Autism Programs and Services


News and Updates

Key Ontario Autism Program changes designed to help more families of children and youth with autism are now in place. These include:

Families will begin to receive Childhood Budgets in April 2019. All eligible families who were on the waitlist as of April 1, 2019 can expect to receive their first Childhood Budget within the next 18 months.

Enhancing Support for Children with Autism

Ontario is taking action to enhance the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) to help ensure that all children with autism receive support. The new enhancements build on autism changes first announced in early February.

Meeting the Individual Needs of Children with Autism

Over the coming months, the government will explore how best to provide additional supports to families based on the diagnosed needs of their child. We will take input from parents and stakeholders for the next several months to assess how to better support children with more complex needs and provide additional sources of support to them.

Moving Children Off the Waitlist

The government is working to move all 23,000 children off the waitlist over the next 18 months so they have timely access to support through Childhood Budgets. Children will be brought off the waitlist through a phased approach based on a combination of the time they have been waiting for service, and with a continued focus on early intervention. Considerations will also be made for children five years of age and youth 17 years of age to help maximize funding for them.

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 are eligible to receive $20,000 annually in direct funding, while those six and over are eligible to receive $5,000 annually.

Further Expanding Eligible Services

Through Childhood Budgets, families will have access to a broader range of eligible services, such as speech language pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. Full details on eligible and ineligible services are available here.

Smoothing the Transition for Families Receiving Services

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. When your behaviour plan ends on or after April 1, families will be able to access one additional six-month plan at up to the current level of intensity.

Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Ministry of Education has announced that they are increasing supports for educators and building on existing programs so school boards will be prepared to help ensure that students with autism will feel safe and supported in their classrooms as they transition into school.

More information about school-based supports for students with autism can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website.

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What is the Ontario Autism Program?

Ontario is improving access to services so more families of children and youth with autism can receive service.

Starting April 1, 2019, through the Ontario Autism Program, families of children with autism on the waitlist will be provided with timely access to Childhood Budgets so they can purchase the services they value most from the providers of their choice. This will support children to achieve their goals at home, at school, in the community and as they transition into adulthood.

Introducing Childhood Budgets starting April, 2019

New Childhood Budgets will provide more families with direct funding so they can access a broader range of eligible services that they believe are most helpful for their child and family. This will include behavioural services such as assessments and consultations, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy as well as family/caregiver capacity building and training, respite services, technology aids and travel.

The ministry will be taking a phased approach to bringing families who are currently on the waitlist into the program. Children on the waitlist will transition to Childhood Budgets based on a combination of the time they have been waiting for service and with a continued focus on earlier intervention. Considerations will also be made for children five years of age and youth 17 years of age to help maximize funding for them.

Eligible families on the waitlist will receive a letter from the ministry when it is time for them to apply for a Childhood Budget. Families on the waitlist on April 1, 2019 can expect to receive their first Childhood Budget within the next 18 months.

Childhood Budgets will be available for all children with a diagnosis of autism from a qualified professional up to age 18. The total amount of the Childhood Budget will depend on how long a child is in the program. Children under the age of six are eligible to receive $20,000 annually in direct funding, while those six and over are eligible to receive $5,000 annually.

Expanding Ontario’s five autism diagnostic hubs

Ontario is doubling funding to the diagnostic hubs over the next two years to help more children receive an autism diagnosis sooner and help connect families to local services in their communities.

Evidence shows that when children start behavioural intervention between ages two and five, they gain improvements in cognitive and language development, are better prepared for school and have better long-term outcomes in adulthood.

Establishing a family-focused, independent intake agency

Over the next year, the ministry will establish a new independent intake agency which will assist families to register for the program, provide them with their Childhood Budgets and offer support to help them choose which services to purchase. While the independent intake agency is being established, the ministry will support families to access their Childhood Budgets.

Supporting families through change

Autism Ontario is offering orientation and system navigation supports to families who are accessing or interested in accessing the Ontario Autism Program. They will be offering workshops, training sessions and individual direct support. You can visit Autism Ontario’s website or contact Autism Ontario staff at 1-800-472-7789.

Please note, Autism Ontario will not be involved in registration, intake, waitlist management or funding distribution for the Ontario Autism Program.

Improving accountability and oversight

The government is taking steps to enhance service delivery, improve confidence in service providers and ensure the long-term sustainability of the Ontario Autism Program.

This includes introducing a deadline of April 1, 2021 for clinical supervisors to meet the program’s qualification requirements, conducting regular financial audits of Childhood Budgets, and implementing an online list of experienced, trained clinical supervisors of behavioural services to help families access service providers.

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Connections for Students and Other School Supports

The ministry will continue to work in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to provide transition services and supports to children and youth with autism through the Connections for Students program.

For students who have been identified as an exceptional pupil by an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC), the school board must develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for them. School boards may also develop IEPs for students who are receiving special education programs and/or related services but who have not been identified as exceptional by an IPRC.

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Transition Supports for Adolescents with Autism

Transition supports for adolescents are community-based programs that help teenagers with autism and their families through behavioural supports, crisis intervention services such as counselling and social skills training. Contact your local regional office for more information.

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Respite Services

Respite services provide temporary relief for families from the stress of caring for a child or youth with autism. They also allow children and youth to participate in meaningful activities that will help them learn new skills and build relationships. Respite programs can take place at home, at March break camps and through community programs offered throughout the year.

Learn more about respite services or contact your local regional office.

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Additional Resources

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