Service Navigation in Northern Ontario During COVID-19

A white plate with four mini cupcakes decorated to look loosely like cats.
Angèle Paquette

~ 3 minute read 

These are very strange and trying times indeed!  As one of the Autism Ontario Service Navigators working in North, we usually come across unique challenges and obstacles as we try to reach families to offer support, and provide information and resources.  The main obstacles are a lack of local resources and service providers, and long distances (some as long as eight hours!) between towns/cities; to get to the James Bay coastal communities, for instance, you have to take a train or plane! COVID-19 social distancing has brought about new challenges, but it has also helped us gain new tools and opportunities! 

As we are currently unable to meet and greet families in person through our diverse Social Learning Opportunities, workshops and events, we’ve endeavored to offer new fun and different ways to interact and give families new experiences, and a bit of relief.  We’re so happy to be working collaboratively with local businesses to provide unique take-home kits for families to enjoy in the safety of their homes.

Within my region of the Northeast, I’ve been privileged to offer some pretty cool take-home kits and fun activities that were hand-delivered to families’ door steps or through the mail.  In the Timmins area, families received cupcake decorating kits from a local bakery, gift certificates from the local arts studio that they could use to purchase activities and/or books, and a time capsule activity that was geared to the whole family in order to capture this unprecedented moment in time.

A closeup of donuts on a tray decorated with chocolate icing and brown and white sprinkles.

In the North Bay area, a local pizzeria donated over 60 personal sized pizza making kits to families, and I am still amazed at their generosity!  We also offered craft kits, as well as bath bomb/lip gloss making kits, and planting kits that were delivered by the local businesses across Northern Ontario.  Through some amazing collaboration with my Northern team of Service Navigators from Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Simcoe area and Northeast, we continue to brainstorm and create new events every month!  I am currently working with Tim Hortons across the far Northeast areas to offer families DYI (Do it yourself) donut kits so that they can decorate their personal donuts!   

As my area is vast from North Bay to Hearst, Moosonee/Moose Factory and the whole James Bay Coast, I am unable travel to all of the parts of my region as much as I would like, but with the help of video conferencing and working as a team, we are reaching out to all of our remote communities and offering a wide range of workshops, support groups and information sessions, in English and French, right from the comforts of our own homes!  With the help of technology, families are able to attend and access more than ever before!  They are able to attend workshops and information sessions that were inaccessible in the past due to travel-times, scheduling and availability.  We also have the ability through video to keep agencies and service providers updated with information and the constant changes to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP).  Last month, we ran an Emotional Well-being seminar in French hosted by a psychotherapist from North Bay which had parents in attendance from across the whole province!  In Sault Ste. Marie, they are offering a series of workshops that focus on Community Strategies for COVID 19 that even my very rural communities in James Bay can access!  Remote families have also attended virtual workshops being run in Sudbury and online trivia games being run in Simcoe Count!  Simply amazing!

I am very anxious and excited to be able to return to our normal routines soon but also grateful to have had some of these new experiences and new ways to connect with our families! Service Navigators are always available during this time as we are only a phone call, email or Zoom Call away to help support, answer any of your questions, gather resources or even help with Ontario Autism Program (OAP) applications and funding applications.


Photo of Angele Paquette

About Angèle Paquette

Angèle has had the opportunity to work directly with children with ASD in a few different environments - schools, day cares and then working for over 7 years as an IBI/ABA (Intensive Behaviour Intervention/Applied Behaviour Analysis) therapist. Angèle is bilingual and the proud mother of two grown and very independent girls living away from home and attending college.  In her spare time you can find Angèle living on a cattle farm with her husband of 25 years.




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DISCLAIMER: This document reflects the views of the author. It is Autism Ontario’s intent to inform and educate. Every situation is unique and while we hope this information is useful, it should be used in the context of broader considerations for each person. Please contact Autism Ontario at or 416-246-9592 for permission to reproduce this material for any purpose other than personal use. © 2020 Autism Ontario 416.246.9592