Eves Government builds bridge to the future for older children with autism

Archived Release

Eves Government builds bridge to the future for older children with autism

Ministry of Community and Social Services

TORONTO, Aug. 11 /CNW/ - The Ernie Eves government is delivering on its promise to help older children with autism, making Ontario the first province to develop a program aimed at meeting the unique needs of these children.
"We are following through on our promise to parents of children with autism to provide a new program and services so elementary school age children with autism can continue to grow and learn," said Brenda Elliott, Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services.
Elliott today announced that the new program, called BRIDGES, will be introduced this Fall with a demonstration site in London, Ontario. The ministry is inviting prospective service providers in the Southwest region to submit a proposal to provide the new program. The demonstration site is expected to be operational by early October 2003 so delivery and implementation can be evaluated and refined before expanding to other parts of the province.
The new program, designed with the input of a panel of experts, will help older children build the social, communication and behavioural skills that they need at home, school and in their communities.
BRIDGES will provide children with a two-hour per week, group-based program that is intended to support and complement other community services or activities with which the child and family are involved. BRIDGES will be offered in two 16-week sessions per year, in the fall and spring to mirror the school year.
By 2006/07 the province will spend almost $100 million on new programs and services for children with autism, making it a leader in developing innovative initiatives designed to improve the lives of these children and help parents raise their children with hope and dignity.
The Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services, provides more than $8 billion annually for services and programs to help improve the quality of life for children, individuals, families and communities across Ontario.

BRIDGES: ONTARIO'S NEWEST INVESTMENT
TO HELP YOUNG CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

The Ernie Eves government recognizes that children with autism need help over the long-term. That is why, for the first time in Ontario, the government is introducing new programs and services to help older children with autism grow and learn.

THE BRIDGES PROGRAM

Goals
BRIDGES aims to help elementary school-age children with autism or a related disorder develop essential skills that will help them function productively at home, school and in the community. These include:

- social skills, such as playing with other children and eating out at a
restaurant.
- behavioural skills, such as following directions, completing
activities and following daily routines.
- communication skills, such as carrying on a conversation, listening to
instructions and asking for help.

Research indicates that delayed social, behavioural and communication skills are the biggest barriers to further development that an autistic child can face. That is why BRIDGES focuses on developing these skills, and helping children learn how to apply them in a variety of settings.
A panel of experts with extensive knowledge and expertise in autism spectrum disorders and/or community programs and services for children and families, including education, helped to design the program that will be implemented in the demonstration site.

Structure
BRIDGES will provide children with two hours per week of programming that is intended to support and complement other community services or activities - such as swimming lessons, Girl Guides or Scouts - with which the child and family are currently involved. The program is group-based, with an average of six children in a group. BRIDGES is also designed to be flexible and accessible for families, and therefore may be held in a variety of community settings, such as schools, community centres, libraries and religious buildings.

Implementation
BRIDGES will begin this October, with a demonstration site for 120 children in the London area. The demonstration site will provide an opportunity to evaluate and refine the program design and implementation before expanding the program to other parts of the province.
When fully operational, BRIDGES may serve 6,000 to 7,000 children each year.

Disponible en fran├žais

For more information visit http://www.cfcs.gov.on.ca
For further information: Contacts: Anne Machowski-Smith, Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services, (416) 325-5156; Christine Bujold, Minister's Office, (416) 325-5219