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The Ontario group says Lisa MacLeod told them it would be "four years" if they did not support autism changes

Ontario's Child, Community, and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod speaks during an announcement in Toronto on February 6, 2019.

Chris Young / The Canadian Press

Ontario's Child, Community and Social Affairs Minister Lisa MacLeod is facing allegations that she told a group of behavioral analysts to publicly support the County Administrative Board's autism program or that it would be "four long years" for the organization.

The Ontario Association for Behavior Analysis said in a note to its 1,200 members on Wednesday that Ms MacLeod and her staff asked the non-profit organization for a quote in support of its changes in the autism program without providing full details of the message.

"Just a few days before the announcement on February 6, 2019, the minister and her staff requested that ONTABA provide a quote of support … and stated that failure to do so would lead to" four long years "for the organization", the email from the board of directors said.

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The note also said that Mrs MacLeod told the group that if public support was not provided, "a communication that behavioral analysts are" self-interested "would be released from her office."

ONTABA's incoming president, Kendra Thompson, who said she didn't hear the comments first, interpreted the remarks to mean that "the employment relationship we would have ceased to exist with that government." The group has expressed concern that the latest changes announced by Ontario will leave many children without the level of therapy they need.

"From the short interactions we had … the communication was not meaningful. It was prescriptive. It was" let's tell us what we do, "but not" will you hear what we do, "she said.

In a statement, MacLeod's spokesman did not deny the accusations but said the government's first priority had always been to support families of children and adolescents with autism.

"Despite collaborative dialogues that took place over six months of consultation, ONTABA was unhappy with its willingness to self-regulate and reluctant to work with the government to open the sector to give parents more choice in support services for children with autism," spokesman Derek Rowland said.

"We are still committed to working with all stakeholders who are dedicated to clearing the waiting list and giving parents the opportunity to make decisions that are in the best interest of their family and children with autism."

Ms. MacLeod announced last week that to clear a backlog of 23,000 children waiting for publicly funded autism therapy, families will receive up to $ 140,000 to pay for treatment – although funding will be subject to annual caps such as families and advocates saying will fall far short of what is needed for intensive treatment.

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Funding is dependent on age, rather than individual needs for different intensity levels. Families receive a maximum of $ 140,000 for a child in treatment from 2 to 18 years, also dependent on family income, but advocates say intensive therapy can cost up to $ 80,000 a year.

Families will receive up to $ 20,000 a year until their child is 6 years old. From that time to 18 years it would be up to $ 5,000 a year.

Ms MacLeod also reported the Waterloo Region Record reported that Autism Ontario was among the organizations that support her plan, but the group released a statement saying it is not true.

"Autism Ontario did not propose or approve the announced changes [Ontario Autism Program] and is concerned about the impact these changes will have on children and families who gain access to the program, it says in a statement.

With a report by Caroline Alphonso and The Canadian Press

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