What's New

06 February 2019

Changes to the Ontario Autism Program mark a seismic shift in service delivery

“The re-vamping of the OAP represents a seismic shift in the delivery of services for children,” says Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario (EKO) CEO Jennifer Churchill, who notes that the government had to act to address ballooning wait lists. “There is an enormous cost when kids have to wait for a diagnosis, and when kids wait for treatment. The doubling of the government’s investment in diagnostic hubs is good news. Waiting for diagnosis has been a first roadblock, and this means more kids will be able to access treatment faster.”

The changes will provide funding for families to purchase the services they value most, including behaviour therapy offered by providers of their choice, respite, caregiver training, and technical aids. A new framework will be implemented to help families make decisions and navigate the system.

Public providers of child development programs will need to operate as private entities with respect to OAP-funded services.

“We’ll need to understand what services families decide they want and can afford to purchase,” explains Churchill. “We’ll be looking at what the transition requires and our members will determine how they can continue offering kids and families the quality services they deserve and expect.”

EKO urges the government to consider what is required to transition the kids who are already receiving services through the OAP, as well as what tools and supports providers may need to adapt their business models.

Demand for service is high, yet quality, knowledgeable and experienced staff is already in short supply, notes Churchill. “Families should be able to count on consistent quality in all Ontario communities. There might be a growing market in Toronto and Ottawa, but not in more rural or northern communities.”

The autism spectrum includes a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders, and kids with ASD have a broad range of needs. According to a Public Health Agency of Canada report released last year approximately 1 in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with ASD in Canada. The report noted that quality of life can be improved if timely and appropriate services are available.

Read more about the Minister’s announcement.

Empowered Kids Ontario-Enfants Avenir Ontario is a member association representing Ontario’s publicly-funded child development and rehabilitation agencies that provide integrated, evidence-based, family-centred care to kids with special needs and their families, so that all kids can live their best lives.