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Barrie mom and son meet Premier Kathleen Wynne

Premier Kathleen Wynne met Barrie mom Karen Guy and her 8-year-old autistic son in Barrie on Friday.
Ontario Premier Katleen Wynne chats with Barrie mom Karen Guy and 8-year-old Austin. Robin MacLennan/

Karen Guy wasn't expecting to have a conversation with the Premier of Ontario on Friday.

However, after announcing funding for improvements to Bayfield Street, Premier Kathleen Wynne walked directly across the Barrie City Hall rotunda to meet the Barrie mom and her 8-year-old son Austin who has autism.

The pair, a family friend and Austin's service dog sat through the Premier's announcement, hoping to hear more about funding for autism treatments for children like Austin.

"I just wanted to hear her talk," Guy said. "I was hoping she would talk about this, but I really didn't expect to actually meet her and speak to her. That was a total surprise."

It was an impromptu meeting and Wynne spent more than 10 minutes speaking one-on-one with Guy, answering questions about provincial funding for autism treatment programs and the challenges faced by families raising children with autism.

The provincial government recently announced changes to how autism programs are funded, and Guy says the new rules will make life more challenging for her son and her family.

Beginning on May 1, young children with will face shorter wait times for intensive therapy covered by the province, but those ages 5 and up will no longer be eligible as part of a revamped Ontario system.

Instead, their families will receive a one-time payment of $8,000 to pay for supports “as they transition off the intensive behavioural intervention waitlist.

Guy told the Premier that $8,000 isn't enough money.

"I don't understand how she came up with that number," she said. "It's not nearly enough. The treatment, everything we need, is very expensive."

She is hoping that Wynne will remember meeting Austin and will address the family's concerns with additional funding.

"I just don't know how they decided to make the changes," Guy said. "We just want people to listen to us."

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Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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