Although she welcomed the resources officially announced Monday by the Ford government, Laura Elliott said only time will tell if the $12,300 per special-needs student is enough to cover the needs of new autistic students coming into schools
Although she welcomed the resources officially announced Monday by the Ford government, Laura Elliott — director of education for the Thames Valley District school board — said only time will tell if the $12,300 per special-needs student is enough to cover the needs of new autistic students coming into schools.
“We are looking forward to having more money to support our students with autism, but we need more financial resources from the province overall for our students with special needs,” Elliott told The Free Press.
“We need to see the students coming into Thames Valley, assessing their needs and determining whether the $12,300 would be sufficient,” she added.
Education Minister and Tory MPP Lisa Thompson made the announcement Monday, as hundreds of kids may soon enter school because they will get less funding for therapy.
Families say that recently announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program that will kick in April 1 mean many of those children currently in government-funded, full-time therapy will have to instead transition into school. The government says there are 1,105 children with autism who are not in school.
Thompson, the MPP for Huron-Bruce, said school boards will get an average of $12,300 for each new student with autism entering the school system in the remaining months of this school year.
Initial estimates suggest the Thames Valley board would receive more than 20 new students between the first half of April and the end of June, with more students also expected in the fall, Elliott added.
One London mother was not impressed by Thompson’s announcement.
“I feel there are more questions than answers,” said Jessica Ashton, who son has autism.
“(The education minister) made the announcement and she said $3 billion, but that was the same budget. Before it was $3 billion, and now it’s $3 billion. So it’s the same amount of funds for thousands of more special needs children, that sounds like a cut to me,” Ashton noted.
The Thames Valley board spends about $4 million of its own money on top of what it receives from the government to support students with special-education needs, Elliott said.
“This funding will allow school boards to make sure there are proper supports available during the transition from therapy to school,” Thompson said in Ottawa.
The government is aiming to clear a wait list of 23,000 kids by spreading an existing pot of money to all children diagnosed with autism, instead of fully funding the treatment.