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Published on Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Province grants top wish of autism parents

Ontario minister visits Oakville to announce autism program funding

Province grants top wish of autism parents
Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services
The Minister made an autism program funding announcement at Monarch House in Oakville Thursday, May 18. He spoke with families about his plan to offer flexible services and supports for children and youth with autism - Submitted photo
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver

The Ontario government is responding to the need for more assistance for families of children with autism.

The province is offering a new, permanent direct funding option, which will be implemented by the end of this year through the Ontario Autism Program (OAP).

This will allow families to choose between receiving direct service or receiving funding to purchase services for their child.

Ontario is investing $500 million over the next four years to create new services for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, made the announcement at Monarch House in Oakville Thursday, May 18, where he spoke with families about its plan to offer flexible services and supports for children and youth with autism.

“We made a decision, as a government, to make some massive changes in the Ontario Autism Program. We’re rolling out a new program that is reflective of the needs of families in Ontario,” said Coteau.

Starting in June, families will begin to transition into the new OAP, which will provide flexible services that are customized to the needs of each child, regardless of age.

The program will be implemented gradually over the coming year, with the expectation it will be fully in place by spring 2018.

Families currently obtaining direct funding will continue to receive their funding throughout the transition and will be able to choose the new OAP direct funding option to receive services from their preferred provider.

Specific details of the direct funding model, including rates, expected to be in place this year, will be released as soon as Coteau approves the recommendations, he said.

This new program is the “first step” in a massive overhaul of the current support system in Ontario.

“Putting in direct funding is something that parents have always been advocating for,” said Coteau.

The new initiative includes a single point-of-entry for families to get easier access to services and will create 16,000 new spaces over five years, so more children and youth with autism can receive the services they need sooner, according to the province.

Coteau said the $500 million in funding in the OAP is an “important area to make that type of investment” so youths and children will get the services and therapy they need, as quickly as possible.

He noted there are about 11,000 youths and children currently receiving services, more than 20,000 on waiting lists and many more who haven’t been diagnosed, yet, who will need care.

The province will continue to consult with families, caregivers, advocates, clinicians and providers, including the OAP advisory committee, to ensure OAP is providing adequate supports and services for children and youth with autism, from diagnosis to adulthood.

“We’ve always tried to do what’s best for young people, to position them for success. At the end of the day, those skills they learn provide them with the ability to better manage themselves and take care of themselves,” said Coteau.

Streamlined entry to autism services through a toll-free number in families’ regions will also be provided as part of the new OAP.

Parents can call 1-888-284-8340 toll-free for more information or to find their nearest ministry regional office.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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