“Your plan is a cop-out and doesn’t help any child in a meaningful way!”

Jessica Knowles was part of an emotionally charged showdown of sorts between parents of children living with autism and two local politicians in Barrie on Friday.

She, along with dozens of other parents, gathered at the IBI Behavioural Services centre to face MPP’s Doug Downey and Andrea Khanjin. 

Parents and grandparents expressed their frustration over the Ford Government’s changes to the autism funding program.

Knowles four-year-old son has autism.  She says the government doesn’t understand her son’s diagnosis. 

“The thing with autism is it’s all about unlocked potential.” She says she believes the government’s priorities are in the wrong place. “It’s more about the money than it is about the children’s needs.”

The MPP’s spent nearly two hours listening to families, many who are still on the waitlist, and all in agreement that the new formula is the wrong answer.

“If you’re going to use something it has to be based on their diagnosis, it can’t be their age or parent’s income, we’ve already stretched it as far as we can,” says mom Tracey Tillipaugh.

“Everyone across the province is going to be getting bread crumbs,” says IBI Behavioural Services founder, Amanda Baysarowich.  “This is insulin for diabetes.  This is the chemo for the cancer patient.  This has been deemed a medically required treatment for kids with autism.”

The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod, announced the changes as a way to clear the backlog of 23,000 children currently on a waitlist for funding. 

But parents and advocates say it will only have a ripple effect on social services.

“The taxpayers are going to pay a far greater cost in the future when these children are sent into group homes, institutional care, hospitals and correctional facilities because they don’t have the tools now to become functioning members of society,” Baysarowich says.

For Downey and Khanjin today was about listening.

“I think it’s important to hear the parent’s stories so we can relay their experiences, and in particular, their concerns for the future,” Downey says.

When asked if he believed there would be any changes made to the program, Downey answered, “We’ve rolled out our position on autism, and we’ve been communicating that position and the rationale for that position.”

Parents continued to press the politicians to push for change to the program.

“The intent was a genuine one,” explains Khanjin.  “We’ve seen that one size can’t fit all, but we are trying to achieve the greatest results for as many children as possible.”

Baysarowich hopes that the conservatives will bring more back to Queen’s Park.  “Fight for a change,” she pleads.  “Make this program equitable, make it fair, and give these children what they clinically deserve.”

Today's group admit they aren’t surprised about a lack of commitment from the MPP’s, but add their fight is far from over.

A massive rally outside Queen’s Park is planned for March 7.

- With files from Mike Walker