Providing Access to Quality Supports and Services for Children With Special Needs and Their Families

Child and Youth Mental Health

Mental health services for children and youth are currently delivered through more than 260 child and youth mental health agencies, 17 hospital-based outpatient programs, and one directly-operated child and youth mental health centre. This is in addition to on-site clinical supports at six directly-operated youth justice secure custody/detention facilities and by a number of multi-service agencies who provide services to children and youth with multiple needs (e.g. youth justice and mental health).

Through Ontario's Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, the ministry will continue to build a system that delivers what children and youth need, when they need it, as close to home as possible. The goal of the strategy is improving mental health and wellbeing for all Ontarians. The ministry is creating more coordinated, responsive, client-centred mental health and addictions services throughout the province.

As part of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, Ontario's youth suicide prevention plan was launched in 2013-14. In 2014-15, year two of the three year plan, work continued to leverage the momentum built in year one through:

  • Local Mobilization, which includes:
    • Community supports to 34 communities across the province to continue efforts to enhance capacity and strengthen local youth suicide prevention efforts;
    • Dedicated supports for First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and urban Aboriginal organizations in recognition that these communities have unique cultural and organizational needs; and
    • Improvements to the Together to Live web-based guide/toolkit launched in 2013-14.
  • Implementation of coaching supports through the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health to support community mobilization; and
  • Six provincial mobilization forums to be developed and implemented by the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, held throughout March 2015. An Aboriginal-specific forum held in Thunder Bay on March 31.

The approach for year three is being developed based on the feedback from community events, cross-sectoral service providers and partners, First Nations partners, and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.

Building on the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, Moving on Mental Health: A system that makes sense for children and youth, is the next step in transforming the child and youth mental health system.

Moving on Mental Health is transforming the experience of children and youth with mental health problems and their families so that, regardless of where they live in Ontario, they will know what mental health services are available in their communities, and how to access mental health services and supports that meet their needs. Moving on Mental Health transformation includes establishing lead agencies in every Ontario community that will be responsible for the planning and delivery of service, and identifying core services. In January 2014, the ministry identified 33 service areas for the delivery of core child and youth mental health services and began the identification process for the first phase of lead agencies. Fourteen lead agencies were announced in August 2014, with another two in February 2015. The ministry began the process of identifying lead agencies in the remaining service areas in March 2015.

The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health will continue its work to improve the quality and effectiveness of child and youth mental health services through the promotion of evidence-based practices and knowledge transfer with front-line service providers.

In 2015-16, the ministry will invest $509.7 million in Child and Youth Mental Health.

Services and Supports for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The ministry provides services through the Autism Intervention Program (AIP), including Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) services, family and child supports, and transition supports to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are diagnosed as having toward the severe end of the autism spectrum.

A range of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)-based Services and Supports will continue to benefit approximately 9,400 children and youth with ASD in 2015-16. These services help young people with ASD become more independent and improve their communication, social, emotional and daily living skills.

Training and support will continue to be offered to parents, so they can incorporate strategies into daily activities at home and further develop the skills their kids are learning at school and/or in other programs. This training and support helps parents better address the needs of their children and build their own skills.

In 2015-16, the ministry will also continue to:

  • Support the Potential Program (formerly known as Realize Community Potential), which helps reduce the stress on families by providing supports like parent networking opportunities, training and access to ASD experts and resources;
  • Provide funding to help children and youth with autism to attend March break programs and summer camps, where kids enjoy making new friends, learning new skills, and participating in activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, bowling, skating, and music;
  • Provide funding for the Grant Assistance Program (GAP) which provides tuition reimbursement to currently employed staff of the AIP and ABA-based Services and Supports for professional development at qualifying academic programs in exchange for continuous employment;
  • Provide funding for the School Support Program to assist educators in the publicly funded school system to support the learning needs of students with ASD;
  • Support children leaving the AIP and starting or continuing in a publicly-funded school through Connections for Students;
  • Fund respite services for families caring for a child with autism; and
  • Provide families, through the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM), with the opportunity to request an independent review of decisions about their child's eligibility for, or discharge from, IBI services provided through the AIP.

The ASD Clinical Expert Committee will continue to provide the ministry with expert advice on up-to-date and evidence-based research to help inform policy and program development.

In April 2014, the ministry released a Parent Resource Kit for families with children and youth with ASD. The kit provides helpful information, tools, and resources following a diagnosis of ASD. In 2015-16, the ministry will continue to raise awareness of the Kit.

In 2015-16, the ministry will invest $195.1 million in services for children and youth with ASD.

Children's Treatment and Rehabilitation Services

The ministry will continue to fund Children's Treatment Centres (CTCs) to provide core rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy to children and youth up to 19 years of age with physical and/or developmental disabilities, chronic illness and/or communication disorders. These include cerebral palsy, brain injuries, developmental and learning disabilities, Down syndrome, spina bifida, ASD and pervasive developmental disorders.

CTCs may also offer a variety of other services and clinics - such as support to children and youth with ASD, preschool speech and language services, school health support services, respite, and developmental programs - depending on local needs and the mix of providers in each community.

Twenty of Ontario's 21 CTCs are funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care because it provides in-patient services.

The ministry will continue to fund respite services for families with children who are medically-fragile, technology-dependent, or who have physical and/or developmental disabilities. Services are provided in the family home or in a setting outside the home, such as a group home.

CTCs served more than 70,000 children and youth with special needs in 2013-14. The 2014 Budget committed an additional $5 million in annual funding for investments in CTCs. This funding is being used to reduce waitlists for core rehabilitation services and improve how families of children and youth with special needs access the services they need, as close to home as possible.

In 2015-16, the ministry will invest $118.9 million in Children's Treatment and Rehabilitation Services, including respite.

Special Needs Strategy

Working with the ministries of Community and Social Services, Education, and Health and Long-Term Care, the ministry launched a Special Needs Strategy in February 2014 with steps to improve services for children and youth with special needs and their families.

In 2015-16, children's agencies and other service providers, including health service providers and district school boards, in the 34 special needs service delivery areas will complete proposals for the implementation of coordinated service planning and the integrated delivery of rehabilitation services. In 2015-16, the ministry will continue working with partners towards the realization of the vision.

Identifying children with special needs earlier and getting them the right services sooner

A new preschool developmental screening process will help families, caregivers and child-serving professionals identify early signs or risks for delays to development in children from birth to 6 years of age.

Making the delivery of supports and services more seamless

Improvements to make rehabilitation services, including speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, easier to access and seamlessly delivered from birth through the school years.

Coordinated service planning

A new process for children and youth with multiple and/or complex special needs will mean that families will have a trusted partner to help them connect with the right services and supports, without having to tell their stories multiple times.

Coordinated service planning will be composed of three key elements. These are:

  • A single Coordinating Agency in each of 34 special needs service delivery areas through which families can access coordinated service planning for a range of services across sectors;
  • Dedicated Service Planning Coordinators, through each Coordinating Agency, who will lead coordinated service planning for families of children and youth with multiple and/or complex special needs by working with children's services, health, and education sectors; and
  • One coordinated service plan for each child/youth that takes into account all of his/her goals, strengths, needs, as well as all of the services that the child/youth is and will be receiving.

The target population for coordinated service planning is families of children and youth with multiple and/or complex special needs (from birth through school exit) who would benefit from the added support provided through coordinated service planning, due to the breadth and cross-sectoral nature of their children's service needs and/or potential challenges in coordinating services because of external factors (outside of the child's needs).

In 2015-16, the ministry will invest $3.0 million in coordinated service planning.

Complex Special Needs

Through Complex Special Needs funding, the ministry will continue to fund time-limited specialized supports to children and youth with complex special needs when existing local and regional services and resources are not able to address the immediate health and safety of the children and youth.

Children and youth receiving complex special needs funded supports include those who:

  • Have two or more special needs requiring integrated service approaches that cross sectors (e.g., health, education, and social services) with services often being provided at a number of different locations;
  • Have needs associated with a variety of conditions (e.g., physical, intellectual, emotional, and developmental disabilities and chronic, severe and/or terminal illness) including those who are medically fragile and/or technologically dependent; and
  • Require specialized services and supports to participate in daily living activities, on a long-term, continuous and/or intermittent basis.

In 2015-16, the ministry will invest $95.0 million for Complex Special Needs.

The ministry is taking steps to strengthen the management, transparency, and accountability of the Complex Special Needs fund. It will implement provincial guidelines and identify up to seven agencies to manage and be accountable for service resolution and Complex Special Needs funding.