Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Autism News Articles Mailings - July 13-18, 2007

Autism News Articles

July 10th – July 17th 2007
To view this on-line

From a listmate:
location: Queen's Park
date: July 17, 2007 - 10:00am
NDP MPP Shelley Martel says yesterday’s decision by the Superior Court of Justice to dismiss further attempts by the McGuinty Liberal government to cover-up legal costs related to an autism court case, is a victory for her and for families with children with autism.
“For over three years, the McGuinty Liberals have stone walled every attempt I’ve made to get information about how much money they squandered fighting families in court, instead of giving them the IBI treatment their children needed. This court ruling makes it clear, the McGuinty Liberals have no excuse to hide this important information from the public anymore,” Martel said.
In May 2004, Martel filed Freedom of Information requests to find out how much taxpayers’ money the McGuinty Liberals had spent on lawyers in court, denying children with autism the treatment they needed. In February 2007, the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office ordered the government to release these costs but the McGuinty Liberals refused, and decided to appeal the IPC’s order, in court, instead. Yesterday, the Superior Court of Justice dismissed the government’s appeal.
“Parents and the public have a right to know how much of their money was spent fighting families in court instead of giving children with autism, the IBI treatment that Dalton McGuinty promised them. The McGuinty Liberals have no legal leg to stand on so they should stop stalling, stop hiding, and release this important information now,” said Martel.
Source URL:

From the Toronto Sun
Autism court fight tab $2.4M
Province forced to reveal figure


The Ontario government has revealed that its legal tab for a protracted court battle with the families of autistic children topped $2.4 million.
The figure was released yesterday in response to a ruling Monday by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that Queen's Park had no right to keep the information secret -- upholding an earlier decision by the province's information and privacy office.
Attorney General Michael Bryant said the government has spent $1.79 million on staff lawyer time and $619,584 on other costs since October 1999, when parents began a court action to secure intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy for children past age 6.
Bryant said his ministry believes that its legal costs are a matter of solicitor-client privilege, but would not appeal the court decision.
NDP MPP Shelley Martel, the author of the original Freedom of Information request filed in May 2004, said the public has a right to hold the government accountable for its use of tax dollars.

The Dalton McGuinty government promised to provide IBI treatment to autistic children over age 6 and then reneged, prompting their parents into a difficult and costly legal battle, she said.
"I find this broken promise to these families the most disagreeable of all the promises that were broken, the most unacceptable of all the promises that were broken, because vulnerable children, vulnerable families, are involved," Martel said.
The information and privacy commissioner ordered the government last February to release the legal cost to Martel, but the ministry appealed that decision.
Frank Addario, the lawyer for Martel, said that the government treats public information as if it belongs to government, and not to the people who elect MPPs.
Previous story: Gymnastics coach faces sex rap
Next story: Tory would open schools to communities
FROM a listmate:
Ont. won't fight order to disclose autism suit cost
Provided by: Canadian Press
Jul. 17, 2007
TORONTO (CP) - The Ontario government has spent slightly more than $2.4 million in taxpayer dollars on a seven-year court battle with the parents of autistic children, Attorney General Michael Bryant said Tuesday as he acceded to a court order that the figure be released.
In a ruling Monday, the Superior Court of Justice refused to allow the province to keep secret how much it has spent fighting a group of parents who sued the government over its refusal to fund intensive behavioural intervention therapy for autistic children older than six.
Bryant said the total - $2,414,431 - covers more than seven years of legal fees and includes $620,000 for various costs like court transcripts, and almost $1.8 million for the salaries of government lawyers who helped in the fight.
"It reflects the time that those lawyers spent on those files and extrapolating (a total) from their salary," Bryant said in an interview.
"Obviously they wouldn't work on just that particular case every day of the week and every hour of the day, so if you add up all the time they spent on the case, (it's $1.8 million)."
The government was first asked about its legal costs in 2004 when New Democrat critic Shelley Martel sought the total through requests under the province's Freedom of Information law.
The government fought that disclosure, but Martel continued to argue that the legal costs were a matter of public interest, because they would reveal how much money the government wasted on lawyers when it could have simply paid for the costly therapy.
"For over three years now they have stonewalled me; they have refused my requests to have this information released," Martel said.
"My sense is the reason the government (appealed) is because the amount of money here is quite significant and they (didn't) want the public to know."
Martel added that the amount of money the government spent fighting the case would have funded treatment for 50 autistic children for a year.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, who ruled earlier this year that the government should release the total, said she was "truly delighted" by the Superior Court ruling and the decision not to appeal.
"It says government secrecy cannot be the norm," Cavoukian said.
"For us it's such a big win because what it says is aggregate information about what the government spends to bring forward certain (legal) actions, that's public information."
Crown lawyers had argued the government's legal bills were covered by solicitor-client privilege and shouldn't be disclosed.
"It has always been the position of the attorney general that solicitor-client costs are privileged information and not just for this case, but for all cases," Bryant said.
Conservative Leader John Tory said he too was thrilled with the court decision and hoped it would be a step toward more government transparency.
"I've said previously that I think transparency is the No. 1 tool that the public has, and the media has, and the opposition has to actually ensure better government," Tory said.
"Because if the information comes out and it is embarrassing, human nature says that people react to that and do something about it."
Bryant said ministry officials began scrambling to make the number public after receiving the Superior Court decision on Monday.
"A team of ministry officials began crunching the numbers through the afternoon and the evening and all day (Tuesday)," he said.
"We wanted to get the numbers out as soon as possible."
The contents of this site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

FROM a Listmate
Government spent $2.4-million on autism court battle
July 18, 2007
The Ontario government revealed yesterday that it spent $2.4-million waging a long-running court battle with the parents of autistic children, after losing a legal fight to conceal the costs.
Attorney-General Michael Bryant said he will not seek to appeal a ruling by the divisional court of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice requiring the government to disclose how much it spent fighting families who want the province to continue financing expensive, intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy after their autistic children reach age six.
"It's in the public interest that we put an end to this, and disclose the information," Mr. Bryant said in an interview.
The government spent $1,794,847 on lawyers in the Attorney-General's office and another $619,584 on disbursements, bringing the total to $2,414,431, he said.
The government had made a concerted effort to keep the costs secret. Shelley Martel, a New Democratic member of the Ontario Legislature, began seeking the tally in 2004. Last February, Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said the government must disclose the costs by March 8, but the government sought a judicial review of that decision.
A three-judge panel of the divisional court rejected the government's argument that it did not have to disclose the costs because they were subject to solicitor-client privilege.
"That's a scandalous amount of money for a government to have spent breaking a promise to some of the most vulnerable kids in Ontario," Ms. Martel said in an interview. She said that money could have been spent on a year's worth of treatment for about 50 children.
The province's fight with parents of autistic children began in April, 2003, when 29 families sued the then Progressive Conservative government for denying their autistic children IBI therapy after age six.
During the 2003 election campaign, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said a Liberal government would extend treatment for children over age six. But it was not until mid-2005 - after the courts ruled that the province was violating the children's constitutional rights by denying them treatment - that he made good on that promise. The province successfully appealed that ruling last yea

Ontario's $2.4M court battle with parents of autistic kids
Canadian Press
July 17, 2007 at 6:35 PM EDT
TORONTO — The provincial government says it spent $2.4-million in its court battle with the parents of autistic children.
Attorney General Michael Bryant says the total covers more than seven years of legal fees, dating back to when the lawsuit was first launched in 1999.
A group of parents sued the government over its refusal to fund intensive behavioural intervention therapy for autistic children older than six.
The government had previously revealed that it spent almost $620,000 on trial transcripts and other costs.
But the Superior Court of Justice then ordered the government to disclose how much it spent on lawyers.
Mr. Bryant says government lawyers were used for the case, and almost $1.8-million of their salaries went toward defending against the lawsuit.
New Democrat Shelley Martel had filed a request under the province's Freedom of Information law to find out the cost of the province's legal bills but the government twice fought that disclosure.
Ms. Martel had argued the legal costs were a matter of public interest, because they would reveal how much money the government wasted on lawyers rather than providing treatment for children.
Crown lawyers had argued the government's legal bills were covered by solicitor-client privilege and shouldn't be disclosed.
They told the court that disclosing the fees would set a precedent that would apply to all lawyers and their clients across the province.
FROM a Listmate
FROM the

Province likely spent $2 million on autism suit
Jul 17, 2007 04:30 AM
Robyn Doolittle
For the second time this year, the Ontario government has been ordered to disclose how much it has spent fighting parents of autistic children in court – a figure that could be close to $2 million.
In June, after Ontario's information and privacy commissioner ordered the amount released, Premier Dalton McGuinty's government revealed it spent more than $600,000 on court-related costs. But the government refused to divulge lawyers' fees, saying that information was protected by solicitor-client privilege.
Not true, maintained NDP MPP Shelley Martel. And yesterday an Ontario court agreed.
The issue began in 2003, when 29 families sued the province for $100 million because their autistic children were denied treatment past age six. McGuinty had promised to extend support for autistic children during the 2003 election.
As for the amount the government has spent, Martel can only speculate.
In a similar case involving autistic children, the government sought to recover $16,000 a day in legal costs. Based on those figures, Martel expects the government has spent nearly $1.9 million.
The attorney general has 15 days to appeal the decision.
From a Listmate

Doctor behind MMR-autism scare faces U.K. hearing
Published: Monday, July 16, 2007
LONDON -- The British doctor who sparked a health scare by suggesting a childhood vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella is linked to autism faces a hearing on Monday into charges of professional misconduct during his research.
The General Medical Council hearing, expected to last 15 weeks, centres on research published in the Lancet medical journal in 1998 in which Andrew Wakefield and colleagues posited a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The claim led to fierce worldwide debate among researchers and caused a decline in MMR vaccinations that health experts in the United Kingdom say has not yet recovered to the level seen before Dr. Wakefield's study.
Scientific evidence suggests that vaccines are not linked to autism but a vocal group of people remain unconvinced.
Vaccine experts say parents often link vaccines with their children's symptoms because getting a shot can be upsetting, and children are vaccinated at an age when autism and related disorders are often first diagnosed.
The council will not look into the scientific claims but whether Wakefield and two colleagues -- John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch -- violated a number of ethical practices during the study involving young children.
"The panel will inquire into allegations of serious professional misconduct by Dr. Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch, in relation to the conduct of a research study involving young children from 1996-1998," the group said.
The council regulates doctors in Britain and could bar the three from practice. It said it would also look into charges Dr.Wakefield was involved in advising solicitors representing children claiming to have suffered harm due to the MMR vaccine.
Dr. Wakefield also faces a charge that he acted unethically by taking blood from children at a birthday party after offering them money and without proper ethical approval.
During the time of the study the three were employed at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Dr. Wakefield now works in the United States and said in a recent interview with the Observer newspaper he plans to defend himself vigorously.
"My concern is that it's biologically plausible that the MMR vaccine causes or contributes to the disease in many children, and that nothing in the science so far dissuades me from the continued need to pursue that question," Dr. Wakefield said.
Before Dr. Wakefield's study, more than 90% of children in the United Kingdom received the vaccination, according to government figures. After his warning that figure fell to around 80% before rising to 85% in 2007.
The World Health Organisation target is 95%, a level that protects the wider population from potential outbreaks and epidemics.
From a Listmate
From Comments Page From The Toronto Sun

Bad math
Re "'Education premier' lays off support staff" (Sid Ryan, July 13): The school board's funding formula is not a "work in progress" -- it is a fundamentally flawed, archaic additive, in which 1+1 ought to equal 2. One special needs child plus one support staff equal successful inclusion. Why is that a difficult equation for our "education premier"? Continuous cuts to special education will not only cause undue hardship to children and youth with additional needs, it will put them further behind their typically developing peers. Support staff are the vital link to thriving, learning and belonging. Mathematics 101 is a course offered to all -- sign up, and don't forget that support staff "add" value to all who attend any classroom.
Lillian Wagman
(That sums it up)
From a Listmate
Autism joins the campaign trail
Parents vow to make politicians improve services for children

Premier Bob Rae's re-election bid was dogged by social-contract-hating protesters.
Giant flip-flops followed Liberal Lyn McLeod around during the 1995 campaign to spotlight same-sex rights.
Mike Harris was swarmed by Kraft Dinner-throwing poverty protesters in 1999.
Now, Premier Dalton McGuinty can expect to find his election steps haunted by a group of parents who intend to make autism front and centre in the coming provincial campaign, which gets officially underway on Sept. 10.
Richmond Hill's Taline Sagharian, the mother of a 10-year-old son, told Sun Media this week that this new group is determined to play a "very strong" advocacy role in the election, bringing the issue directly to the politicians on the hustings.

"It's a small group of families right now but it's snowballing," she said. "It's going to be a new and different thing."
The group is in its infancy -- members are still choosing a name -- and it is debating a number of possible actions.
In particular, they are focusing on issues around Intensive Behavioural Intervention therapy (IBI): The long waiting list for government support, the gap between what the government pays and what the service actually costs ,and the lack of IBI in public schools.
With these supports, children with autism can lead more rewarding and productive lives, Sagharian said.
Without access to this expensive but effective form of therapy, children with autism may face a bleaker future in even more costly group homes, she said.
One in 165 people -- an estimated 70,000 in Ontario -- are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, a developmental disability that affects the development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.
Prior to the 2003 election, McGuinty wrote a letter to Nancy Morrison, who had remortgaged her house several times to pay for therapy for her son, to say that he did not see why children over age 6 should be cut off from government coverage for IBI.
That commitment did not make it into McGuinty's official election platform but families of autistic children held him to the promise.
Several years and court cases later, the Liberals have provided more funding for autism services, removed the age cut off and offered some form of therapy in schools.
But with a waiting list of more than 900, and schools still refusing to provide IBI, parents are frustrated.
Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers this week announced $530,000 in funds to help send kids with autism to camp.
Chambers told Sun Media that she believes that her government has lived up to its promises, no longer discharging children from the IBI wait list when they get to age 6. There's also 1,200 kids receiving funding for IBI, she said.
Tory MPP Frank Klees said the government could have fully funded the waiting list but chose to spend its money on other projects such as a $400-million casino overhaul.
The Conservatives are promising a $75-million autism plan that would give parents more choice in choosing service providers.
The NDP have called for more support for children with autism, but have yet to release an election platform.
Dalton McGuinty (Liberal)
"I'd ask Ontarians to take a look at what we inherited and what we've done so far. There were no services available for children once they reached the age of 6; they were cut off. That was a Tory policy. We've changed that. Furthermore, there were no services available in our schools. We've changed that as well."
(Sept. 25, 2006)
John Tory (PC)
"We're going to do what we say we will do. Clear the waiting lists, respect parents, and give vulnerable children the support they need -- these steps will be job number one. People will be able to rely on my word."
(Feb. 23, 2007)
Howard Hampton (NDP)
"Children with autism and their families need action, not buck passing. They need someone to stand up for them and their kids. I am calling on Dalton McGuinty to do the right thing and extend IBI treatment to every child who needs it without delay. It's only fair."


Attention News Editors:
McGuinty Government Providing More Assistance For Children And Youth With Special Needs In Sudbury
More Than $1.78 Million In Investments A Boost For Sudbury's Most
Vulnerable Young People

SUDBURY, ON, July 12 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is helping community
agencies in Sudbury provide more services and programs for children, youth and
families facing mental health and behavioural challenges, as well as families
of children and youth with autism, Minister of Children and Youth Services
Mary Anne Chambers and Rick Bartolucci, MPP for Sudbury announced today.
"When we were elected, our government made it a priority to give children
and youth with mental health challenges the support they need to reach their
full potential," said Chambers. "That's why we have increased funding in the
sector by nearly $80 million since 2003-04. We will continue to strengthen
community programs and services to ensure that children and youth get the
mental health services they need delivered in an integrated and holistic way
close to home."
"Our government continues to work hard on many fronts to respond sooner
and make a real difference in the lives of our province's most vulnerable
young people and their families," said Bartolucci. "Through these additional
investments, we are providing young people in Sudbury with the supports and
opportunities they need to overcome the challenges they experience in life."
As a result of a five per cent increase in base annual funding, more than
$481,000 in new funding is being shared among eight Sudbury agencies to
enhance services to children and youth with mental health and behavioural
challenges. Six of these agencies also received a total of $1,271,800 as part
of government investments last fall to better serve children, youth and
families while strengthening local economies.
This is the second increase in base annual funding to the child and youth
mental health sector by the McGuinty government since 2004. Prior to the 2004
budget, the sector had not received a base increase for 12 consecutive years.
Sudbury will also share in a $4.5 million investment in regional annual
allocations to address community priorities, of which Northern Ontario will
receive $229,800.
The new funding is part of an additional $24.5 million annual investment
in child and youth mental health across the province, which includes $2
million annually that would enable agencies to provide immediate support to
communities faced with an extraordinary crisis.
"The government's investment ensures that the Child and Family Centre can
continue striving to provide timely and effective support to children, youth
and families facing mental health challenges in the Districts of Sudbury and
Manitoulin," said Susan Nicholson, Executive Director of the Child and Family
Centre, a fully accredited children's mental health agency in Sudbury. "This
base funding increase is wonderful, long awaited news for all of the
communities that we serve."
The McGuinty government is also providing more than $31,000 to Child Care
Resources, site of today's announcement, to deliver summer camp programming to
50 children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in Sudbury. This
funding is part of a provincewide investment of $530,000 that is providing
camp experiences this summer to more than 800 children and youth with ASD. It
includes $320,000 to Autism Ontario to reimburse families who hire support
workers to assist approximately 500 children and youth at autism-support camps
this summer. Approximately $210,000 will be used by nine camps across the
province for autism-support summer programming. Child Care Resources also
received $28,000 as part of government investments last fall to better serve
children, youth and families.
"By investing in summer camps for children and youth with autism, we are
strengthening and broadening the continuum of services available for children
and their families," said Chambers. "Summer camps not only help maintain
skills gained during the school year, they also give families a bit of relief
while their children receive expert care in a positive setting."
"The government's investment will allow 50 children and youth with autism
in and around Sudbury to experience the joys of summer camp," said Lois Mahon,
Executive Director of Child Care Resources. "These young people will have a
summer to remember while their families will get a well-deserved break knowing
their children are in good hands."

Disponible en français




In 2007-08, the Ontario government is investing an additional $24.5
million across the province to enhance child and youth mental health services.
The new funding builds on previous investments in more than 260 child and
youth mental health agencies and 17 hospital-based outpatient programs across
the province. It will be shared in the following three ways among
community-based organizations that provide services to children and youth with
social and behavioural problems and mental health challenges, some of whom may
have other special needs such as autism spectrum disorder:

1) A five per cent increase in base annual funding to child and youth
mental health agencies, totaling $18 million, to reduce wait times
and help address cost pressures. This is the second increase in
base annual funding for the children's mental health sector
provided by the McGuinty government since 2004. Prior to the 2004
budget, the sector had not received a base increase for 12
consecutive years.

Eight Sudbury agencies will receive more than $481,000 in
additional funding:

Agency 5% base increase over 2006/07
Child and Family Centre $282,086
Children's Community Network $36,559
Conseil Scolaire De District Du Grand Nord De L'Ontario $5,809
Hôpital Régional De Sudbury Regional Hospital $27,744
L'Association des Jeunes de la Rue Inc. $3,297
Rainbow District School Board $4,881
The Children's Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury
and Manitoulin $4,992
Northeast Mental Health Centre $116,025

2) $4.5 million in regional annual allocations to address community
priorities based on the ministry's new Policy Framework for Child
and Youth Mental Health, of which the ministry's northern region
will receive $229,800. Investment decisions will be made through a
collaborative, community-based process.

3) $2 million annually that would enable agencies to provide immediate
children's mental health support when a local community is faced
with an extraordinary crisis or circumstance.

Disponible en français

For further information: Contacts: Tricia Edgar, Minister's Office,
(416) 212-7161, (416) 571-7247 (Cell); Anne Machowski-Smith, Ministry of
Children and Youth Services, (416) 325-5156


From a Listmate
From the Desk of Rick Rollens:

According to information released this week by California's Department of Developmental Services (DDS) during the second quarter of 2007 (April - June) California added a record 961 new cases of autism to it's developmental services system. As stated many times before in these Reports, the numbers being reported by DDS only reflect those children that have received a professional diagnosis of full syndrome DSM IV autism, and do not include those with any other autism spectrum disorder such as PDD, NOS, Asperger's, HFA, Retts, etc. Those who have been found eligible with a autism spectrum disorder are counted in the Fifth Category, and not in the autism count. The numbers reported by DDS also do not include any children under the age of three years old. With few exceptions, children entering California's developmental services system with full syndrome autism do so by age 9 years old.

The previous all time record quarter was the recent 4th. quarter of 2006 when 956 new cases were added. California continues to add on average, 10 new children a day, seven days a week with full syndrome autism to it's system. There has been a 16% increase in the number of new cases of autism entering the system comparing the first six months of 2006 to the first six months of 2007. California's present developmental services system has been in place since 1969, with autism being added as a qualifying condition in 1971.

Full syndrome autism now accounts for roughly 60% ( up from 3% twenty years ago) of all intakes into the system, with the combined numbers of persons with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and fifth category conditions accounting for the remaining 40% of the caseload growth. Autism continues to be the fastest growing developmental disability in California. Twenty years ago in 1987 there were 2700 persons with autism in the system. Today, in 2007, there are nearly 35000 persons with full syndrome autism in the system.

The age distribution for the autism population is unlike any of the other conditions served in California's DD system. Wherein with MR, CP, and Epilepsy 55-60% of the population is over the age of 22 years old, with autism only 16% of the population is over the age of 22, with 84% under the age of 21 and 80% between the ages of 3 and 21 years old. 92% of the population was born after 1980.

DDS is preparing a complete and comprehensive new report on autism that will cover the period of 2002- 2006. The two previous California Reports covering the periods of 1987-1998 and 1999-2002 are available on line at

Osprey Media

Province boosts child care; Adds 303 new spaces, improves access to summer camp for autistic kids

Carol Mulligan
Local News - Friday, July 13, 2007 @ 09:00

Parents in Greater Sudbury will have access to 303 more child-care spaces, 50 autistic children will attend summer camp and eight agencies that help children with mental-health issues will get a financial boost from the Ontario government.

Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers announced $3.7 million in funding to strengthen Sudbury's and the North's childcare system when she visited here Thursday.

Chambers came to Sudbury at the urging of Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, whom she said has been a great supporter during the last four years.

Chambers announced Greater Sudbury will receive more than $3 million to increase wages and add 303 child-care spaces.

Eight Sudbury agencies that provide mental-health services to children will receive more than $481,000 more funding this year than in 2006-07.

They will get a five per cent base increase, the second in four years.

Before that, the sector hadn't received such an increase in 12 years.

The ministry's northern region will receive $229,800 to address community priorities based on the ministry's Policy Framework for Child and Youth Mental Health, Chambers announced.

The province has also established a $2-million fund to provide immediate mental-health support for children when a community suffers a crisis or extraordinary circumstance.

One of the smaller funding announcements generated some of the biggest buzz. The ministry allocated $31,000 to Child Care Resources to run four summer camps for 50 children and youth with autism spectrum disorders in Sudbury.

The summer camps help maintain skills that children develop during the school year, said Chambers, and provide valuable respite for families.

Chambers announced that $12 million will be invested to create the first regulatory college for early childhood educators in Canada.

The province will also support child-care professionals in licensed centres who want to upgrade and earn an early childhood education diploma.

It will also help with the cost of training, travel and living costs.

Chambers announced this week she will not be seeking re-election in the Oct. 10 election because of health concerns.

But the amiable minister didn't miss an opportunity to plug the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty or praise Bartolucci for his efforts on behalf of children.

Easing the load

The following increases will help reduce wait times and cost pressures for these agencies:

Child and Family Centre, $282,086;

Northeast Mental Health Centre, $116,025;

Children's Community Network, $36,559;

Sudbury Regional Hospital, $27,744;

Conseil Scolaire de District du Grand Nord de l'Ontario, $5,809;

Rainbow District School Board, $4,881;

The Children's Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin, $4,992;

L'Association des Jeunes de la Rue Inc., $3,297.

From a Listmate

Ask Lindsay Moir:
"Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders"
Friday, July 13, 2007
What do you think of "Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders" released by the Ministry of Education on June 29, 2007?
This is a wonderful resource guide, it is not mandatory for schools or school boards to follow however, the eternal optimist in me says that most teachers will find it incredibly useful.... if they get to see it!
This document is "posted on the Ministry of Education website in June 2007 as a draft version so that educators can begin to use the information for program planning purposes. The final document, which is in the process of being published, will also include a collection of current practices in schools and will be distributed to school boards in September 2007.
There is not a worse time to make something critical available to teachers than JUNE 29th! In checking with several teachers who are highly-involved in teaching autistic children--NOT ONE OF THEM WAS AWARE OF THE DOCUMENT OR ITS RELEASE. Frankly things released on the last day of school get lost in year-end frenzy.
All parents,community professionals and support workers involved with school-aged autistic children should be downloading this document and hand-delivering a copy to their child's teacher ASAP.
The second worst time to introduce a new document is in the middle of the start-up frenzy of September!
The Guide itself is excellent and is divided into sections:
• Foundations-this section contains general information on ASD, general characteristics of ASD students, key principles for program planning for ASD students
• Teaching & Learning- Strategies and practices which have been found to be effective for ASD students
• Communication & Behaviour- strategies and techniques for addressing challenging behaviour in ASD students
• Reference Materials- a glossary and lists of helpful resources for teachers, as well as children's books on ASD.
****A section called Tools and Techniques will be added to the September version.
My congratulations to those who created this guide. In my work I have had the opportunity to see similar resources in other jurisdictions across North America. In terms of a practical and useful help for classroom teachers, nothing I have seen compares with "Effective Educational Practices for Students with ASD"
It is really unfortunate the timing of the release was so bad. It is also unfortunate that there is no announced "inservice" plan to train teachers and familiarize them with the document. Without this leadership from the Ministry, it will be up to individual boards to put their "spin" and emphasis on the document--- some will embrace it and use it, while others will file it away!
Parents should ensure that trustees, SEAC members, educators and others are made aware of this resource and ask pointed questions about the planned implementation of one of the best classroom resources in Special Education that has come out in a long, long time.
For parents of children with other exceptionalities, this document could serve as model for a Resource Guide for the other exceptionalities. Autism has a high profile at the moment, so it was first, when can we expect a similar document for your child's exceptionality?
I have always said that I believe that the vast majority of educators would do the right thing, IF THEY ONLY KNEW WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE. Well, in terms of ASD, there is no doubt that they have an excellent tool to guide them.
Lindsay Moir retired from the Ministry of Education in 1997 and has been assisting agencies, associations and parents in obtaining appropriate special education services for exceptional pupils.
Family Net welcomes your questions about special education in Ontario.
E-mail Lindsay at He will answer as many questions as possible.


Parents interested in learning more about the 2007 Summer Camp for Children with Autism should visit program and application details.

Province announces grant for camps for autistic children

Michael Power
Minister of Children and Youth Services Mary Anne Chambers chats with Hailey Newton, 8, at Richmond Hill’s Corpus Christi Elementary School Tuesday. Ms Chambers announced $530,000 in funding for summer camps for children with autism. Hailey’s sister Dylan attends the camp.

Richmond Hill
Jul 10, 2007 12:24 PM

By: Mike Power, Staff Writer
Camps for autistic children and youth got a $530,000 boost in provincial funding, with Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers announcing the new cash in Richmond Hill today.

The announcement — made at the Autism Ontario Kids Camp at Corpus Christi Catholic Elementary School — will help support 800 children attending such camps, Ms Chambers said.

"These summer camps not only help kids maintain the skills they have acquired throughout the year, but they also give parents a bit of relief," she said.

About $210,000 will go toward supporting nine camps across Ontario. The remaining $320,000 will go to Autism Ontario for one-on-one support workers for 500 of the children attending camps this year.

The announcement came as good news for the camp, which relied on funding to keep it operating, said Paul Kalmykow, whose 17-year-old son, Ben, attends the camp.

"We're very proud of the fact that our camp is affordable," said Mr. Kalmykow, who is also co-ordinator of the camp committee for Autism Ontario York Region Chapter. "We couldn't survive as a camp if we didn't receive funding."

But Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees, who also attended the announcement, wondered why it didn't come sooner. That would have given more parents time to plan to send their children, he said.

"It's too little too late and very cynical," Mr. Klees said. "If this government was serious about wanting to help families this announcement would have been made six months ago."

FROM a Listmate
From the Wisconsin State Journal

Sullivan: The agony of autism
Driving through central Wisconsin recently, I battled the melancholy that crawls into my heart each year at this time, around the birth date of my first-born -- my son, whose needs have driven me to near exhaustion and stretched my limits of patience; my son who is clever and sweet and has expanded my level of compassion; my son, who should be taking his driver's license test but is not and may never do so. My son, who has autism.
I recalled last summer when he struggled with chronic health issues that depleted me. Those issues are history now, thanks to wonderful University of Minnesota doctors. Life is so much better. In my mind's eye the scale that measured his life tipped away from the end that housed a sense of loss and despair to the end that harbored gratitude and optimism.
In a freaky coincidence, a radio newscaster interrupted my reverie to announce that local authorities had found the body of 7-year-old Benjamin "Benjy" Heil floating in a pond less than a mile from his Wisconsin home.
Benjy, who had autism and impaired communication skills, had disappeared from his family's basement. Scores of volunteers rallied to search for him. Not surprisingly to me, the media reported that Benjy had previously wandered away from home and was discovered in the basement of a nearby house.
My melancholy quickly became despair for the parents I have never met but who had just heard the unimaginable news that I feared for so many years.
There but by the grace of God, go I.
Instantly, I recalled the boy we called "Jumping Jack Flash," because he never stopped moving. Our curious wanderer who made unsupervised visits to our neighbors, rendering us breathless with panic. The boy for whom we ultimately installed a big black fence in our suburban backyard, not to surround the pool that we would have relished, but to bar him from escaping the safety of our yard.
Thankfully, the media are now focused on the increasing numbers of children who are diagnosed with autism.
But what does the diagnosis actually mean to the family whose loved one has autism? For many, autism is a lifelong condition, although it manifests itself differently over time. That means thousands of families will be dealing with autism issues forever, whether it be with medical, behavioral, therapeutic, educational, or housing concerns.
The disproportionate amount of time and energy that is devoted to the child with autism affects the siblings, the parents, and the extended family, and frequently causes painful social isolation.
Most of all, living with autism can require extraordinary vigilance where one always knows what the child is doing and stays one step ahead of him -- a demand that is incomprehensible to most who don't live it and virtually impossible to achieve.
Perhaps some good can come from the tragedy in Wood County, Wis., if others who have been affected by Benjy's story as I have will find some way to help.
For those who know a family living this life, help can be as basic as offering to have coffee or a beer with Mom or Dad or to watch their child while they shop. There is also a considerable need for funding for ongoing scientific research into the causes of and treatment for autism.
I hope readers will dig deep into their hearts to find a way to help other families like Benjy's so their only moment's rest does not come when their child is in his final resting place.
And to the Heil family, my family extends our deepest condolences. May peace be with you.
Sullivan lives in Mendota Heights, Minn.
CDC Raises Autism Estimate

From a Listmate

The Sooner the Better
A new study finds that autism can be identified at around 14 months, much earlier than previously thought. How early diagnosis can improve outcomes.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Looking for Signals: Early diagnosis can help health workers prevent certain types of autistic behavior

web exclusive
By Karen Springen
Updated: 6:52 p.m. ET July 3, 2007
July 3, 2007 - Autism spectrum disorders affect about one in 150 children. Often doctors don't diagnose the disability--which is characterized by impairments of social interaction and communication--until age 3. And yet, experts say earlier diagnosis is critical, since it can lead to earlier intervention and better outcomes. The good news: in a study appearing this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers say they have successfully identified autism in children as young as 14 months--the earliest the disorder has ever been diagnosed. The authors say the findings indicate that about half of autism cases can be diagnosed within months of the first birthday. Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md., evaluated social and communication development among 107 high-risk kids (children whose siblings have autism) and a control group of 18 low-risk kids (no family history of autism). Speech pathologist Rebecca Landa, director of Kennedy Krieger's Center for Autism and Related Disorders, and lead author of the study, spoke with NEWSWEEK 's Karen Springen about the implications for the 1.5 million Americans with autism. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What does this mean for the theory that vaccines and other environmental factors may play a role in autism?
Rebecca Landa: This study doesn't really touch on that. There may come a time when we can look at these children's records and see what kind of vaccines they were exposed to. There are different onset patterns. Basically, in the one pattern, there are clear, clear problems in social development and communication development at 14 months of age. The children are quite distinguishable. [But] for about half of the children we studied, their autism symptoms didn't really show up until later, sometime after 14 months, but certainly before 24 months. The point is that some parents are concerned that when their child gets a vaccine at around 15 months, like the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella], that their child is suddenly changing. What these data are indicating is that there is going to be a progressive phase to the disorder of autism in at least half of the children, where you're going to see that around 14 months, they look pretty healthy. It begins to gradually dwindle. They gradually begin to look pretty different. This is probably not an incident that comes upon a child instantaneously. This is an ongoing process.
Why were you able to diagnose just half the kids at 14 months?
That's a very good question, and we are going to be looking at that to see if there are certain very subtle predictors of children who are going to have this downward turn. Most of the children who ended up with this downward turn did show some mild, subtle developmental disruptions at 14 months, but nothing that would be alarming.
How did you pick the kids for your study?
This study was designed to try to understand the very earliest possible markers of autism in life and also how autism develops over time. We did pick babies who were at high risk for developing autism. We had a sample of 107 baby sibs of kids with autism. Somewhere around 30 of them developed autism.
Why is early diagnosis so important?
Because we believe that we can prevent certain aspects of the autism behavioral picture from either emerging or from becoming a major problem.
I'm not saying we can do this for every child, but you really contour how they learn to interact with people, how they play, how they learn to learn. In a typically developing infant, everything is a learnable moment. In an infant or toddler with autism, their attention gets hyperfocused on things that aren't important--like for example, the letters on a wooden block.
How do you stop such behavior?
You redirect the child's attention, you engage them in other toys. You also teach them how to pay attention to really important social signals, like people's eyes, people's faces.
So early intervention can affect how a child with autism functions later in life?
It very well can impact how someone functions later. We've just been funded to follow them [the 125 kids in this study and another 150 kids who entered the study later] until they're 8 years old. We have a separate treatment study. If you're not giving these kids real intervention, you see what happens to them. They pretty much stop smiling at people. If you can catch them early and really engage them, their growth curves might look really different.
Does autism begin to develop even sooner than 14 months?
Sometime between 6 and 12 months, there is this period of brain overgrowth. In a baby's brain, there are too many cells, nerve cells. Some of them have to be very systematically pruned away. In the kids with autism, that's not happening properly. The neurobiological underpinnings are probably already there. There's probably something underlying going on, but it hasn't really affected behavior until later. [Heather Cody] Hazlett talks about brain overgrowth not really being detectable until the time of the first birthday. [A 2005 University of North Carolina and Duke University study found that by age 2, kids with autism show a 5 percent enlargement of their brains.]
Could vaccines be a catalyst?
We're going to go back and look at the vaccine histories of these children.
You talk about kids with autism exhibiting irregularities in how they play. For example, they would not pretend to eat with a toy fork. How do we make sure parents whose kids do anything "abnormal" don't automatically suspect autism?
The thing to help parents not be paranoid is this: if there are warning signs for autism, there's more than one. It's not going to just be a fork. No. 1, there have to be multiple signs, and No. 2, the signs have to persist over weeks, months.
How did you diagnose these kids so early?
I had to learn to retrain my eyes when I started to see the 14-month-olds. I thought autism at 14 months was going to look like autism at 36 months, the age at which people normally diagnose it. It's the same flavor--the social system is disrupted, the communication system is disrupted. But it's different in that it's not as pervasively disrupted. What I mean is that at 14 months, you can get kids with autism to give you a beautiful response to peekaboo. But you can't get the child to engage with you around more novel, new activities. At 14 months, you see more flickers of interaction. They were doing some looking at people and smiling.
Do you think you can diagnose autism even earlier?
It is possible. The problem is that very early in development, there's a very rapid change in child behavior. If you did see these signs in 9 to 12 months of age, I would probably put out an alert. If there was enough of a delay, I might even put the child in intervention. I would start doing some preventive interaction, like making sure there was a variety of toys available to the child, and teaching this child to do a diversity of things with each toy.
So the kids don't fixate on one toy?
That's right.
How many false positives did you get?
Maybe three. They still had problems. But it wasn't autism.
There's no blood test for autism yet, but is it realistic that some day we could get a definitive test that could be used very early?
I have a colleague, Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar at Johns Hopkins. We are now collecting blood from the infants at each visit. He has some specific theories about what might be fruitful as a blood test. He's looking at how these certain things change in the brain that you can measure through the blood as the child gets older.
So some day kids may get tested at birth, then? How long do you think it will take to get such a test?
It's possible. I'm going to guess a minimum of five years.

From a Google Alert

Sid Ryan
Fri, July 13, 2007
'Education premier' lays off support staff


What on earth is the Liberal brain trust thinking?
With a scant two months to go before the election writ is dropped, more than 60% of the province's school boards are laying off staff. So far, without all boards reporting, 575 support staff will be receiving pink slips.
This figure does not include the 500 staff at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) threatened with layoff or the 125 layoffs at Upper Canada District School Board. Educational assistants are bearing the brunt of the cuts even though they provide direct assistance to the province's most needy school children -- those with learning, physical and mental disabilities.
Nearly half of the province's school boards plan to make cuts to special education, according to Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) research analyst Paul O'Donnell. A smaller number are cutting adult education, literacy and early reading programs.
Last year, school boards had a shortfall of more than $300 million. That resulted in the elimination of 500 support staff jobs. The cuts would have been deeper had some boards not raided and depleted their reserve funds. This year the shortfall is closer to $200 million with one-third of boards saying they had to dip into or exhaust their reserve funds.

It is difficult to understand how a political leader who has fashioned himself as the "education premier" could have screwed up so badly this close to an election. Mind you, the Liberals have used every trick and sleight of hand in the book to try to dampen the political fallout of the devastating cuts.
Normally, the school board budget announcements are made at the end of August. This year (an election year), the school boards were given instructions to announce their budgets by the end of June. This cynical ploy has not gone unnoticed by CUPE's 50,000 support staff workers across the province. Rest assured they will be active in the provincial election.
Likewise, it has not gone unnoticed that Education Minister Kathleen Wynne -- who is in a tough battle with Conservative leader John Tory in her Don Valley West riding -- can bend the rules and allow the TDSB (which operates most of the schools in her riding) to run a 1% budget deficit. But yet, the Near North board in North Bay just voted to lay off 50 support staff because the Liberals insisted on a balanced budget.
What's good for the goose should be good for the gander.
Speaking of a goose, Monique Smith, the Liberal member for the riding that includes North Bay, will certainly have her goose cooked with this latest rounds of cuts in her community. She is already in scalding hot water over her failure to speak out and stop her Liberal government policies from eliminating good paying hospital laundry jobs and manufacturing jobs in North Bay. Now she stands idly by while vulnerable school children lose their support staff.
Meanwhile, her colleague at Queen's Park has two sets of rules: One for those who speak up to defend jobs and one for those who meekly and timidly accept job losses. We know which set applies to Smith.
What surely must win the Oscar for "sleight of hand" has got to be the announcements around potential school closures.
In 2005, the Liberals placed a moratorium on school closures until they issued new guidelines for community consultations. That happened last October -- with timetables attached to ensure no school would close before this fall's provincial election. Expect scores of school closings across the province following the election.
The provincial election will be a real opportunity to demonstrate that Dalton McGuinty and John Tory are really just two sides of the same coin. The Conservatives rammed the flawed funding formula down the throats of school boards in 1997. Ten years later in 2007, the Liberals are adamantly defending a formula they campaigned to eliminate if elected.
Ironically, the Liberal election campaign strategy will be to paint John Tory as the second coming of Mike Harris. The truth is he arrived four years ago masquerading as the "education premier."

From a Listmate
From the

Wed, July 11, 2007
$530Gs for autistic kids
Province will fund one-on-one help for teens in 9 summer camps


The Ontario government is putting $530,000 into nine summer camps for kids and teens with autism across the province, Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers says.
The bulk of the funding will go to help parents hire one-on-one support workers that enable their child to attend camp.
Paul Kalmykow, camp committee co-ordinator with Autism Ontario's York Region chapter and the parent of a teenage son with autism, said the funding will help ensure that these kids can enjoy a summer camp experience.
"The camp is oriented so children can have a ball and parents can have some respite during the summer," Kalmykow said.
Chambers said that this funding, which she expects will be renewed annually, is another step in her government's support of children and families with autism.

Conservative MPP Frank Klees applauded the funding for summer programs but said he found it cynical that the government would announce the money on the first day of camp -- long after the most financially needy parents would have already decided they could not afford to enrol.

CTV Toronto

Ontario provides funding for autism camps
Canadian Press
TORONTO — Hundreds of autistic children will be able to go to special summer camps because of last-minute funding from the Ontario government, The Canadian Press has learned.
A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday morning to announce further details about the $530,000 in funding that will help give more than 800 kids specialized care in preparation for school in September.
"Summer camps not only help maintain skills gained during the school year, they also give families a bit of relief while their children receive expert care in a positive setting,'' Children and Youth Services Ministers Mary Anne Chambers said in a release.
It's a good-news announcement for families across the province, said Margaret Spoelstra, executive director of Autism Ontario.
"We have been talking to governments over many, many, many years about the needs that parents have to fill that gap in the summertime, which requires extra supports for kids with autism,'' she said.
"This additional support will go a long way to help us increase the number of kids attending camp and also to provide some one-to-one support the kids require.''
In May, the Ontario government also gave $38,000 to a Toronto camp that was on the verge of closing its doors after being denied federal funding.
Spoelstra said that loss of federal funding was a reality check for Autism Ontario, which has a network of 29 volunteer-run chapters across the province.
"That prompted us as an organization to really pay attention to what was happening at some of our camps,'' she said.
Many of the camps with shoestring budgets would have been in danger of not operating for the summer if they too lost the little funding they will now receive.
"They do lots of fundraising in their areas but it's never (as much as) what they would hope for, so the investment the province is going to make Tuesday will help,'' Spoelstra said.

Attention News Editors: Chambers announces decision to not run, applauds new candidate
Youth Opportunities Strategy, Expansion of child care spaces, increased
support for autism services among highlights for Chambers

SCARBOROUGH, ON, July 11 /CNW/ - Scarborough East MPP Mary Anne Chambers
announced today she will not be running in the upcoming provincial election
and introduced candidate Margarett Best for the riding of Scarborough
"This has been a very difficult decision to make. I have worked hard to
serve my constituents and the children and youth of Ontario," said Chambers.
Chambers' decision was based on her recognition of the need to slow down
for her personal health.
"I am happy to have contributed to the significant improvements that our
government has made in areas that are so important to the quality of life that
we have in this wonderful province. We have increased funding for children's
mental health services, bringing an end to a 12 year funding freeze. We have
tripled funding for autism services and eliminated the age cut off for
children requiring intensive behaviour intervention (IBI) treatment, and
provided investments that will benefit 7,000 more children with complex
special needs."
"I want to thank Mary Anne for her strong commitment to public service
and wish her well," said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. "Mary Anne worked
tirelessly for the most vulnerable with passion. She was the driving force
behind the creation of our government's Youth Opportunities Strategy which is
providing opportunities to young people and so that they can reach their true
potential. She oversaw the Ontario Child Benefit which is helping 1.3 million
kids living in poverty and expanded quality, affordable childcare for
families. She will be missed. I am pleased to welcome Margarett Best as our
candidate in Scarborough Guildwood this fall and wish her well in carrying on
Mary Anne's legacy."
Chambers was elected in October 2003 and immediately named to Cabinet. As
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities she oversaw the largest
multi-year investment in postsecondary education in 40 years, including the
creation of tuition grants and other improvements to the Ontario Student
Assistance program (OSAP). Under her leadership, the Ontario government made
significant changes to strengthen the Private Career Colleges Act, and
launched a review of regulatory practices which later led to the passage of
the Fair Access to the Regulated Professions Act for internationally trained
Since her appointment as Minister of Children and Youth Services in June
2005, Chambers has created training and employment opportunities for thousands
of youth from underserved communities; created legislation to establish the
first regulatory College for Early Childhood Educators in North America, led
the creation of 22,000 new licensed child care spaces and improved access to
subsidies; strengthened accountability and provided more opportunities for
children in need of protection to have permanent, caring homes; led the
passage of legislation for the establishment of an Independent Child Advocate.
Chambers will continue her work as MPP for Scarborough East and Minister
of Children and Youth Services until the October election.
Best, a lawyer and columnist, has been a longtime community activist,
working with a variety of groups including business and community associations
during her over 20 years of volunteer service in Ontario. She is comfortable
teaching leadership skills to young people, participating in the Scarborough
Youth Career Fair, on the Ontario Provincial Police Advisory Committee on
diversity issues, as well as participating as a volunteer and fundraiser for
various community organizations.
Though the nomination date has yet to be set, Best has received unanimous
support from the riding executive.
"Minister Chambers is an inspiration to me. She has been an excellent
example and a role model for many. I look forward to following in her
footsteps in serving the people of Scarborough, and continuing the work of
Premier McGuinty's Liberals for all Ontario families in education, health
care, the environment, and in strengthening our communities," said Best.

For further information: Ben Chin, (416) 358-6291

From a Listmate
From the

Prominent cabinet minister cites health reasons for her decision not to seek re-election
Jul 11, 2007 04:30 AM
Robert Benzie
Health concerns are preventing Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers from seeking re-election in the Oct. 10 Ontario vote.
"I don't really want to go into the details. I'm not dying or anything like that," Chambers, 56, told the Toronto Star in a wide-ranging interview yesterday.
"I'm a workaholic by nature and I have a ministry that, as far as I'm concerned, is a perfect fit for me," said the Jamaican-born former senior vice-president of Scotiabank and past chair of the United Way of Canada. But the demands at the ministry – which oversees everything from funding for autism to helping youth at risk – and in her Scarborough East riding made her realize it was time to move on.
"It's actually selfish reasons. I really have to slow down and pay attention to my health. It's been a while since I've done that," she said in the boardroom of her office at Bay and Wellesley Sts. "It's been a really, really difficult decision."
Chambers said she decided she wouldn't be contesting the redrawn riding of Scarborough-Guildwood at the beginning of June and alerted Premier Dalton McGuinty.
"He's very disappointed. I spoke with him a few weeks ago. I think he's still hoping I'll change my mind, but understands. I actually gave him a little bit more in terms of the gory details of my health concerns and he understood," she said.
Chambers, first elected in 2003, has been married for 37 years and has two adult sons and two granddaughters.
She is the latest prominent woman to announce she's quitting provincial politics. Democratic Renewal Minister Marie Bountrogianni, Liberal MPP Jennifer Mossop (Stoney Creek), and New Democratic Party MPP Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt) have already said they won't be running again.
Liberal MPPs Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings) and Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre) are also retiring.
While she said she is leaving with a heavy heart, Chambers said she was pleased "to play a part in helping to choose my successor candidate."
The Liberals are anointing lawyer and community activist Margarett Best, winner of the 2006 Matilda Van Cooten Award for Excellence in Single Parenting at the African Canadian Achievement Awards, as their Scarborough-Guildwood candidate. Best will run against the Progressive Conservatives' Gary Grant, a Toronto police superintendent and father of the Crime Stoppers program. An NDP candidate has not yet been nominated.
"She's a fabulous candidate. She's solid. She'll be great. She's overcome challenges that I've never had," said Chambers about Best, adding it's important to have a Legislature that reflects Ontario's diversity.
"I used to tease (former Scarborough-Rouge River MPP) Alvin Curling how difficult it was to get the black caucus together," she joked of their two-member caucus.
"I know what it feels like to be the only one. I know because the demands are great and the community is very attached to you. They've been very, very supportive of me."

From Google Alert
From the London Free Press

Province sending autistic children to summer camp
Tue, July 10, 2007
TORONTO -- Hundreds of autistic children will be able to go to special summer camps because of last-minute funding from the Ontario government, CP has learned.
A news conference is scheduled for this morning to announce further details about the $530,000 in funding that will help give more than 800 kids specialized care in preparation for school in September.
"Summer camps not only help maintain skills gained during the school year, they also give families a bit of relief while their children receive expert care in a positive setting," Children and Youth Services Ministers Mary Anne Chambers said in a release.
It's a good-news announcement for families across the province, said Margaret Spoelstra, executive director of Autism Ontario.
"We have been talking to governments over many, many, many years about the needs that parents have to fill that gap in the summertime, which requires extra supports for kids with autism," she said.
"This additional support will go a long way to help us increase the number of kids attending camp and also to provide some one-to-one support the kids require."
In May, the Ontario government also gave $38,000 to a Toronto camp that was on the verge of closing its doors after being denied federal funding.
Spoelstra said that loss of federal funding was a reality check for Autism Ontario, which has a network of 29 volunteer-run chapters across the province.
"That prompted us as an organization to really pay attention to what was happening at some of our camps," she said.
Many of the camps with shoe-string budgets would have been in danger of not operating for the summer if they too lost the little funding they will now receive.
"They do lots of fundraising in their areas but it's never (as much as) what they would hope for, so the investment the province is going to make Tuesday will help," Spoelstra said.

End of Mailing for July 10th – 18th 2007
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