NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 11, 2006

Autism is a heartbreak to parents, so one can therefore appreciate why the parents of those diagnosed would try to batter down the doors of government for assistance, says the Calgary Herald.  However, autism is but one of many chronic ailments Canada's public health-care system must attempt to cope with, in circumstances of limited resources. 

Parents of autistic children in Ontario asked the courts to direct the provincial Health Ministry to provide intensive behavioral intervention (IBI), also known as applied behavioral analysis (ABA), beyond the age of six years.

  • The treatment is tremendously expensive, as the tab for a year of therapy for just one child can reach about $80,000 (about US $71,000) depending on the number of treatment hours.
  • The principle behind this type of therapy involves one-on-one techniques of teaching children new behaviors through use of the repetition that is characteristic of autism.

A lower court agreed with the parents that the province should continue to pay; that particular ruling was based on the rationale of age discrimination.

But last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the judgment, ruling that resource allocation must remain in the hands of elected legislatures, not the unelected judiciary.  The court also noted the government's concern that other treatments work better with older children who cannot undergo the kind of intensive therapy ABA/IBI requires because they are in school much of the time.

The health care purse is not a bottomless pit.  In an ideal world, every health-care need would be fully funded, and every parent's sick child would be helped to the utmost.  However, Ontario's autistic children are not being left high and dry.  They will continue to have the intensive therapy funded until age six and then they will move on to therapeutic programs offered through the schools, says the Herald.

Source: Editorial, "Court right not to impose autism treatment obligation," Calgary Herald, July 11, 2006.

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues