Autism therapy helped Daniel learn to speak, do math, and decide he’ll get married

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Daniel Thompson, 10, wants to grow up to build a 27-storey tower. He has a best friend named Marcus and he plans to marry his other friend Hannah.

He also has autism.

And five years ago, this boy couldn’t have cared less if there were another kid in the room.

Serena Thompson says that most of the changes she’s seen in her son are thanks to the team of behavioural specialists the family has worked with since 2013 when it accessed direct funding from the government.

“He has friends. He talks about wanting a job,” the York region mother said. “If he didn’t have this kind of intervention, he certainly wouldn’t be where he is right now.”

Daniel with project

Daniel, 10, has grown to like math and is in Grade 5. He’s doing grade-level work on his own without assistance. (Submitted: Serena Thompson)

It’s a source of funding that the province had threatened to cut. But Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau indicated Monday that the funding may continue — and that families may be able to apply for either the province’s updated Intensive Behavioural Intervention program or for funding that they could use to pay for private programs they choose themselves.

Thompson said that it’s critical for the province to continue the direct funding option. For those children who have already found successful therapies, like Daniel, it could be “life-altering” to lose, she said.

Marking milestones

Daniel was diagnosed with autism at 26 months. He didn’t speak until he was four, a milestone his mother also credits to behavioural and speech therapy, on which the family initially spent about $7,000 a month, she said.

The lion’s share of that came from her mother’s retirement funds, Thompson said.

For the past four years, the Thompsons have relied on the direct funding option to cover a team that’s helped their son to communicate. To make friends. To learn math and to talk about that — and the rest of his day — around the dinner table.

The funding pays for 20 hours of weekly one-to-one therapy. He also has checkups with a speech and language pathologist whose recommendations are integrated into his life and schooling, his mother said.

He’s now in Grade 5 and he’s cruising through the curriculum, she said.

Toronto Michael Coteau

Michael Coteau, the Minister of Children and Youth Services, said he’d like to continue the direct funding option for autism therapy. (CBC)

Thompson also acts as the executive director of The Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre, a school that she co-founded after neither the public nor the private system could address Daniel’s needs, she said. It’s a for-profit education institution for children with autism.

Coteau’s announcement Monday acted as an olive branch for parents like Thompson.

But it’s not yet a done deal.

“We’re just trying to figure out the mechanics behind how that would work,” Coteau told the Canadian Press. “But that would be my preference to move forward in that direction in June.”

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Autism therapy helped Daniel learn to speak, do math, and decide he’ll get married

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