Ontario Autism Program to be accelerated; to begin in June 2017

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There will be  more support for children and youth with autism, including an accelerated implementation of the new Ontario Autism Program, the province announced on Tuesday, June 28.

The new program will provide all children, regardless of age, with more flexible services at a level of intensity that  meets each child’s individual needs, significantly reduce wait times for service, and increase the number of treatment spaces available to serve more children and accommodate the rising prevalence in autism diagnoses.

Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, said: “We know that parents want the best for their children. As the Minister of Children and Youth Services and as a member of provincial parliament, I’ve heard from parents and advocates alike that we needed to do better for their kids. While the fundamental principles of the new Ontario Autism Program remain intact, I am pleased to announce today a smoother and faster transition to the new program for kids with autism in Ontario. I am confident that once fully implemented, the new Ontario Autism Program will deliver the critical services that kids need, when they need them, regardless of their age.”

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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. Ontario is putting in place additional supports for children with autism and their families, including:

  • A choice of direct funding or if preferred, immediate and continuous access to Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) services and supports, for children five and over who were previously on the Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) waitlist. This funding will provide access to continuous service until the child is able to enter the new Ontario Autism Program next year.
  • Strengthened in-school autism supports to help children transition to and continue in full-time school.
  • Increased access to diagnostic assessments to allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment.
  • Greater access to information and direct supports for families to help them navigate the transition to the new program.

Implementation of the new Ontario Autism Program was originally slated to begin in 2018, and will now begin in June 2017, effectively reducing the transition period by half.

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Ontario Autism Coalition

The  Ontario Autism Coalition said in a statement that it was pleased with the government’s new solutions to the Ontario Autism Program. “We are delighted that the government has recognized the urgency of the need to move forward with the accelerated implementation and the assurance that the 2200 children removed from the waiting list are not left behind while also ensuring the needs of those in service continue to be met. This program will be addressing the unique individualized clinical needs of each child with Autism living in the province of Ontario.”

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. These enhancements will invest an additional $200 million over the next four years to better support children and youth with autism and their families.

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An advisory committee of parents, stakeholders, advocates, service providers and experts will begin meeting this summer to provide advice to the ministry on the design of the new program.

Families affected by these changes, or who have questions about the new Ontario Autism Program, can call 1-888-284-8340 for information, or contact their regional office or service provider.

  • Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong, complex neurodevelopmental disorder. It is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction and repetitive behaviour. Symptoms of autism vary significantly and range in severity.
  • There are an estimated 40,000 children and youth in Ontario with ASD. Based on the most recent prevalence rate from the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, prevalence has grown from 1 in 150 in 2002 to 1 in 68 in 2010.
  • Parents can call 1-888-284-8340 toll-free for more information and to find their nearest ministry regional office.
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