New Ontario Autism Program Draws Support From Across the Province

Published on February 08, 2019

Parents, service providers and stakeholders welcome these much-needed reforms


February 7, 2019

TORONTO - Yesterday, Ontario's Government for the People announced changes to how we support children with autism.

The plan provides expanded choice through childhood budgets, offers flexibility that recognizes each child is unique, and commits to doubling funding for the province's five diagnostic hubs to help ensure children get a timely diagnosis. Most importantly, the plan aims to clear the waitlist within 18 months, so that the 23,000 children waiting have timely access to support.

In addition, Autism Ontario will assist in guiding parents as their children enter into the system, starting on April 1.

Here is what those working in and supporting the autism community are saying about the plan:

“New provincial funding for our autism diagnostic hub will enable us to speed up assessments and reduce waitlists. In collaboration with the other provincial hubs, we will be able to meet urgent family needs and enhance access to provincial funding for children with autism spectrum disorder. We welcome this increased system capacity.”
— Julia E. Hanigsberg, President and CEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

“As a leading Ontario provider of child autism services, Hamilton Health Sciences' McMaster Children's Hospital knows firsthand that well-designed, evidence-based support makes a big difference in the development and overall well-being of children with autism and their families. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Government of Ontario to eliminate wait times for our care, and create opportunities for more families to get the support they need, with more service options and greater flexibility. Together, we are committed to delivering autism services that are based on these important goals.”
— Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, President, McMaster Children's Hospital, and Vice-President, Women and Children's Health, Hamilton Health Sciences

“As a parent with an adult child on the autism spectrum, I know that early engagement and understanding of my child's needs was essential. I think having certified services would have avoided so much wasted energy used to pursue and find appropriate services.”
—Carolyn Morrison, Parent

“Let's work together to make it right, the way it should have been done years ago. The current structure is void of any equity or fairness.”
—Laurel Gillespie, Advocate for Autism & Disability Rights

“We commend the MCCSS for focusing attention on critical issues faced by individuals and families within the autism community. Reduced wait times, early assessment, intervention and funding, along with assistance with system navigation are important factors towards improving outcomes for individuals on the spectrum and their families.”
—Mark Palmer, Executive Director, Tamir

“With direct funding, parents will now have the choice to access services that will fit their families' needs. When you provide parents with choice, you empower parents — allowing them to be the driving force in making decisions that provide the most efficient and tailored assistance catered to their family's specific needs by providing services that will benefit the whole family.”
— Sylvia Corzato, Parent Consultant, Success In Steps

“At CHEO, we've worked hard to cut the wait for an autism diagnosis from well over a year to 24 weeks. With today's announcement, we will be able to further speed up diagnosis. We look forward to working with Minister MacLeod, families and our staff to see how else CHEO can be part of the new provincial autism strategy.”
— Alex Munter, President and CEO Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

“Far too often, we hear that families living with autism feel alone. Today, we want them to know: we understand, we care, and we are with you. We are committed to connecting families within the autism community and we applaud the government for providing parents with the independence to choose what is best for their child and for availing a plan to move families off the wait list. We look forward to uniting together as one community.”
— Jennifer Joseph, CEO, Jake's House for Children with Autism

“Thank you Lisa MacLeod and your team in the recent changes of the Ontario Autism Program. I am truly grateful to any financial help the government could provide us with instead of sitting endless years on a waitlist. I hope to continue to see more improvements and changes over the next few years but my family thanks you for getting some help for my two-year-old today.”
— Mom of 2.5-year-old from Bowmanville