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The work of identifying Ontario’s top five priorities began in May 2018, when Autism Ontario surveyed caregivers and autistic adults across the province in an effort to better understand the experiences and needs of our community.
Over 1,500 caregivers and 87 autistic adults responded, and these responses helped us develop an initial list of ten priorities. In 2019, we distributed these priorities in a second survey asking the same people to rank them; from there, we developed the narrower list of top five priorities you see below.
Our continuous conversation with the community, as well as the explicit mention of most of these priorities in our pre-budget consultation report to the Ontario Minister of Finance in 2019 and 2020, makes it abundantly clear that there is more work to be done. Today in 2020, we know that little has changed, and these priorities are as relevant as ever.
While education support was rated the highest area of need, 69% of caregivers of elementary school-aged children and 77.8% of caregivers of high school-aged children, strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “We feel listened to by our child’s school.”
2. Long Waitlists
73.6% of caregivers reported long waitlists as the largest barrier to service, with respondents classifying waitlist as a large (23.9%) or a very large barrier (49.7%).
Long waitlists also impacted adults on the spectrum, with 60.3% reporting long waitlists as a large (20.6%) or very large barrier (39.7%) to accessing service.
3. Financial Hardship
56.3% of caregivers said that finances had been a large (23.9%) or very large (32.4%) source of stress in the past year.
50.7% of autistic adults said that finances had been a large (23.4%) or very large (27.2%) source of stress in the past year.
4. School Transitions
87.4% of caregivers say it is very stressful to plan for their child’s transition out of school and 83% reported not feeling well supported or ready to do so. 59.2% of caregivers reported they are not confident the transition out of high school will be smooth.
5. Adults’ Concerns
For autistic adults, a lack of necessary services and a lack of professionals who understand autism are the largest barriers to service, with 63% of adults identifying these as large or very large barriers. The top identified service need was psychological or psychiatric support.
Over the coming months, we will be discussing each of these priorities in detail. We’ll discuss how the priority is still relevant, actions Autism Ontario has been taking, what you and others in the community can do about it, and provide helpful relevant resources along the way.
We hope you will take this journey with us so that we can work together to build a supportive and inclusive Ontario for people on the autism spectrum.