Special needs

To the Minister of Finance: $3M for special-needs services, please

Anchel Krishna spoke to the Ontario Minister of Finance about inclusive recreation, psychology services and social work for special-needs families.

Syona-special-needs

Four-year-old Syona was the focus of Anchel’s presentation to the Minister of Finance. Photo: Anchel Krishna

On Wednesday, February 4, I gave a presentation to Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa. The event took place at Novotel in Vaughan, Ontario and it was the last of the pre-budget consultations the minister held across the province. These public sessions are designed to help the provincial government receive feedback and ideas to inform their annual spring budget announcement. I became involved through work and was asked by my boss and the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services (OACRS) team, and we believed helping the provincial government understand how these funds help families and kids was really important. This year, OACRS, the provincial association for children’s treatment centres, is asking for $3 million to help support inclusive recreation, psychology services and social work.

Here’s a portion of the speech I gave:

Good morning everyone. My name is Anchel Krishna, and I am here on behalf of Children’s Treatment Network (CTN) and the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services (OACRS).

CTN provides rehabilitation and specialized clinical services for more than 6,000 children with multiple special needs in Simcoe County and York Region. We deliver services through our network of seven healthcare agencies, three school boards and nine community organizations, allowing us to help families at home, at school or in the community.

My family is one of the 6,000 CTN families. As you can tell, I really like carrying around wallet-sized pictures of my kid. This is my daughter, Syona. She is four years old, loves chocolate cake and has a vendetta against sleeping past six a.m. She also has cerebral palsy and uses a walker and a wheelchair. Two years ago, we worried my daughter would be completely non-verbal. Today, she is speaking her mind in full sentences. She’s able to wheel herself around, and can feed herself the chocolate cake that she loves so much. You helped us reach these milestones through previous investments in therapy and developmental assessments.

But today, on behalf of the 70,000 families like mine across Ontario, I’m asking that you help us take the next step with a $3 million investment to help children’s treatment centres fund inclusive recreation, social work and psychology services that are desperately needed by families like mine. I want Syona to go to summer camp, ride a bike and play soccer. And, despite the fact that she doesn’t walk independently, it is possible for her to participate in all of these activities. But enabling her to do so means we need support for inclusive recreation.

I’ve had to answer questions that I never expected to. Like “Mommy, why aren’t my legs working?” I’ve driven home silently crying while Syona sits in her car seat after a party because she was left behind by other kids since she can’t run around. Yet I’m strong enough to be here advocating for kids like her. So what helped me get here? Access to family support, including social work services. And down the road I know that I will need to enlist formal psychological services to help prove to the world that Syona is a bright, capable person who needs to be intellectually challenged.

Last year, with a $3.25 million dollar investment, children’s treatment centres across Ontario were able to provide kids with 3,300 additional services. With our portion at CTN that meant our wait time for our developmental assessments went from 14 months to six months, which feels like a lifetime to any parent. We provided 306 more kids with key services.

Our focus is not solely on getting Syona to walk. We want a well-rounded life. It’s about her being happy and about enjoying our life as a family. It’s about raising a girl who values her community and gives back. It’s about celebrating the victories and knowing how to handle the disappointments. You can help us do that by investing in kids like Syona, and families like mine.

Thank you for your time.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.

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