Ontario's government is putting families first by engaging with parents of children with autism on further enhancements to the Ontario Autism Program.
"Nobody should underestimate the challenges that families of children with autism face. As a government we want to be there for them," said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. "We have been listening to families and have heard the concerns they want to be addressed. We want to address them too by providing additional sources of support."
Starting in May 2019, the government will engage in public consultations through an online survey and telephone town halls. These consultations will help inform how our government can better support children and youth with autism who have complex needs, including through additional direct funding.
A new advisory panel will be made up of parents with lived experience, autistic adults and experts from a range of disciplines like psychology, behavioural analysis, rehabilitation services, education, developmental paediatrics and research.
The panel will review the results of the survey and telephone town halls. It will put forward its advice later this summer on a new needs assessment process as well as an approach to provide support through Childhood Budgets, one that is responsive to children's abilities and needs to improve their long-term outcomes.
Given their experience with province-wide surveys, Autism Ontario has been asked to assist the ministry with the online survey. They will review the questions to help ensure they capture appropriate information, review the results and monitor how the compiled data is shared with the ministry and advisory panel.
"We also want to look more broadly at how we can reduce barriers for children with autism," added MacLeod. "That is why I am working in partnership with the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "We want to take a wrap-around approach for children and autism in this province."
The government expects to announce further supports in the fall, that will build on previously announced reforms for autism services, including in the classroom.
"Supporting children with autism spectrum disorder is very important to our government," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "Through these consultations, we want to hear about how we can better integrate health and social supports to meet the needs of children with autism and their families. It shouldn't be up to the family to navigate the various government services available to support their child - it should be up to the government to put the child at the centre."
"Since coming to office, we have been working hard to support children with autism in the classroom," added Lisa Thompson, Minister of Education. "Through the consultation announced today we are working across ministries, and with families and stakeholders across the province, to integrate all of our government's historic supports for children with autism into a framework that works seamlessly for Ontario families."