Ontario Takes Decisive Action to Help More Families with Autism

Published on February 07, 2019

Will clear waitlist for autism services and provide direct financial supports for families of 23,000 children previously denied funding in Ontario Autism Program


TORONTO - The families of 23,000 children currently struggling on waitlists for the Ontario Autism Program will finally receive financial supports to help them afford autism services.

Today, Ontario’s Government for the People announced a widespread reform of the Ontario Autism Program designed to clear the unfair and punishing waitlist, and provide equality and sustainability to the program so that more families of children and youth with autism can receive service.

“Today, almost 3 out of every 4 children who require autism supports continue to be stranded on waitlists due to the cynicism and incompetence of the previous government,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.  “The parents of these children have told me they are feeling abandoned.  We cannot, in good conscience, continue treating these parents and children like lower-class citizens, so we are introducing reforms to provide them with the fairness and equality they deserve.”

Under the government’s proposed reforms, families may receive a Childhood Budget until their child turns 18. The amount of the budget will depend on the length of time a child will be in the program, with supports targeted to lower and middle-income families.  For example, a child entering the program at age two would be eligible to receive up to $140,000, while a child entering the program at age seven would receive up to $55,000. The reform is expected to clear 23,000 children off the autism waitlist within the next 18 months.

“I have heard from families across the province about their personal struggles, that the system is broken and their lack of confidence in how services are currently being delivered,” she added. “Our government is committed to helping families receive crucial supports and services faster and improving outcomes for children and youth with autism.”

Families will be able to choose to purchase the eligible services they value most, including behavioural services, from providers of their choice on a fee-for-service basis. Parents will have flexibility when it comes to how funds are allocated, translating into a greater impact in their child’s early years. A new framework will also be put in place to assist in navigating the system and support parents in making the best decision for their family.

Additional actions include:

  • Doubling funding to expand the province’s five diagnostic hubs so that families can receive a diagnosis sooner;
  • Introducing a provider list to help families find qualified clinical supervisors for behavioural services;
  • Establishing an independent agency to bring families into the program, help them manage their funding, and assist them in purchasing and accessing services; and
  • Improving how services are delivered so families have confidence in providers and the service system.

“Families struggling to get their children diagnosed and find the right supports for autism are finally going to get service,” said MacLeod. “And parents of children who require supports in the future can have confidence that the program will be there for them.”

Autism Ontario will be playing a key role over the course of the next year to offer support to families to help them understand their options and to assist them in finding service providers through workshops, training sessions and one-on-one support.

Quick Facts

  • To be eligible for the Ontario Autism Program, a child must have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder from a qualified professional. Families are eligible to apply for program funding for children and youth up to age 18.
  • Today, there are over 2,400 families waiting for a diagnostic assessment, and more than 23,000 families waiting for behavioural services through the Ontario Autism Program with demand continuing to grow.
  • Evidence shows that children who receive behavioural intervention therapies between two and five years of age have the best long-term outcomes.