Parent of child with autism says Lisa MacLeod ‘manipulated her words’

Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Children, Community and Social Services minister, was under fire on Tuesday during question period for allegedly manipulating the words of a parent whose child has autism.

MacLeod told the house on Monday that Sherri Brushett-Taylor had recently contacted her office about the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). Brushett-Taylor’s four-year-old son has autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.

Directly quoting the mother in the legislature, MacLeod said, “Sherri Taylor, who is a parent from Windsor, wrote in. She said, ‘Parents need to have services available to them before their child is no longer a child. Families need more support and choice for their children with autism neurodiversities.”

“Our children sit on wait lists for years, only to be shuffled through consultative models that do not provide the direct treatment,” MacLeod said.

“Families are in crisis. Our government is heading in the right direction recognizing that early intervention is key.’”

MacLeod added that she appreciated Brushett-Taylor’s sentiments.

“She is one of the hundreds of families that we’ve been working with throughout the past number of months in order to course-correct so that 23,000 children will get off that wait list,” she said.

In a lengthy Facebook post later that day, Brushett-Taylor lashed out at MacLeod.

“Shame on you for your blatant deception! It is offensive and appalling,” she wrote.

“I would ask you to resign, however you have made it more than clear you are proud of your deception. You are proud of a plan that is harmful and damaging to children with autism and you would rather dig your heels in than do the right thing.”

While Brushett-Taylor is not disputing that she provided a quote to MacLeod’s office detailing her story, she claimed the ministry twisted her words. The mother alleged that she contacted MacLeod’s office to inquire about the Ontario Autism Program in January. She said a staffer then asked Brushett-Taylor to email her story to the office.

In subsequent correspondence, Brushett-Taylor claimed that Susan Truppe, the ministry’s director of policy and legislative affairs, suggested she add a line to her story that said, “The government is on the right track.”

“I questioned Ms. Truppe about that suggestion. How could I endorse a plan I wasn’t privy to? I specifically stated on Jan. 28, in an email to Ms. Truppe, ‘I don’t know the plan that the PC government has for overhauling the system so I am not sure that I can say that,’” Brushett-Taylor explained.

The mother also alleged that she sent additional emails in early February to the ministry expressing disappointment about the changes to OAP and did not receive a reply.

“Let me be very clear, Minister MacLeod, I am NOT in support of your plan. I will never be (in) support of your plan. In fact, I am very much opposed to it,” Brushett-Taylor wrote in her Facebook post.

The minister has faced harsh criticism in recent weeks following announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program and allegations that she told the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA) they would face “four long years” if they did not support the government’s plan.

NDP MPP and community and social services opposition critic Lisa Gretzky said on Tuesday that MacLeod “has bullied, threatened and manipulated families like Sherri’s, and service providers like ONTABA, into giving their support to a plan before they even laid eyes on it.”

Global News requested a comment from MacLeod and Truppe on Tuesday about the allegations, but they declined.

However, MacLeod did speak in question period on Tuesday.

“My understanding is that she provided a quote to our office but if I used that quote I used yesterday incorrectly I unequivocally apologize,” she said.

“But what I will not apologize for is lifting a waitlist of 23,000 children who are being denied service by their Ontario government because of the previous Liberal administration’s program.”

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