Family wins therapy ruling
Judge backs Eric despite age cap
Ruling may open doors for others

Aug. 10, 2004


An Ontario court is ordering the government to pay for a 7-year-old autistic boy's treatment, in a decision that may widen the door for hundreds more cases.


Eric Naccarato would suffer "irreparable harm" if he left the government-funded Intensive Early Intervention Program, or IEIP, even though he has exceeds the program's six-year age cap, Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau ruled.


When the Hamilton boy turned 6 in July of last year, the Ontario government stopped paying for his therapy. To keep him in the program, his parents took over the payments. They eventually had to scale back his time at the centre to three days, and enrol him in a special public school program for the remaining time.


But the boy's treatment, called applied behaviour analysis, requires intense, one-on-one sessions in which behaviour, language and social skills are constantly being reinforced. Eric's parents told the court his behaviour was beginning to unravel in a normal school setting. The costs from $45,000 to $80,000 per year on the other hand, prevented them from keeping him in therapy.


Lawyers representing the attorney-general argued that by keeping Eric in one of the program's 500 spots, another younger child who could benefit even more from the treatment would be denied.


The court has ordered the government to ignore the IEIP's age limit on a handful of occasions in recent years and the numbers are certain to grow.


"Not one of the children that's applied in this province, that was formally part of the IEIP has been turned down," said Norrah Whitney, whose son was granted an injunction last year.


In addition, she said the Ontario Human Rights Commission is hearing an estimated 160 families, seeking similar measures.


But Rouleau maintained that Eric's case is too unique to affect many other families.


Additional articles by Christian Cotroneo