BROCKVILLE – Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark is welcoming enhancements to the Ontario Autism Program announced today by Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
“Parents were right when they said autism is a spectrum and there are different needs for children on the spectrum. Our government is putting people first with these enhancements to the program, which comes into effect April 1,” said Clark. “We will continue to take their input for the next several months to assess how we can better support those with more complex needs and provide additional support to them.”
“Our government is fully committed to transforming how autism services are delivered in Ontario,” said MacLeod. “The government is working to move all 23,000 children off the waitlist as quickly as possible within the next 18 months.”
Children will be brought off the waitlist based on a combination of the time they have been waiting for service and with a continued focus on early intervention. Considerations will be made for children five years of age and youth 17 years of age to ensure they receive the maximum remaining funding.
The government will explore options to provide children who are currently on the waitlist with Childhood Budgets on a quicker timeline, especially younger children.
“Our current plan, augmented with the compassionate enhancements we have announced today, will eliminate the waitlists and better support children with autism and their families,” said Clark.
To build on previously-announced changes to the program, the government is:
ELIMINATING INCOME TESTING
- All families of children and youth under the age of 18 with a written diagnosis of autism from a qualified professional will now be eligible for a Childhood Budget. Children under the age of six will receive $20,000 annually in direct funding, while those six and over will receive $5,000 annually.
EXPANDING ELIGIBLE SERVICES
- Through Childhood Budgets, families will have access to a broader range of eligible services, such as speech language pathology, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy.
- Full details on eligible services will be posted on the ministry’s website in early April.
SMOOTHING THE TRANSITION FOR FAMILIES
- All children who currently have an Ontario Autism Program Behaviour Plan will continue to receive the services outlined in that plan until its end date. Families will then be able to renew it for six months at its current level of intensity.
Clark said today’s announcement highlighted that one of the enhancements the government is exploring is how best to provide additional supports to families based on the diagnosed needs of their child.
“We continue to work to support children with autism, and their families,” added MacLeod. “The new Ontario Autism Program with its enhancements is the best possible program Ontario can deliver and it is the only program in the history of our province that will support every single child.”