Sarah Hornblower says intensive behavioural intervention therapy has made a world of difference for Josh, her five-year-old autistic son.
But, she worries wind farms coming to Lambton Shores will blow the progress away.
Hornblower and her husband, Chris, felt lucky when Josh qualified for the OHIP-covered in-home therapy after only a year or so on the waiting list. They saw families in other areas waiting much longer.
“He wasn’t talking,” she said. “He wasn’t toilet trained. He wasn’t interacting at all. He wouldn’t look at you.”
That changed after the therapy.
“Through the work of these people, he’s fully toilet trained. He can speak, He’s learning to read. He can ride a bike . . . things we never thought were possible.”
The couple has seven children and three have been diagnosed with autism. Josh is the most severely impacted.
Hornblower said they began hearing rumours about wind projects about a year after moving in 2007 to Ridge Road. There are already 10 turbines near Ravenswood and she initially thought a few more wouldn’t be a problem.
And then, in 2010, a notice arrived in the mailbox about a public meeting Nextera Energy was holding for the 92-turbine Jericho wind farm proposed for Lambton Shores and Warwick Township.
Hornblower said she went to the meeting and saw the plans.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is a lot of turbines that they’re putting up.'”
Later, they heard about Suncor Energy’s 46-turbine wind farm proposal that also reaches into their rural neighbourhood.
So, Hornblower sat down one day at her computer and typed in a search for wind turbines and autism.
“Article, after article, after article popped up,” she said.
Children with autism can become so intensely focused on spinning objects, like fans, that they can’t do anything else.
“Breaking that fixation is incredibly difficult,” Hornblower said.
The proposals call for the family’s farm to be surrounded by spinning turbines, and for an electrical substation to be built nearby.
Both wind projects have contracts to sell electricity to Ontario and are just awaiting environmental approvals to move ahead.
Hornblower said Josh is so sensitive to sounds that the family avoids parking lots at night because of his reaction to the noise from the light fixtures.
The sound of the furnace starting up, or of a car passing by their house, is enough to wake Josh up at night, and keep him up for hours, Hornblower said.
He’s also sensitive to the flicker of shadows.
Hornblower said they’re worried how their children with autism, and Josh in particular, will react once the turbines are up and turning near their home, and next to the school Josh and his brothers and sisters attend.
“If he can’t handle our furnace turning on, how loud are those turbines going to be?”
She’s afraid Josh will regress, and the hard-won progress from his therapy will be lost.
Hornblower said they’ve met several times with officials from the wind companies over the last two years, and asked for the turbine sites and substation to be moved away from their farm to lower the risk.
“They’re not interested in moving them,” she said.
“We seem to have reached a standstill.”
In fact, they discovered one turbine is now proposed to go up just 600 metres from their farm.
“That was the kick in the stomach,” she said.
Hornblower has written to government officials, autism experts and others in an effort to protect Josh and her other children from the potential impact of the wind farms.
“This is actually why we need a moratorium on all further wind projects until health studies are done,” said Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton.
“The greatest injustice of the Liberal government is sitting in Toronto and forcing these turbines on people in southwestern Ontario.”
Hornblower said her family could sell their farm and move, but they’ve decided to stay and keep fighting.
“My husband says this is our Alamo.”
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