Ontario Announces New Enhancements to Ontario Autism Program Including Eligibility for Funding of OT Services

On March 21, 2019, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod announced new enhancements to the Autism Program announced in February 2019  to be effective April 1st which include;

  • elimination of income testing for paents to be eligible for Childhood Budgets
  • expansion of eligible services to include occupational therapy, speech language pathology and physiotherapy
  • children who currently have an Ontario Autism Program Behaviour Plan will continue to receive the services outlined in that plan until its end date. Families will then be able to renew it for six months at its current level of intensity

View Ministry Press Release and announcement​.

More details will become available April 1, 2019.

Ongoing Consultation

In addition, the Minister and her Parliamentary Assistant Amy Fee, announced ongoing consultation targeted to seek inputs from parents and professionals regarding needs of children across the spectrum.  This gives the message that the government is willing to consider needs based funding as opposed to the equal funding for all families that is presently a pillar of the program.

View/listen to the Minister's March 21st comments.

Implications for Occupational Therapists

The Minister's announcement gives clear validation for the important contribution occupational therapists make to meet the needs of children with autism and their families.  The government's actions to extend funding eligibility to occupational therapy services represents a significant milestone for funding of OT services for these clients in Ontario.  OSOT is delighted that our advocacy and that of parents who wish to be able to access OT services for their children has helped government see the importance of giving families choice of therapy approaches to meet the individual needs of their child.

OSOT wishes to recognize the contribution of Debra Kennedy who has served as OSOT's representative to the Liberal Government's OAP Advisory Committee and has continued leadership advocacy supporting our meetings with the Minister's office, the Assistant Deputy Minister and OAP Director this winter.  To all our members who spoke to MPPs, that supported families to advocate or who themselves wrote letters  to the Minister - thank you!   Advocacy works!  In fact, as members will know, OSOT was initially told that funding for OT would not be eligible although not off the table for future discussions.  The clear demand for OT services from families and as reflected by OSOT was compelling.  We were able to position that over 67% of families sought OT services (based on the Autism Ontario survey of 2017) which placed OT as the second most sought after therapy for children and youth!

Funding details will be available April 1, 2019 giving clearer insight into how families can use their Childhood Budgets for therapies, including occupational therapy.  Watch for further details.