Ontario Government Announces New Autism Investments
Quick Fact: There are an estimated 40,000 children and youth in Ontario with ASD.
At the end of last month, the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services announced a $333 million investment into a new autism program aimed at reducing waitlists and providing better services for families.
Youth with autism are identified in Ontario’s Stepping Up framework as part of a vulnerable youth population that may need more targeted supports and opportunities to ensure that they are able to succeed. This new autism funding recognizes, and is in response to the barriers faced by youth and families of youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The new program approach was informed by families, clinical experts and the Autism Spectrum Clinical Expert Committee. Highlights include: reducing wait times for services, focusing Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) services to children ages 2-4, transitioning children 5+ to Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA services), and providing $8000 to families with children five years and older for support.
“One of the concerns at this point in time is the lack of clarity about how children will be transitioned into these next services and whether those services will be optimal…There was a lack of representation of experts from behavioural analysis on the clinical expert committee. And that means there was a body of research that was not integrated into the current announcement.”
– Dr. Julie Koudys, Assistant Professor, Brock University Centre for Applied Disability Services to CBC News
Since the announcement, families of children and youth with ASD have voiced strong concerns over the new changes, specifically the change that transitions children out of IBI services to ABA services. As outlined in a letter by the Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) to MCYS, there is concern that without IBI treatment, many children and youth with ASD will not receive the treatment they require. If this happens, members of the BCBA believe it will result in the loss of opportunity for these children and youth to develop significant skills, and thus, lead to significant challenges for not only the youth, but their families and communities for years to come.
Minister Tracy MacCharles has written a letter, published in the Toronto Sun to address these concerns, and MCYS is hosting a number of information sessions for families and stakeholders to learn more about the new funding.
Select News Coverage:
MINISTRY OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES
Ontario Investing $333 Million to Improve Autism Services
Waterloo parent devastated by changes to the Ontario Autism Program
ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION
BCBA Group Letter to Minister MacCharles
“This funding is creating over 16,000 new spaces for children with autism to receive services, and we’re redesigning those services so that children get the programs best suited to their developmental needs…
We recognize how difficult transitioning to a new program can be for families, which is why we are making staff and resources available to make the process as easy as possible.
I want to assure parents that no child, regardless of age, will be removed from service.”
– Minister Tracy MacCharles