Important autism ruling

Judge supports boy despite age cap
Ruling may open doors for others

CHRISTIAN COTRONEO
STAFF REPORTER

An Ontario court is ordering the government to pay for a 7-year-old autistic boy’s treatment, in a decision that may widen the door for hundreds more cases.

Eric Naccarato would suffer “irreparable harm” if he left the government-funded Intensive Early Intervention Program, or IEIP, even though he has exceeds the program’s six-year age cap, Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau ruled.

When the Hamilton boy turned 6 in July of last year, the Ontario government stopped paying for his therapy. To keep him in the program, his parents took over the payments. They eventually had to scale back his time at the centre to three days, and enrol him in a special public school program for the remaining time.

But the boy’s treatment, called applied behaviour analysis, requires intense, one-on-one sessions in which behaviour, language and social skills are constantly being reinforced. Eric’s parents told the court his behaviour was beginning to unravel in a normal school setting. The costs – from $45,000 to $80,000 per year – on the other hand, prevented them from keeping him in therapy.

Lawyers representing the attorney-general argued that by keeping Eric in one of the program’s 500 spots, another younger child who could benefit even more from the treatment would be denied.

The court has ordered the government to ignore the IEIP’s age limit on a handful of occasions in recent years and the numbers are certain to grow.

“Not one of the children that’s applied in this province, that was formally part of the IEIP has been turned down,” said Norrah Whitney, whose son was granted an injunction last year.

In addition, she said the Ontario Human Rights Commission is hearing an estimated 160 families, seeking similar measures.

But Rouleau maintained that Eric’s case is too unique to affect many other families.

Additional articles by Christian Cotroneo

END LEGAL BATTLE WITH AUTISTIC KIDS: MARTEL
Court rules denying child IBI would cause “irreparable harm”

SUDBURY – NDP Health Critic Shelley Martel says the McGuinty Liberal
government should call off its legal battle with families of autistic
children following a court ruling ordering the province to extend
treatment to a child over six.

“Dalton McGuinty should stop making autistic children and their families
beg the courts for medically necessary treatment,” Martel said. “He
should keep his promise and scrap the province’s unfair practice of
cutting off IBI treatment once a child turns six.”

In an important Ontario court ruling yesterday, Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau
ordered the provincial government to pay for a 7-year-old autistic boy’s
IBI treatment. The judge found that Eric Naccarato, of Hamilton, would
suffer “irreparable harm” if he left the government-funded IBI program.

Twenty-nine Ontario families are still in court trying to obtain
government-funded IBI therapy for their children. An estimated 160
families also have cases pending before the Ontario Human Rights
Tribunal where they’re arguing the current government policy of denying
children widely-hailed IBI treatment after age six is discriminatory.

Denying children that treatment is a major Liberal broken promise.
During the election, McGuinty sent a letter to parent Nancy Morrison
saying: “I also believe that the lack of government-funded IBI treatment
for autistic children over six is unfair and discriminatory. The Ontario
Liberals support extending autism treatment beyond the age of six.” Now,
McGuinty refuses to keep his promise.

“Dalton McGuinty should call off his lawyers and fund IBI treatment
through OHIP to ensure every child who needs the medically necessary treatment gets it – like he promised,” Martel said.

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