Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Autism charity’s sudden closure catches clients, staff by surprise | CBC News

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An Ottawa charity offering services for families dealing with autism spectrum disorder has unexpectedly closed its doors, leaving staff unemployed and clients scrambling to find other care options. 

Thinking in Pictures Educational Services (TIPES) had operated since 2007, but on April 24 staff and clients were told in an email the organization would “cease to provide services” on April 26, just two days later. 

“I was kind of in shock at first,” said Michelle Stradwick, whose five-year-old son has attended TIPES since October 2022. “I had to reread it a couple times because I’m like, am I reading this right? Is this just like a temporary closure, or is this like a full-time thing?”

In a statement posted on its website Friday, TIPES announced it’s “with a heavy heart” that it’s closing its doors and ceasing therapeutic services and other supports. 

The charity is encouraging clients seeking similar services to contact Autism Ontario. Clients can still access their financial and clinical files by contacting TIPES by email, the charity said.

TIPES did not respond to calls or emails from CBC.

TIPES posted this message on its website on Friday. The charity had notified clients and staff of its imminent closure just two days earlier. (tipes.ca)

A ‘huge change for our child’

According to its website, over 1,000 clients from preschool age to adults have accessed services through TIPES.

The charity’s most recent records filed with the Canadian Revenue Agency list 41 full-time, permanent staff members. Some clients estimate 40 to 50 children are now going to be looking for new care. 

“It’s just going to be an overall huge change for our child or for all the families involved,” Stradwick said.

Ben Ham, whose son has attended TIPES for five years, said many other options have long wait lists.

We do have to immediately find somewhere that’s going to help us.– Ben Ham, parent

“We do have to immediately find somewhere that’s going to help us,” Ham said.

Stradwick and her husband Mathew Desormeaux said TIPES hasn’t responded to their emails, nor has it suggested any other organizations that might have space for their son.

They and other parents also said they’re owed money for prepaid services and reviews with senior therapists and psychologists that have now been cancelled.

“The way I look at it is they owe me money … because we prepaid for the month,” Desormeaux said. 

TIPES offered a variety of therapeutic services. Parents said their costs can range depending on needs, but some families were spending thousands of dollars each month.

Stradwick praised the therapists and support staff at TIPES, and said her son, who can have difficulty with transitions, had become very attached to some of the workers there.

“He’s supposed to start school in September, so they’ve been doing a school readiness program,” she said.

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