Autism Ontario Responds to the Ministry of Children Community and Social Services

Katharine Buchan, Manager of Development and Communications
Toronto, Ontario, February 6, 2019 
The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services announces plan to clear Ontario Autism Program wait lists
Autism Ontario is committed to supporting families through this province-wide program change and will work with the Autistic community to find solutions to this process. 

Today’s announcement from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services represents another change to children’s programming across our province and the program direction will mean different things to different families. 

Much of today’s announcement echoes what Autism Ontario hears from families across the province. Long waitlists are one of the largest barriers to accessing diagnostic and required services. Right now, Ontario families wait over a year for a diagnosis and the proposed increase in funding to expand the province’s five diagnostic hubs would help to eliminate this barrier. 

Once diagnosed, under the current program, families continue to experience barriers to accessing behavioural services. There is no one-size-fits all solution to this problem as some of these barriers are waitlist related, some are financial and some are related to our provincial capacity to provide access to high-quality ABA professionals. These challenges also continue to be shaped by geographic, language or cultural barriers, and a provincial system that continues to operate in a siloed fashion. 

The efficacy and success of our autism programming must not fall solely on the shoulders of children’s programming. To support people on the spectrum, we need a commitment across all ministries, including adult services, education, health, mental health, post-secondary, and employment sectors. Without this, families will continue to struggle for support and our society will continue to fail Autistic people and their families across their lifespan. 

We surveyed Ontario families and Autistic adults in 2018, notably, 66.4% of Ontario families told us they wanted a Direct Funding model in Ontario. Families wanted the ability to choose their own service provider and control the timing and the location of their treatment. This new program addresses that expressed desire. 

With that in mind, the proposed funding options, up until the age of 18 will suit the needs of some families, but not all. This does not address the varied support needs. Some families pay anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 dollars a year for evidence-based intervention. For Northern, Indigenous, rural or Francophone families, there are currently few professionals, and little to no 2 programs or supports on which to spend this funding. The challenge remains that families who experience geographical, cultural, or linguistic barriers are still unable to access equitable service in contrast to areas that are more resourced. 

Establishing a list of qualified providers is welcomed news. Helping families access qualified clinical supervisors for behavioural services has been a long-standing issue in the autism community, with behavior professionals, parents and organizations advocating for the regulation of behavior services in Ontario. We will work with families and this government through the challenges and opportunities that will be present with this new approach. This expanded role will allow us to pay close attention to a family’s ability to use these funds or to help families to create new responses that make sense for them locally. 

About Autism Ontario: Autism Ontario has a 46 year history of representing thousands of families and people with ASD across Ontario. We are the only organization in Ontario that has formal parent representation in all areas of the province through our 25 Chapters. We advocate on behalf of all people with ASD and their families – at all ages and stages of life, reflecting a wide range of expression and abilities. 

Vision: Acceptance and Opportunities for all people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Mission: To ensure that each individual with ASD is provided the means to achieve quality of life as a respected member of society. 

CONTACT: Jeff Bomben, Communications Coordinator 416-246-9592 ext. 232 jeff at autismontario dot com