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April 6, 2011

Statement to the Legislature

The Honourable Laurel Broten
Minister of Children and Youth Services

United Nations World Autism Awareness Day (April 2)

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to rise today to mark United Nations World Autism Awareness Day.

Every year on April 2nd, the recognition of this day promotes greater understanding of autism and positive perceptions about the remarkable people living with this relatively new disorder.

Ten years ago— we knew very little about autism and we had only just begun to attempt to respond to the needs of children with autism.

Today, we know that there are effective therapies for kids and valuable supports for their families.

Our government understands the challenges that kids with autism and their families face and seek to overcome every day.

That is why we are determined to continue to build on the important investments and improvements made to date.

We have removed the previous government’s age six cut-off to receive Intensive Behavioural Intervention – or IBI - therapy.

We have more than quadrupled funding for autism and almost tripled the number of kids getting IBI.

We have made transition teams available in every publicly-funded school board. These teams help kids make the shift to school a smooth one – so that they have every opportunity to succeed and learn with their peers.

Overall, more than 10,000 kids are being supported in schools.

We helped almost 2,000 kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders go to March Break and summer camps.

Our investments in research to examine the genetic causes of the disorder are ensuring that Ontario is a leader in autism research.

Most recently, with advice from parents, experts and service providers, our government developed a plan to significantly enhance autism supports for kids across the entire spectrum by establishing programs based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis - or ABA.

ABA-based programs help kids become more independent and develop basic life skills – like getting dressed for school, socializing with peers, eating meals with family, or communicating with others.

About 8,000 more kids will be able to access these important skill-building supports each year, starting later this spring.

Mr. Speaker, while we often focus our attention on young people with autism, it is also important that we recognize the strengths and potential of adults with autism.

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting two remarkable young adults with ASD at an event hosted by the Geneva Centre for Autism.

Kaitrin Beechey is a celebrated artist whose work features fantasy places and characters, often with underlying themes of acceptance, equality and social responsibility. Kaitrin says her ASD positively influences her whimsical drawings, one of which hangs proudly at the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

It was also wonderful to meet Ron Adea, who was diagnosed with autism when he was three. He started playing piano soon after and is now a classical pianist, and a feature performer at fundraising concerts and festivals.

Mr. Speaker, in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, I want to reaffirm our government’s commitment to create a continuum of service, to work with our dedicated partners and to support people across the autism spectrum – and their families.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.