Ontario Expanding Supports for Families of Children with Autism
February 03, 2021
The Ontario government is providing additional supports for families of children on the autism spectrum. Starting in March, the province will begin offering core clinical services based on a child's individual needs, a key element of the new Ontario Autism Program. These services include applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health supports. Recognizing the challenges and uncertainty families are facing as a result of COVID-19, the government will be offering an additional extension of funding to purchase eligible services and supports parents feel are most appropriate for their children as the province continues to implement a needs-based autism program. Further details about eligibility and how to apply for the extension of funding will be shared in the coming weeks. “Providing core clinical services is a critical step forward in the development of a needs-based autism program designed by the community for the community” said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “We are determined to get this right so more children than ever before can receive the appropriate level of support they need close to home.” The ministry has asked the Child and Parent Resource Institute to oversee the launch of core clinical services. Beginning this month, care coordinators will be trained to conduct and guide families through the new determination of needs process that will include:
meeting with a family to identify a child's goals, strengths and support needs across key domains
allocating funding to families so they can purchase core clinical services from providers of their choice
supporting families with next steps to access core clinical services of their choice
Starting in March, about 600 children and youth from across the province who are registered in the Ontario Autism Program will be invited to participate in the launch of core clinical services. Once families have received their funding allocation, they will then work directly with a clinician of their choice to develop treatment options and plans for their child. The feedback from families on their experience will be critical in helping the province evaluate and refine delivery of the program. Additionally, families will benefit from:
Renewal of interim funding: Eligible families who received a childhood budget or interim one-time funding will be offered additional payments of either $5,000 or $20,000, based on their child's age, to purchase eligible services and supports they feel are most appropriate for their child.
Urgent response services: Initiating a community-based proposal process to identify organizations in the sector to deliver urgent response services. These services will provide a timely, rapid response to a specific, identified need to prevent further escalation.
A $3.8 million additional investment in diagnostic hubs to improve families' access to an assessment for their child by reducing waitlists and wait times, resulting in families being able to register for the Ontario Autism Program and access services as quickly as possible.
Increased oversight of clinicians providing applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy in Ontario. The government will introduce legislation to regulate ABA as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario, beginning with applied behaviour analysts in supervisory and assessment-focused roles.
“We are incredibly proud of the extensive work that has gone into developing these key elements of our needs-based and family-centred Ontario Autism Program, which we will continue to evaluate on an ongoing basis," said Minister Smith. "It's important that we are responsive to the individual needs of children and youth and that their families are supported every step of the way.”
The government launched foundational family services, such as family and peer mentoring, caregiver workshops and coaching, in August 2020 as part of Ontario’s needs-based Ontario Autism Program.
Several selection processes are currently underway to select organizations that will deliver services that will be part of the new needs-based Ontario Autism Program, including for the Independent Intake Organization and the caregiver-mediated early years programs.
In July 2019, the Ontario Autism Program budget was increased from approximately $300 million to $600 million annually to help ensure it is both needs-based and sustainable moving forward.