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Families and supporters gather for Emergency Autism Town Hall meeting (update)

The meeting was at the Kingsdale Community Centre

Families affected by the conservative government's changes to autism funding gathered to share their stories. 

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife, Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo and Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor came together for an Emergency Autism Town Hall meeting.

This is after the conservative government chose to overhaul the Ontario Autism program, changing the amount of funding regional service providers can get.

"We've been hearing from our constituents that this program is 110% not going to work," Lindo tells 570 NEWS. "What I am hearing from parents is its as though they're being given a false choice. They won't have the money that they need to have the choice of the most effective therapy for their kids who are living with autism."

Janet McLaughlin, an autism researcher from Wilfrid Laurier University, spoke at the town hall. She told 570 NEWS that the biggest problem with the proposed changes is that the government is not recognizing the wide spectrum. 

"The main problem is that the system does not take need into account," McLaughlin tells 570 NEWS. "What this program does it gives every child and youth regardless of their need the exact same amount of money and what that is based on is age and family income."

McLaughlin says those who require an intensive amount of support won't get it under this system. 

The discussion was held at the Kingsdale Community Centre in Kitchener, in the riding of Conservative MPP Amy Fee. 

"We're hosting this meeting specifically in Kitchener South Hespeler which is Amy Fee's riding because during the election she made promises to these parents and to this community and we feel strongly that she either has to step up and fight Doug Ford's plan or she needs to step down," Catherine Fife told 570 NEWS. 

"We moved through the system very quickly probably because of my son's severity, because the old system was needs based and his needs are very high," Mark Dineen, whose six-year-old son was diagnosed three years ago, tells 570 NEWS. His son has been receiving intensive therapy and he's extremely worried about these changes.

"We're going to be in the group that's most affected by this. My assumption has always been that the parents that the government talks about that are grateful for the change are ones that don't understand the difference between a low needs child and a high needs child."

Lindo said some of her constituents are have increased concerns about available resources in schools after the government suggested school boards freeze all hiring. She is saying conservative MPP's need to be held accountable but is trying not to lose all hope. 

"I'm going to try really hard to be hopefully because the reality is parents and their families are feeling like there is no hope and I do think that one of the things that we have to do as part of the official opposition is bring the hope; bring the hope Lisa McLeod at Queen's Park said nobody should have, well we're going to bring it because we can do better than this, we have to do better than this, and we will do better than this."

Dineen says the proposed funding amounts is wasteful. 

"In my opinion, the budget here for this program is extremely wasteful. By spreading it far too thin, by ignoring clinical recommendations they are wasting all of the money by not supporting the kids enough to have an appreciable impact."

With files from Phi Doan

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