• Karen Robinson

Navigating the New Ontario Autism Program

Updated: 22 hours ago


Twenty two years ago my son Brandon, after a long wait, was finally diagnosed with autism. I was beyond excited. Why would any parent be excited to know that their child has autism you ask? It is because his previous diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) did not qualify him to receive IBI (Intensive Behavioral Intervention) therapy. Having an official autism diagnosis meant that he would finally get the help he needed...or so I thought. We then had to wait again for him to receive services. Eventually he aged out of eligibility since the cutoff to receive IBI therapy at that time was age 6.


Fast forward to the present day and not much has changed. Parents still have to wait for the autism diagnosis, then they have to wait for funding for services, and then they have to wait to find a service provider in order for their children to get the therapy they so desperately need. It's waiting list after waiting list, while precious time is wasted.


In Ontario, children who have been diagnosed with autism, are eligible to receive services and supports from the provincial government through a program called the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) until age 18. The government’s budget for this program is $600 million per year. However the waiting lists for services are long and complicated and the government’s method of providing services and support is in a continuous state of flux. I am hoping that this article will answer some of your questions and will help you to get the process started as soon as possible. Click the links provided for more detailed information.


Registration for the Ontario Autism Program

The first step is to register your child or children. Complete the registration form for each child and submit it with all the necessary supporting documents. Find out if your child is eligible here.


The New “Needs-Based” OAP

The new needs-based program consists of several different service pathways, most of which are still in the works and are not yet available.

  • Core Clinical Services

  • Foundational Family Services

  • Urgent Response services

  • Caregiver Mediated Early Years Program

  • Entry to School Programs


Core Clinical Services

The launch of the new program started In March 2021. Since that time, a number of children (up to 600) who are registered in the Ontario Autism Program have already been invited to participate in the new needs-based program called “Core Clinical Services”. The program provides direct funding in order to purchase these core services: ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and/or mental health supports, depending on the “Determination of Needs” process. If they already have the Childhood Budget or Interim One-Time Funding, my understanding is that families can decline the invitation if they want to continue on their current path. It is not clear to me how that will affect their position on the waitlist going forward.


It should be noted that services under the new Needs-Based Program are limited compared to the eligible services and supports allowed under the Childhood Budget or the Interim One-time Funding which are described below. This is to ensure that more children have access to the Core Clinical Services sooner rather than later since the program providers have to stay within the $600,000,000 per year budget. Services and supports that are not included in the Core Services, like Respite for example, can be accessed through other government funded programs such as Special Services at Home.


The Determination of Needs Process is where a care coordinator will meet with the family to help guide you through the process of identifying your child’s goals, strengths and support needs. Factors, such as developmental stages, life stages, and co-existing health and environmental factors are also considered in determining how much funding families will need. This is not the time to hold back about the severity of your child’s autism because the intensity of your child’s needs will be categorized as either limited, moderate or extensive. The amount of funding that your family will get in order to purchase services depends largely on two factors; 1) the intensity of your child’s needs, and 2) your child’s age. For example, families with younger children (under age 10) with extensive needs, will be allocated the most funds, $65,000 per year. While if your child is 15 and has been categorized as having limited needs, you would only get $6,600 per year. For a complete chart of funding allocations based on age and intensity of needs click this link and scroll down.


Foundational Family Services

As long as your child is registered, even if they are already receiving the Interim One-time Funding or other services, you can access Foundational Family Services at no cost to you. These services are geared towards parents and caregivers in the form of support groups, workshops, and other training opportunities to give you more tools to work with your child. Options may vary during the first phase of implementation as providers continue to build their services and capacity.


However, I have heard that if you are newly registered for the OAP program, it is difficult to find out your OAP registration number which you will need to access these services.

Once you have your OAP registration number, you can choose to access services from multiple Foundational Family Service providers. Virtual or in-person services will be options you can choose from. You can contact service providers in your area and beyond your area (since virtual services may be available) to learn about what types of services they offer that would meet your family’s needs.


Urgent Response Services (may not yet be available)

This service is to provide a rapid response to support children and youth who have significant and immediate needs to prevent further escalation or risk of harm to people or property.

Caregiver Mediated Early Years Program

You, as the parent or caregiver, will learn therapeutic strategies and specific techniques from professionals based on your child’s individual needs for six months. The focus will be on building your capacity to support your child’s skill development in the following areas:

  • social interaction

  • play

  • communication

  • emotional development

  • adaptive development and self-help skills


Entry to School Programs (expected launch in March 2022)

These are skill building programs and transition supports to prepare children aged 3 to 5 who are entering school for the first time (Kindergarten or Grade 1). Children entering school in September 2022 will begin to receive this 6-month group-based program in March 2022.


Care Coordinators

Care coordinators will be available to support families throughout their journey by providing orientation to the program, service planning and navigation, and help with managing transitions.


Childhood budgets and Interim One-time Funding

During the transition to the new OAP program, services and supports such as Childhood Budgets and Interim One-time Funding that families already have in place will continue. But families will eventually be transitioned out and into the new Needs-Based program.

Childhood budgets provided $20,000 per child to families with children under age six, while families with children aged six and older got $5,000 per child, which they could use to purchase eligible services and supports for their children.


Families who were on the waitlist or who transitioned from the Childhood Budget, received Interim One-time Funding but this funding is no longer available if you did not submit registration forms and supporting documents by March 31, 2021.

Families have a limited time to spend the funds and have to prove that they have spent it by submitting an expense form.


According to the government website, If you did receive the Interim One-time Funding, you now have up to 18 months to spend the funding and submit your expense form. This extension is due to Covid-19. You may also be eligible to renew your Interim One-time Funding and receive additional payments.


OAP Behaviour plans

A behaviour plan is developed through collaboration between the family, the OAP clinical supervisor and other professionals as necessary. Existing OAP behaviour plans will continue until its end date at which time it can be extended until the transition into the appropriate core clinical service offered in the new Needs-Based Program, which will also include Behaviour Plans although they may be called something different.


How can Progressive Steps Training and Consultation Inc. help you?

Progressive Steps Training and Consultation Inc. is a qualified OAP core clinical service provider. But whether or not you are registered for OAP services, we have clinical supervisors, a qualified team of behaviour therapists and a psychologist to provide core services to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We also provide Special Education Advocacy services to our clients to ensure that they get appropriate special education programs, services and supports at school. Contact us at info@progressivesteps.ca for more information or visit our website Progressivesteps.ca


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