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Blog: Strengthening the Ontario Autism Program

In March 2016, the province announced the new Ontario Autism Program, which will provide all children, regardless of age, with more flexible services based on each child’s individual needs, significantly reduce wait times for therapy, deliver diagnosis earlier in a child’s development and increase the number of treatment spaces available to serve more children and accommodate the rising prevalence in autism diagnoses.

As part of the March announcement our government committed $333 million over five years for Ontario’s new autism program in addition to the $190 million that Ontario already invests annually. Further to that announcement it became clear that parents were justifiably concerned that the new program didn’t adequately support children and their families as they transition to the new program.

My colleagues and I listened to parents, as they educated us on the challenges they face with raising autistic children.

Because of their determination and resiliency, MPPs from our Caucus brought their voices to Queen’s Park and to then Minister MacCharles and Premier Wynne. The result? Ontario announced an additional $200-million investment over the next four years for additional supports for children and youth with autism as they transition to this new treatment regime.

The government will accelerate the implementation of the Ontario Autism Program, which will now begin one year sooner, and is also boosting access to services and supports during this shortened transition period, including:

  • A choice of direct funding or if preferred, immediate and continuous access to 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 attending school full time.
  • 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.

Over the past few months, I appreciate the families that took the time to meet with me at my Constituency Office to share their stories. It’s because of you that I have been able to get a real understanding of the needs of children with autism, and therefore have been able to take a message back to my colleagues at Queen’s Park on your behalf. I look forward to ongoing discussions and providing support during this transition.

When voices are united and productive, I believe it can be a great mechanism for advocacy and powerful change. These additional supports are the result of your advocacy – and an example of democracy in action. 

Here in Burlington related to these efforts, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with a group of parents assisting them in their efforts to evaluate access and resources available for adults with autism in our community, so that when their children leave high school, they will have the resources, skills and tools available to help them live independent and fulfilling lives.

Moving forward and recognizing that Ontarians with autism require support throughout their lives, we will continue to strengthen supports for all people with autism as they prepare for postsecondary education, employment and community participation.

For more information on the Ontario Autism Program, please visit Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services online.

Eleanor McMahon, MPP

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