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Waterloo professor and mom of a son on autism spectrum named to Ontario autism panel

The Waterloo Record with Janet McLaughlin 30 May 2019

Waterloo’s Janet McLaughlin has been named to the province’s new expert panel on autism.

The 20-member panel announced Thursday includes parents of children with autism, clinicians, autism self-advocates, service providers, former public servants and others knowledgeable and experienced with autism.

McLaughlin is an associate professor in health studies at Wilfrid Laurier University and autism policy researcher. She’s also the mother of a son who is on the autism spectrum.

“I plan to bring my perspective as an affected parent, as well as my policy research background, to advocate for a needs-based therapy model,” McLaughlin said in an email.

“My views on this have always been quite clear, and my own child has benefited significantly from a needs-based therapy program.”

McLaughlin recently wrapped up a major study of autism policy and impacts on Ontario families with her Laurier colleague Margaret Schneider.

Her family waited years for her son to receive provincially funded services, prompting her to study the impact of autism on families.

“My hope is that all committee members will strive to be as objective and open-minded as possible in examining the input of parents, advocates, experts, and other stakeholders, and will be guided by evidence-based best practices,” she said.

 

The Tories encountered a swift public backlash earlier this year when they unveiled changes to the autism program that would grant funding based solely on age and family income, rather than a child’s level of needs. The province then held consultations to hear from the public.

The panel will provide recommendations to Lisa MacLeod, minister of children, community and social services, on the best way to incorporate the feedback from those public consultations into the Ontario Autism Program. The recommendations are expected in September.

 

“We continue to hear from families about how the Ontario Autism Program can better address the needs of children with autism,” MacLeod said in a statement.

“This advisory panel brings together people well-versed on autism to provide important advice and guidance.”