By Patrick Maloney, The London Free Press
Monday, April 18, 2016
Jordan Boufford, 17, a teen with autism who greatly benefitted from Intensive Behavioural Intervention, is speaking out against a move by the provincial government to limit funding for the treatment to autistic children no older than four.
As families and activists battle against changes to an Ontario government-funded treatment for autistic children, a London teen who’s been through it already is at the tip of the spear.
Jordan Boufford, 17, has benefited from a decade-plus of so-called IBI therapy which the provincial Liberals will no longer fund for children older than age four and he met with heavy-hitting London MPP Deb Matthews, the deputy premier, during a recent protest outside her office.
An aspiring chef, Boufford’s social traits progressed tremendously over years of IBI, and he urged Matthews to make her government reverse the changes that have enraged autism advocates provincewide.
“I think it’s very unfair, to say the least,” Boufford, who is in high school and interning at a restaurant, said of the changes.
“It (IBI) helps me communicate and socialize and learn how to calm down. And that’s something I always do.”
Cynthia Boufford, Jordan’s mother, says they’re obviously not fighting for themselves but for the next generation of autistic kids who would benefit greatly from years of IBI.
“At (age) nine (after a few years of the therapy), he couldn’t cut his own food,” she said. “Now, he can dice carrots better than I can. He wants to be a chef.”
“All your dreams for your kid are tied up in that therapy, and they’re taken away” by the province’s decision, Cynthia Boufford said.
The Ontario Liberals have unveiled the new Ontario Autism Program, which has more than $300 million in funding but the plan will cut off children age five and older from the intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy that families like the Bouffords so love.
That includes children older than five who’ve been languishing, some for years, on a waiting list.
The Liberals have reportedly said the changes will mean 16,000 more children will get treatment, though they’ll mostly get so-called ABA (applied behaviour analysis) therapy, which many activists consider far inferior to IBI.
According to the website autismspeaks.org, autism spectrum disorder and autism are general terms for a group of “complex disorders of brain development” characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviours.
The Canadian Press reports as of last year there were 2,192 kids on Ontario’s IBI waiting list.
Londoner Robert Brennan says his autistic seven-year-old grandson, Warren, was recently told he was seventh on the list until the list was nuked by the program changes.
He’s urging the Ontario Liberals to ease in the changes and honour the existing wait list.
“Don’t leave kids behind,” he said. “The way it’s modelled right now, an entire generation of kids including my grandson will get lost.”