Key points from the announcement include:
23,000 children across Ontario who currently are on the wait list for ABA, will receive support within the next 18 months. Early intervention will be a priority and more kids will receive funding, albeit far less than they have previously received. The current approach which supports individualized therapy intensity, based on clinical recommendation will be no longer in place.
The new program is called a Childhood Budget:
The Ministry will provide support by directly giving the funding to families with the funding, not via regional providers like Surrey Place, Kinark or Erinoakids.
Each child can be eligible to receive $140,000 in funding up to the age of 18, but the eligibility criteria gives priority to those children who are 5 years old and under. The older a child is, the lower the amount of funding he/she would be deemed eligible for. The amount that each child will be eligible for would consider any other services and supports received to the date, including SSAH and disability tax credit. There will also be income testing and the funding will be targeted more towards low- and middle-income families.
The funding provided can be used to receive the following services: caregiver training, respite services, technology aids and behavioural service.
The kids who are receiving ABA at the moment, will continue receiving their funding until the end of their behaviour plan. The kids whose behaviour plan ends March 31, 2019, will be able to renew it for another 3 months. The kids whose behaviour plan ends after March 31, 2019, will be contacted by a representative of the new program.
The Ministry will work in a collaboration with the Ministry of Health to provide more regulations in the behaviour analysis field. This would help to eliminate unethical and unprofessional services in autism treatment.
The announcement continued with proposing a 4-point program to improve the quality of education for children with autism in public and Catholic schools in Ontario. The proposed program entails funding, professional development, after-school programs and virtual communication.
Based on this announcement it is important to highlight a couple of points:
- The waitlist for funding was frozen by the government after only 6 months of the new OAP being distributed. The regional centers that distributed the money received instructions from the Ministry NOT to inform any parents of this change. This allowed the Ministry to “artificially inflate” the waitlist, and then be able to report that it is too large, and therefore would come up with a new plan to “help” ALL the families by providing funding to everyone. At the same time, it was not acknowledged that the handout of $4,500 per year, allocated by the Ministry, would not even be enough for a month of therapy. Although it was decided that children from the ages of 2 to 6 will receive $20,000, the fact that most children are not diagnosed at 2 years of age was left out.
- The Ministry’s plan is not based on the individual needs of each child based on the evidence presented by researchers considered to be experts in the field, but on the age of the child and the financial situation of the family. Most children by the age of 6 are ready to join the mainstream, but many children with ASD need to continue with their current ABA therapy sessions, which is a decision that should made by a clinical supervisor, a psychologist or BCBA, not by a government official. With the current ratio of one teacher to 25 children, there is not enough support available in the classroom, and the Ford government has frozen the hiring of new teachers in the public-school system. There are no specialized ABA staff who can provide the appropriate support to the classroom teachers, even if it is a visit once a week, and even now, the public and Catholic schools don’t have enough assistants within their classroom to help support those children who are already there.
- School principals have issued an appeal to the government to postpone the introduction of the new plan, as schools are not ready to accept both the 23,000 children now standing on the waitlist plus the 17,000 children currently receiving therapy who are due to come to Ontario public schools beginning from April 1, 2019.