Supporting Kids With Autism And Their Families
The McGuinty government continues to help Ontario families meet the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). An additional $25 million annual investment will help more kids with ASD, including those not at the severe end of the spectrum. As part of its plan to help more kids with autism, Ontario is also investing in leading edge research and providing additional supports to parents.
What is ASD?
ASD usually appears during the first three years of a child's life. Children and youth with ASD may have difficulty relating to others, problems with speech and language, and limited and repetitive interests and behaviours. ASD symptoms and characteristics range from mild to severe.
People with ASD process and respond to information in different ways. Those with the same disorder may act very differently and have different skills. Approximately one in 150 kids in Ontario has ASD. It affects four times more boys than girls.
New Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Services
Ontario is broadening the range of supports to children and youth with ASD and their families. Approximately 8,000 kids with ASD will benefit annually from new ABA-based services to be available in communities across Ontario starting in late spring 2011. These services will help children and youth with ASD become more independent, develop communication, social and daily living skills and manage better in school.
ABA is based on scientific principles of learning and behaviour. It reinforces positive behaviours, reduces problematic ones and helps kids with autism build the skills they need to learn and be more independent.
Autism Intervention Program
Ontario's Autism Intervention Program (AIP) currently provides intensive intervention to approximately 1,446 children and youth. Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) provided through this program is a structured approach to breaking down the barriers that isolate children with autism from the world around them. IBI is most beneficial for children and youth at the more severe end of the ASD spectrum.
ABA-based services and supports build on the continuum of services and supports already available to children and youth with ASD, including Ontario's AIP.
New training and supports for parents
Parents of kids with autism want more information about ASD and ABA so they can better support their children at home.
More training and support will be offered to parents so they can incorporate strategies into daily activities at home and further develop the skills their kids are learning at school and/or in a program delivered by an autism service provider. Parents will also have more access to resource materials and information about the full range of services and supports for children and youth with ASD.
This additional training and support will help parents better address the needs of their children and also help to reduce family stress.
March break and summer camps
Ontario is now providing ongoing funding to help children and youth with ASD attend March Break programs, summer camps and other respite programs. In 2010, summer camps and March Break programs provided almost 1,900 children and youth with ASD opportunities to have fun, make new friends and learn new skills.
Improved school-based supports
More than 185 autism consultants work with educators in publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools across the province as part of Ontario's School Support Program. These consultants help teachers and staff apply the principles of ABA to better understand and respond to the learning and social needs of children and youth with autism.
The ministries of Education and Children and Youth Services continue to work together to improve outcomes for children with ASD and to identify opportunities to further support them in school. For example, across Ontario, all 72 publicly-funded school boards now have teams in place to help kids leaving IBI therapy and the AIP transition to school. These transition teams include the school principal, parent, school board ASD consultant, teacher and other service providers, as needed. The teams develop an individual transition plan for each child and provide support for at least six months before and six months after a student leaves the AIP and starts or continues in school.
Ontario is supporting leaders in autism research to improve early detection and diagnosis of ASD and to better understand links with other related conditions. Since 2004, the province has committed more than $15 million to autism-related research projects.
To learn more about the genetic causes of autism, the government is funding a five-year project at the Hospital for Sick Children, which is studying the role genetics plays in people with ASD.
ASD Clinical Expert Committee
Parents want to know how their children are progressing and that they are receiving the treatment and services that best meet their needs. That is why the government is establishing a committee of experts in autism spectrum disorders to provide advice to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services - because clinical decisions are best made by experts, not the government.
The committee, which will be in place in fall 2011, will also advise the government on emerging research and best clinical practices. This will help to ensure kids with autism and their families get the right supports at the right time.
Independent Review Process
To be referred for IBI services through the AIP, a child must have a diagnosis of autism and live in the geographic area for the program. Before a child begins receiving IBI services, the regional AIP provider assesses eligibility. Decisions about a child's eligibility, progress or discharge from IBI services are made by the clinical director of the AIP.
Beginning in fall 2011, if a family is not satisfied with a decision related to their child's eligibility, or to their discharge from IBI services, they will be able to request an independent review. This will reassure parents that decisions affecting their children are fair and objective. The government will consult with stakeholders, including service providers and families, to develop the review process.