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Ford government rolling out new autism program with needs-based services

Last Updated Feb 3, 2021 at 12:11 pm EDT

Premier Doug Ford speaks at his daily press briefing at Queens Park in Toronto on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rene Johnston - POOL

The Ford government is rolling out a new needs-based autism program aimed at providing better support for families of children with autism.

Beginning in March, the province will offer core services that will be based on a child’s individual needs. These services include applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health supports.

The process to decide which families meet the requirements will include:

  • meeting with a family to identify a child’s goals, strengths and support needs across key domains
  • allocating funding to families so they can purchase core clinical services from providers of their choice
  • supporting families with next steps to access core clinical services of their choice


Once families receive funding they will develop plans and treatment options with a clinician that they choose.

The plan was supposed to begin in April of last year but was delayed for several reasons, including the pandemic.

The province says financial support for parents has been extended until the new system is ready.

NDP MP Teresa Armstrong says the announcement is devastating for families of children with autism. Armstrong says only a fraction of the families who need support are going to get it.

.Around 600 youth across the province who are registered in the Ontario Autism Program will be invited to participate in the launch of the core clinical services

“Providing core clinical services is a critical step forward in the development of a needs-based autism program designed by the community for the community” said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “We are determined to get this right so more children than ever before can receive the appropriate level of support they need close to home.”

Additionally, families in the program will benefit from:

  • Renewal of interim funding: Eligible families who received a childhood budget or interim one-time funding will be offered additional payments of either $5,000 or $20,000, based on their child’s age, to purchase eligible services and supports they feel are most appropriate for their child.
  • Urgent response services: Initiating a community-based proposal process to identify organizations in the sector to deliver urgent response services. These services will provide a timely, rapid response to a specific, identified need to prevent further escalation.
  • A $3.8 million additional investment in diagnostic hubs to improve families’ access to an assessment for their child by reducing waitlists and wait times, resulting in families being able to register for the Ontario Autism Program and access services as quickly as possible.
  • Increased oversight of clinicians providing applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy in Ontario. The government will introduce legislation to regulate ABA as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario, beginning with applied behaviour analysts in supervisory and assessment-focused roles.


“We are incredibly proud of the extensive work that has gone into developing these key elements of our needs-based and family-centred program,” said Minister Smith. “It’s important that we are responsive to the individual needs of children and youth and that their families are supported every step of the way.”

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