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Change coming to controversial autism program, minister says

TORONTO—Ontario’s new minister in charge of the autism file says changes are in the works following the controversial revamp of the treatment program announced earlier this year.

Michael Coteau was brought in to put a fresh face on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services after his predecessor, Tracy MacCharles, was moved out of the portfolio — the only major demotion in the recent cabinet shuffle.

MacCharles and Premier Kathleen Wynne had hinted that they were considering tweaking the transition to the new program, but Coteau is signalling that he is looking even more broadly, to not just the transition plan, but the program itself.

“I hope to be in a place quite shortly where we can come forward with several recommendations for changes,” he said in an interview. “I think that there will be elements of both areas that I’d like to focus on.”

The Liberal government has announced, as part of a new Ontario Autism Program rolling out in 2018, that it will stop funding Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) for kids five and older, instead transitioning them to “enhanced Applied Behavioural Analysis” (ABA) treatment.

In the meantime, families of the 835 children removed from the wait list were given $8,000 to pay for private treatment, but parents say that will only pay for, at most, a few months of intensive therapy.

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