There’s some good news for parents concerned with the learning and development of their children on the autism spectrum. This past Tuesday, the provincial government announced that it is implementing a needs-based autism program. It is in accordance with the Ontario Autism Panel’s key recommendations.

These efforts are in recognition that every family has needs specific to them, and that children and youth on the autism spectrum will have different levels of need at different points on their lives. These considerations help the province deliver a more comprehensive, sustainable and family-centred program.

The following broad range of service pathways, which align to the recommendations of the advisory panel, include the following:

  • Core Services: including applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy, and mental health services
  • Foundational Family Services: for all families in the program, to build their capacity to support their child’s learning and development
  • Early Intervention and School Readiness Services: to help young children access critical services when they will benefit most, to prepare them to enter school
  • Urgent and Complex Needs Services: to support children and youth who are in service, or are waiting for service, and have significant and immediate wants

Families and caregivers of children and youth on the autism spectrum will be able to access services such as: peer mentoring, training, workshops, and coaching sessions to further support their child’s ongoing learning and development.

The first phase of the implementation will begin in April 2020, and will be followed by additional phases throughout 2020 and 2021.

In July, the Ontario Autism Program budget was increased to $600 million from $300 million annually to help ensure it is both needs-based and sustainable. All families on the waitlist who have not yet received a Childhood Budget will receive an invitation for interim one-time funding of either $5,000 or $20,000, depending on the age of their child, so they can begin purchasing services the child may need.

Early in 2020, the ministry will begin offering 15 in-person training sessions organized by Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI) to community-based physician and medical practitioners, community agencies, educators and caregivers, so as to increase mutual understanding of children and youth on the autism spectrum as well as co-occurring mental health challenges.

“Almost every parent I’ve met has asked for two things: services that address their child’s specific needs, and a plan from their government to get there,” Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith, said during the announcement, “The work has started, and we are continuing to listen to experts and families.”

For more information about the program, see the official Government of Ontario news release here.