March 5, 2019 – Kinark Response to Government of Ontario Autism Program Changes

In response to questions from our clients about recent changes made to the Ontario Autism Program by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and after further clarifying how the proposed changes may be implemented, Kinark has prepared the following statement which outlines our response, recommendations and how we are working to support Ontario families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

Kinark has been a publicly-funded service provider to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families for almost 20 years, providing services to thousands of children with ASD and their families as directed by provincial program guidelines.

As a funded ‘regional service provider’ of services for children with ASD, we previously participated in government consultations about proposed changes to the Ontario Autism Program. We participated with the understanding and agreement that any proposed changes made would result in reduced waits for service, provide equitable access to service and get children into service sooner. We also understood that any changes would promote program sustainability through predictable and manageable service costs, which we also supported.

Kinark brought forward to these consultations the experiences of families in service and waiting for service, the experiences of our front-line staff, and our understanding of clinical best practices.

We recommended that the government consider in its funding approach the importance of evidence-based autism services, the unique service needs of each child and the importance of considering complexity of need. The direction that the government has taken does not reflect our advice. Many parents are telling us that these changes will be very difficult for them, and for their children, and we believe the new program will have significant limitations in terms of its ability to support the best possible clinical outcomes for children and youth with ASD.

Kinark continues to express concerns while working with government to understand the new program in detail and to prepare to support families to transition to the new program.

Specifically, we are concerned that:

  • the level of funding to families will be insufficient for children with ASD, and particularly for those children with moderate to severe ASD, and/or with other complex needs, who require individualized intensive therapies;
  • the revised program has no mechanisms to consider individual clinical needs of children in a way that provides long-term and sustainable outcomes for children;
  • it may be difficult for families to find and afford services appropriate for their children;
  • children finishing intensive behavioural plans may be entering into the school system without appropriate transitional and navigational supports;
  • without appropriate supports and transitions, some children could lose important clinical gains; and
  • some services for children with ASD should be universal and access to those supports should not be restricted based on a family’s financial means.

We are also concerned about the impact of these changes on our staff and on our ability to be clinically responsive to children with autism within the constraints of the new program, as well as the potential impact on all areas of Kinark’s work to support children and youth with complex needs achieve better life outcomes.

Kinark continues to seek all opportunities to positively influence the implementation of this model, providing advice and identifying the challenges and opportunities we see to better outcomes for children and families. Additionally, we are continuing to think about how our own services and our skilled and capable staff can best support children with ASD and their families through high quality, accessible, clinically responsive and financially viable services.

Thank you,
Cathy Paul, President and CEO
Kinark Child and Family Services