TORONTO — Mothers of children with autism ripped Ontario Minister Lisa MacLeod Thursday for suggesting they buy iPads with funding through her government's new program.
"I think that is unbelievable. An iPad is not what is needed here," Brandi Tapp, whose five-year-old Henry receives government-funded therapy, told reporters.
"Evidence-based, science-based therapy is what is needed here."
Tapp travelled to Queen's Park from London, Ont. with another mother, Sarah Farrants.
"I told Lisa, 'What's my child going to do with an iPad? He can't talk,'" Farrants said.
MacLeod told CTV News on Wednesday that parents who receive $5,000 a year through the new autism program could spend it on technological aids like iPads.
Parents and advocates have said that the government's plan will deny kids with high needs the support they need. Behavioural therapy can cost as much as $85,000 a year for children with severe autism.
Tapp and Farrants followed MacLeod after she left question period and were invited into a private room to tell her their stories.
They said they felt no compassion from the minister during their conversation.
"We were thanked for coming all this way, coming from London today to speak with her, but told that we shouldn't get our hopes up," Tapp said. "Her decision has been made and it was final."
Farrants said it was hard to watch MacLeod's Progressive Conservative colleagues support her defence of the plan at question period.
"Listening to them and watching them applaud her ... there's no hope. They're taking it away from us. They're taking it away from our children."
Farrants' three-year-old, Mason, can't communicate or be around other children. She said if her son is forced into school instead of therapy, he might hurt another child. Mason throws things and hits people because he hasn't learned how to communicate in other ways.
"It's just an accident waiting to happen."
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Tapp said she would rather spend years on a waiting list than go forward with MacLeod's new program.
"She is offering substandard therapies to 23,000 children so she can look good on paper."
MacLeod said the women's stories were "heartbreaking" but she won't change the plan.
"As a mother, I can appreciate parents fighting for their children. As the minister, I have to make sure that I'm supporting as many children as possible."
She said it is better to spread the funding out to all families than to have thousands waiting for the therapy they need.
"We've made a decision. The decision stands."
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