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Fighting for their family: Sudbury couple spends family day travelling for autism rally
SUDBURY -- For Julia Ritchie-Staddon and Sean Staddon, of Sudbury, the fight to have needs-based funding for children and youth with autism is a personal one.
"We have two children, June and Chaz. They’re both autistic and so we’ve been paying for therapy for our oldest June, who is four, for the past two years, which has been really hard on our family. It comes at a great cost and we can’t even afford everything that she needs. So, she needs about $45,000 to $50,000 a year and we can only afford so much, and now our son just started therapy this past January, which is wonderful, we’re really happy for him, but it’s a lot of strain on our family," said Ritchie-Staddon.
CTV caught up with the couple via Skype on Monday as they were traveling to Toronto for a rally planned by the Ontario Autism Coalition.
In a release, the non-profit group says families of children with autism from across the province will once again gather at Queen’s Park on Tuesday morning, to demand that the Ford government provide needs-based funding to children and youth with autism without delay.
The release goes on to read:
"Despite widespread public opposition, the Ford government is continuing its rollout of childhood budgets. While Minister (Todd) Smith has offered access to one-time funding to those on the wait-list, these interim payments are the same as childhood budgets—just under a different name. The one-time funding provides the same fixed amount of money based on their child’s age ($20,000 for children under six, and $5,000 for children six and over), which completely ignores a child’s individual level of need. While Doug Ford forces children to wait, these amounts will not sustain services, and they come nowhere close to covering the real costs of intensive therapy for those with high needs. And as a result, potentially disastrous interruption in therapy programs will occur during the next year."
The Sudbury parents say they hope to bring a voice to northern Ontario issues during the event.
"The north is really unique. First of all, we have a really amazing French population. A lot of our cities have francophone families and we didn’t feel that they were being represented by moving to the cash budget system. And we also want to ensure that this government has meaningful conversations with our Indigenous families in northern Ontario because this budget system impacts them… and then just travel alone," said Ritchie-Staddon. "I’m originally from Chapleau, and the cost to bring a therapist into Chapleau would eat up a family's budget. So, we really felt that it was important that someone needed to talk about those three main issues."
Staddon sits on the Ontario Autism Coalition board and will be speaking at the protest.
"I really want to use this opportunity to amplify their voices. The OAC has done a great job of hold space for us. So, I want to use that opportunity to make sure people across northern Ontario get their say," said Staddon.
In addition to attending the protest, the couple will also spend an extra day in Toronto to be able to speak with a couple of MPP’s one-on-one.
"The MPP from Parry Sound-Muskoka, some members from the Ministry of Francophonie Affairs, they all got back to us and said 'yes,' they wanted to sit down and it’s really gonna be an opportunity for us to have some of that one-on-one time with them to highlight their constituents issues," said Staddon.
Sudbury MPP Jamie West says he will be attending the protest in support of the couples' work through the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance.
"Sean and Julia, from Sudbury, have done a great job along with others in the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance of advocating for the north and being very clear about what’s important to the north. And I’m thrilled to see these people who don’t want to be activists. They don’t want to have to do this, but are doing it because they’re being thrust in the way and have to fight a government that is really treating them unfairly," said West. "We should not be filling the lawns at Queen’s Park, and Doug Ford knows this, because when the Liberals got it wrong, he promised this community you’ll never have to fill the lawn at Queens Park to fight for your children again. Not only did they have to do that last year, they are having to do it again this year, and it’s just heartbreaking to see."
The rally, Relentless Part 2, will take place on the lawn of Queen’s Park in Toronto at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 18.