New Core Services for Children in Ontario Autism Program Commence March 2021

Commencing in March, Ontario will begin offering core clinical services for children in the Ontario Autism Program. These services include applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health supports based on the child's individual needs. 

Implementing gradually, the program will extend core services to 600 children/youth registered with the OAP in March, expanding to serve 8,000 within the first year according to Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith. Families not among the 600 and who received a childhood budget or interim one-time funding will be offered additional payments of either $5,000 or $20,000 based on their child's age, to purchase eligible services (OT included) and support they feel are most appropriate for their child.

View the Ministry's announcement that details:

  • Hiring and training of new Care Coordinators who will conduct and guide families through a new determination of needs process.
  • The new determination of needs process which is separate and distinct from the clinical assessment and treatment planning of the clinician & includes use of a new standardized tool that addresses 9 domains.
  • Funding levels for various age levels, recognizing that specific funding will be dependent upon a child's needs.
  • Investment of $3.8 million in diagnostic hubs to reduce waitlists and wait times.
  • Additional details on the commitment to regulate the profession of applied behaviour analysis under the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
  • Iinitiation of a community-based process to identify organizations to deliver urgent response services.

Implications for Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists who work with children/youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder should familiarize themselves with the new developments and future plans for the new Ontario Autism Program and for background to review the OAP Advisory Panel Report, Recommendations for a New Needs-Based Ontario Autism Program, October 2019. To monitor information accessible to parents, view the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services' OAP webpage.

Consider how you can support OSOT to continue to position and promote occupational therapy services in this sector. As Core Service implementation engages, the Society will be engaging a time bounded task force to assist in identification of strategies to support OTs and address their needs as we adapt to the new program and to promote the profession as a newly funded service. We assert that some occupational therapists can and will serve in the provision of mental health services, although we have not traditionally been linked to these roles in the OAP. Watch for an email with more details of the OAP and how it is structured, OSOT resources to support practice with children/youth with ASD, and emerging plans. We think this could be an exciting journey ahead with new opportunities for occupational therapists!

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services conducted a Capacity Survey in late 2020. Thank you to all members who participated. This will help inform the identification of capacity needs for occupational therapists, especially as the Society and College work with the Ministry to develop criteria for inclusion on the Ontario Autism Program's Provider List.