Strengthening the Ontario Autism Program
In March 2016, the province announced the new Ontario Autism Program, which will provide all children, regardless of age, with more flexible services based on each child's individual needs, significantly reduce wait times for therapy, deliver diagnosis earlier in a child's development and increase the number of treatment spaces available to serve more children and accommodate the rising prevalence in autism diagnoses.
The government has listened closely to experts, stakeholders, service providers and families since its announcement and consulted widely on the development of the new program. The government is accelerating the implementation of the Ontario Autism Program, which will now begin one year sooner, and is also boosting access to services and supports during this shortened transition period.
The 2016 Ontario Budget committed $333 million over five years for Ontario's new autism program. This is in addition to the $190 million that Ontario already invests in autism services for children and youth annually. Today, Ontario is announcing an additional $200 million investment over the next four years for additional supports for children and youth with autism.
Implementing the Ontario Autism Program sooner
The implementation of the new Ontario Autism Program will now begin in June 2017, a full year ahead of the initially planned date of June 2018.
As part of this acceleration plan, more hours and weeks of service will be available sooner to all children with autism, based on each child's assessed need. In addition, the number of treatment spaces for children will increase as part of the shortened transition period.
Access to earlier diagnosis
Ontario is increasing access to timely diagnosis by creating five regional diagnostic hubs where children can receive an autism diagnosis. These hubs will support earlier diagnostic assessments.
This will help children receive diagnoses of autism earlier so that they can begin accessing services at an earlier age. An estimated 2,000 children will receive diagnostic assessments over two years through the new investment.
More direct funding and more choice
For families that have children who have been removed from the Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) waitlist, Ontario is providing a choice of more direct funding or access to Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) services by publicly funded providers. This will provide access to continuous service until the implementation of the Ontario Autism Program begins in June 2017.
This funding will be provided directly to parents to purchase behavioural services and supports based on the needs of their children. Successive payments of $10,000 will be made available for these families until their child enters the new program in 2017. We anticipate that this will provide behavioural supports for approximately 10 weeks. This funding will be guided by the principle of access to continuous service, based on specific need.
To give families more choice and flexibility, these families alternatively have the option to choose immediate and continuous access to ABA services during the transition period in lieu of receiving direct funding.
More resources for families
Ontario is ensuring that families can easily access the information they need, as well as comprehensive one-on-one supports.
This will include the increased availability of family support coordinators through service providers and for families through the Potential Programme, which is delivered by Autism Ontario. The program offers access to information and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experts in local communities and supportive community-based learning opportunities for children with ASD.
Approximately 45 new Family Support Coordinators will be hired across the province. They will offer one-on-one supports to help up to 3,600 families whose children are either transitioning from the IBI waitlist or from IBI service, to navigate during the transition period.
Ontario has also created a toll-free number, 1-888-284-8340, for families to get information and help find their closest regional office. More information is also available online at Ontario.ca/autism.
More supports in schools
Ontario is also improving support for children with autism through the publicly funded school system. Various school-based services will be enhanced and expanded during the transition, including the Connections for Students program and school-based teams to support up to 3,600 students leaving IBI services and/or the IBI waitlist.
School boards will also be eligible to apply for funding for after-school skills development programming for children affected by the changes to community autism services.