Update from the Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel

In June 2019 the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services announced the appointment of a 20 person panel, the Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel.  The mandate of the Panel is to provide advice and recommendations for needs-based  supports for children with autism and their families.

The Panel has met over the past 3 months and is currently developing its final recommendations in a report that will be delivered to Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith.  The work of the Panel is confidential but the Panel Co-Chairs have issued a final update to the work undertaken by the group.

See the Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel Co-Chairs' October Update.

Implications for Occupational Therapists
In March 2019, the provincial government announced that occupational therapy services would be amongst the core services for children with autism for which parents could use their new Childhood Budgets.  This established the first time that occupational therapy services were funded through the province's dedicated programming for children with autism.

While it is not known whether the recommendations of the Advisory Panel will be fully adopted by the Minister or not, it is clear that there are increased opportunities for occupational therapists to work with autistic children and youth.  This notwithstanding, the capacity of our profession to address the potential interest and need for services will need to be addressed.  Limited public funding has limited the growth of our profession in this area.  Currently, parents may choose to use their Childhood Budgets for occupational therapy, but this doesn't mean that they will.  There is a need to educate Ontarians about occupational therapy and autism and to develop resources that share best practices so that families can know what to expect.

OSOT has had representation on the OAP Advisory Panel.  Appreciation is extended to members of the Society's School-Based OT Team and volunteers whose practice is focused in treatment of children/youth with autism for the insights and recommendations shared to support this representation.  At this time, the Society is seeking volunteers to work on the development of resources that share evidence based best practices to advance our roles and access to provide services to this population.  Interested?  Contact Christie Brenchley, Executive Director.