Ontario to roll out details of $533M autism program

June 8, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

All children and youth who have an autism diagnosis will get the treatment they need for as long as they need it until they reach age 18, under a new Ontario autism program to be announced Thursday.

Details of the $533-million program, promised a year ago, are to be revealed at a news conference by Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, who took over the portfolio last June.

Under the plan, all children, regardless of age, the severity of their autism symptoms, or whether they have co-existing conditions, can receive provincially-funded therapy, government sources confirmed.

“We’re thrilled,” said Bruce McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, a grassroots advocacy group that has been calling for treatment based on need for the last 12 years, and fought to end wait lists — that sometimes dragged on for up to four years.

He called it “a huge sea change” from the previous system, which saw many young children deemed too severe or too “high-functioning” to be considered eligible for intensive treatment. Those who didn’t qualify, or were considered too old, could get limited behavioural therapy of a few hours a week to work on focused tasks.

“This approach is going to meet the needs of all children,” says McIntosh, who has two teenagers on the autism spectrum. “If you have autism, you’re going to get help. That’s what we’ve always wanted.”

Currently about 23,000 of the estimated 40,000 children and youth diagnosed with autism in Ontario are receiving or waiting for provincially funded autism services, McIntosh said. Under the new program, those numbers are expected to soar, with kids and teens able to get anywhere from a few hours a week of support to intensive levels.

The program is to be fully rolled out in the next year, though how potential wait lists will be managed in the transition is a big question.

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