Sticking Up for Her Son

Posted July 13, 2011

Susan Roque has put on her mother-bear hat and she’s ready to step up to the plate and take some swings for her son, Marcus.

Marcus, 13, lives with Asperger Syndrome, a relative of the Autism Spectrum Disorder family. After being diagnosed in 2006, the family retroactively received a Disability Tax Credit for Marcus’s impairment from the province of Ontario and the federal government — until now.

The Roques were recently notified by Canada Revenue Agency that Marcus is no longer eligible for the federal Disability Tax Credit.

“It ethically bothers me that the province will acknowledge his disability, but the federal government won’t,” Susan said.

As any mother would, Roque set out to fight for her son’s rights.

“My general practitioner and I filled out the (T2201-A) tax form again,” she said. “I brought all the info on my son (including pscyhological reports administered by the Rainbow District School Board, teacher reports and individualized education plan material) to (Sudbury) MP Glenn Thibeault, who faxed Revenue Canada from there.”

Roque said the results were the same.

“They looked at it again, looked at it one more time and still denied us,” she said. “Is my son not disabled enough for the government to acknowledge it?”

In the letter the CRA sent to Roque, Marcus was deemed ineligible for the tax credit because “the restriction in performing the mental functions necessary
for everyday life is not present all or substantially all the time.”

Roque sat back in her chair, shaking her head in disbelief.

Officials with the CRA did not respond to calls placed by The Star asking for comment.

“I have to stand outside the shower when he’s in there, I need to remind him what to do,” she said. “He needs to be reminded about shampoo. He doesn’t remember these things, he needs constant attention.”

The lone bright spot for Roque has been the “fantastic help” provided by Wembley Public School and the Rainbow board.

“They’ve just been amazing in his assessment and accomodating him,” she said.

According to Wembley’s assessment, which acknowledges Marcus’s medical diagnosis of autism, his “social skills are not as well developed. He will, for example, when frustrated, threaten to strike other students with chairs or describe how he intends to injure them.

“He would have great difficulty functioning independently without significant support, even within a structured environment.”

Roque is a single working mother and the $2,400 the Disability Tax Credit is a big loss, she said, adding she wouldn’t stand for it.

Marg Spoelstra, executive director of Autism Ontario, said she received a call from a parent in Toronto who “said the exact same thing.”

Spoelstra has heard a similar story from a family in Hamilton, though she admitted the details of that case aren’t yet clear.

“I’m very distressed about this, many of the services, support and avenues of funding for people with disabilities is contingent on getting the Disability
Tax Credit,” she said.

The problem of inconsistencies between municipalities and the provincial and federal governments is not a new one, Spoelstra said.

Marcus should, in theory, qualify for the Disability Tax Credit “his whole life,” according to Spoelstra, who pledged to do further work on the matter for
the concerned families.

In the meantime, the Roques are in a tough spot, but they’re not alone. Susan pledged to keep fighting for her son.

“They’re discriminating against (Marcus) and I’m not going to stand for it. I’m putting on my mother-bear hat and I’ll fight for him,” she said.

“He can’t do that fight himself. If it benefits anybody else who’s having the same struggle, even better. So be it.”

Article ID# 3211701

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