****Disclaimer: I am writing this purely to try to communicate to people what the news is saying and trying to bring together as much information about it as I can. I have many opinions on Autism funding, the Conservative government, and Canadian healthcare in general, but I don’t believe this post is the place for it as I just want to share information for now. Feel free to take your opinions to the comments however and start opening up the conversation.*****
In early February, the Ford government announced that they are rolling out a new needs-based autism program aimed at providing “better support” for families with children who have autism. As an occupational therapist that works with children, this is extremely prevelant to myself and the company I work with as many of our kiddos have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and access funding.
According to articles about this program, beginning in March, the province will offer services that will be based on the child’s individualized needs. These services can include occupational therapy (OT), speech language pathology (SLP), applied behaviour analysis (ABA therapy), and mental health supports. The article mentioned the process to decide which families meet the requirements, which includes:
- meeting with a family to identify goals, strengths and supports needed;
- allocating funding to families so they can decided to purchase core clinical services from providers of their choice;
- supporting families with next steps to access core clinical services of their choice
Once families recieve funding, the plan is that they will develop plans and treatment options with a clinician that they choice.
While the government is painting this funding to be incredible and needs based, the reality comes with lots of criticism. Many parents are saying that this program is not truly needs based because there are age requirements for how much each child can receive, which decreases as the child ages.
- 0-3 could receive from $10,900 to $65,000 yearly
- 4-9 could receive from $8,900 to $65,000 yearly
- 10-14 could receive from$7,600 to $41,400 yearly
- Youth aged 15-18 could receive from $6,600 to $31,900 yearly
This means that many parents might experience a decrease in funding under this new system compared to the funding they were approved for by the previous one. Social services Minister, Todd Smith, acknowledges that the funding cap of up to $65,000 is for the most extreme cases. In a CTV article, parents share the change that this funding max will make for their child. Some children who are considered “extreme cases” will see their intensive therapy programming and support cut drastically. Smith said that the funding cap will pay for roughly “20 hours of therapy per week”, which for some families who are receiving 30+ hours of intensive therapy a week in order to help their child, will lead to a large decrease.
With the diagnosis of Autism being along such a broad spectrum, it is difficult to justify putting young people into boxes according to their age. Children don’t age out of Autism, their challenges change and grow with them – most children will require services throughout their development and sometimes well into adulthood. As an occupational therapist working with children, I always tell parents that we will work on some goals at this age and maybe feel like we’ve accomplished change, but that they might need to revisit therapy as their child continues to go through different stages of development and requires new skills that may prove challenging to them.
It is unknown what this program is truly going to look like, and I unfortunately cannot find enough information to truly have any insightful opinion or ideas about it other than the concern that some parents will be left without the funding they need, and I know how detrimental that can be. As an occupational therapist, it is my wish that Canadian health care extended to services outside of basic doctors visits, as many of my clients (and even myself) struggle to afford the additional services they might need which significantly lowers quality of life.
This program was expected to roll out last year, but was delayed for several reasons, including COVID-19. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, you are still able to apply for interim one-time funding as a new applicant, as long as your registration forms and supporting documents are submitted by March 31, 2021. If you have received a childhood budget, you may be eligible to recieve interim one time funding once you have submitted an application. If you have already received interim funding, you may be eligible to receive an additional payment based on your child’s age. Please know that according to the government website, this funding will not impact your eligibility for the needs-based autism program and your position on the waitlist for core services.
If you are receiving the one time interim funding, or the childhood benefit, here is the link to how to apply and what services are eligible (please note that the services are subject to change so it is important to keep updated with this website).
Please take a look at the Ontario government website here for more information about application and updates as things become more clear. I will try to keep updating this page if I can, to add more information as it comes.