It has been 2 years since the Ford government destroyed the Ontario Autism Program without a plan in place. During this time therapeutic capacity has been decimated and over 42 thousand families have been forced to wait, many in crisis, watching their children lose precious developmental time.
While Northern Autism Families welcomes the recent return to open communication from Minister Todd Smith, and the move to “regulate ABA as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario”, we have concerns about what has been revealed today.
Northern Autism Families Matter will not mince words: today’s announcement was for a small PILOT of Core Services, not actual Core Services. This program is not based upon the clinically determined needs of individual children and it does nothing to address gaping holes in capacity across the province. Nor does the government say how it is going to ensure this program is equitable for families in Northern, rural and remote regions where the cost of therapies is higher due to travel requirements.
The core pilot, earmarked to begin this March, will specially select 600 families from across the province to participate. Minister Smith failed to mention that core services are still years away for most of the 42,000+ other families waiting.
The program was not designed by the community, as Minister Smith suggested. Families and advocacy groups across the province have been trying to attain information from the ministry, in order to provide input, and have been met with silence. Most concerning to us is the fact that in the development of this program the ministry went against the panel report by implementing age-based categories and funding caps which put children into arbitrary groups based upon a questionable standardized tool. In many cases, this plan will leave those with the greatest need, and those who have had the longest wait times, severely underserviced. They will fall into massive service gaps. In addition to this, the standardized needs-determination tool is set to be implemented by care coordinators, who receive very little training, and who are NOT expert clinicians.
THIS IS NOT NEEDS-BASED THERAPY.
In Northern, rural and remote regions of Ontario the question remains: just who is going to do this work? Therapeutic capacity losses continue to happen, and the clinicians who, according to the ministry’s announcement, are part of the backbone of the coming Core program, are in extremely short supply. More needs to be done to address capacity, and equity, for core services to ever work in underserviced regions of Ontario.
The core program was supposed to have been launched prior to the pandemic but has been continually delayed. Children cannot pause their Autism while Minister Smith decides to slow roll this program further. These delays are causing real harm to children’s development. Enough is enough. #TimesUpTodd
Northern Autism Families is an advocacy/activist group working to better the lives of Autistics/People living with Autism in Northwestern Ontario and their families. We invite ALL Northern families to contact us. We want to share this space with you. Your community’s needs are unique. You matter. All Ontario families are important and deserve needs-based
Northern Autism Families
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