adjusted adults with autism. So that these adults with autism can communicate their needs and wants, so that they can have basic self-help skills needed to live life with a form of independence and quality. We give people a quality of life that they and their families could not do on their own.You have the power to make very impactful changes on a personal and a global level. I’m sure this power often makes decisions difficult, as I’m sure admitting mistakes can be difficult. We live in one of the world’s most powerful and inclusive countries. That’s why it is so difficult to comprehend, that after so many decades of moving forward, so much time spent advocating for those who don’t have a voice, so much research and time, that we have taken so many steps backward.Will you recognize the mistake that has been made in our province? Will you consider making a more informed decision? Please, don’t let this be the legacy you leave behind, Mr. Ford. You can still make this right.Kayleigh Strickland, Former Ontario Autism Therapist, Belle River