Continuing to do all we can for kids with autism and their families in a changing landscape

Robert Burkholder (left), VP – Autism Services and Scott Bark, Director of Autism Services. Unavailable for photo: Dr. Michelle Sala, Interim Clinical Director – Autism Services

As one of the largest publicly-funded regional providers of services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Kinark Child and Family Services has provided behavioural services to thousands of children and their families over the past 20 years.

In 2018/19, we continued to provide high-quality, evidence-based services for children on the spectrum, and we will continue to do so over the next 10 months as current behaviour plans are extended in accordance with changes to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) announced in February and March 2019.

In addition to core behavioural services, we introduced a new one-hour waitlist consultation service last year to better support families waiting for behavioural services. We also produced two educational videos: one provides an overview of ASD and addresses common myths about the disorder. The other introduces families to applied behavioural analysis (ABA) strategies parents can use to support and reinforce the development of their child’s skills. The 40- and 60-minute videos are available free of charge on the agency’s website.

Our Family Support Workers continued to provide family-centred care to families, helping them to access services in their community, and developing individualized family service plans. Our Connection for Students (CFS) service also provided the support children with autism need as they transition from behavioural services to full-time school in the community to maximize their success in these new learning environments.

Since major changes to the OAP were announced in February 2019, staff have been busy helping families in service, and on the waitlist, understand how changes to the provincial program will affect them, and the options available under the new program. At the time, the agency made its reservations about the provincial changes known: in a March 2019 statement, Kinark outlined its concerns about the impacts of the changes on children and their families, and has been working continuously with government to identify opportunities to achieve better outcomes for these kids and families.

While Kinark, as of April 1, 2019, no longer serves as the Single Point of Access to autism services in Central-East region, our staff continue to respond to calls from parents grappling with the Ontario government’s evolving autism strategy, many of whom are waiting for their childhood budgets to purchase the services their children and youth need.

Kinark remains committed to developing and delivering the services children and youth with autism need to achieve their potential. Over the last four months, we have challenged ourselves to consider how to reconfigure our services in a fee-for-service environment. Kinark is fortunate to have highly skilled and dedicated staff who have consistently demonstrated professionalism, creativity and commitment to families while living with great personal uncertainty in this new reality: they have consistently and unequivocally put the needs of kids and families above their own, for which we are exceedingly proud. You will find more information about our new fee-for-service offerings at: https://kinarkautismservices.ca/