Helping Families by Improving Access to Autism Services
Ontario’s Government for the People is improving access to services so more families of children and youth living with autism can receive fair service. The government is helping families by:
Moving 23,000 children off the waitlist and into Childhood Budgets
The vast majority of children and youth in the Ontario Autism Program are on a waitlist for behavioural services. Some have been waiting nearly two years.
New Childhood Budgets will provide more families with access to a broader range of eligible services that they believe are most helpful for their child and family. Childhood Budgets will be available for children up to age 18 and will be subject to annual income testing. Families currently on the waitlist for services can expect to receive their budgets within the next 18 months.
Expanding Ontario’s five autism diagnostic hubs
Demand for autism spectrum disorder diagnoses continues to grow. There are more than 2,400 children currently waiting for assessment through Ontario’s five diagnostic hubs. The average wait time is 31 weeks.
Ontario is doubling funding to expand the hubs over the next two years to help more children receive an autism diagnosis sooner and help connect families to local services in their communities. Evidence has shown that when children start behavioural intervention between ages two and five, they show improved cognitive, language and behavioural development, are better prepared for school and have better long-term outcomes in adulthood.
Establishing a family-focused, independent intake agency
A new independent agency will assist families in registering for the program, assess their funding eligibility, provide them with their Childhood Budgets and offer support to help them choose which services to purchase.
While the independent agency is being established over the next year, Autism Ontario is joining the government’s efforts to help children and youth succeed. They will be playing a key role in offering support to families to help them understand their options and to assist them in finding service providers through workshops, training sessions, and one-on-one support.
Improving accountability and oversight
The government is taking steps to enhance service delivery, improve confidence in service providers and ensure the long-term sustainability of the Ontario Autism Program. This includes introducing a deadline of April 1, 2021 for clinical supervisors to meet the program’s qualifications, regular financial audits, and publishing a list of verified providers to help families find qualified clinical supervisors.
Providing children and youth living with autism services and supports to succeed at home, in school, and in the community
Families of children living with autism who are eligible can access other ministry programs for children with special needs. This includes healthy child development programs and rehabilitation services delivered by Children’s Treatment Centres such as speech-language services, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, as well as special needs resource teachers in child care settings. Eligible families can also continue to access the Special Services at Home and the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities programs.
The ministry will continue to work in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to provide transition services and supports to children and youth living with autism through the Connections for Students program.
For students who have been identified as an exceptional pupil by an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC), the school board must develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for them. School boards may also develop IEPs for students who are receiving special education programs and/or related services but who have not been identified as exceptional by an IPRC.