Smith announces steps to broaden scope of Autism Advisory Panel, develop needs-based programming

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith. (Gazette File Photo)



After months of acrimony between the Government of Ontario and parents of children with autism, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith is announcing steps planned by the province that will support and help as many children as possible.

On Monday at the Ontario Legislature, Smith announced  steps the government is taking to provide continuity of service while giving the necessary time to work on the new program. These steps include:

  • Broadening the scope of the Autism Advisory Panel to develop recommendations for a new, needs-based and sustainable program. The panel is examining results from online surveys, telephone town halls and written submissions as well as considering relevant evidence, science and data to submit its advice for the end of summer. The ministry is aiming for implementation of a new program April 1, 2020.
  • Continuing services for families with existing behaviour plans. Families will then be able to renew their plan for a second extension of up to six months, at their current level of intensity, or less where clinically appropriate.
  • Continuing to issue childhood budgets as the government works toward its needs-based program. 

The announcement comes after Smith met with parents of children with autism earlier this month.

Smith said Ontario is continuing to listen to families of children with autism and the Autism Advisory Panel, the province’s 20-member autism expert panel which includes parents of children with autism, clinicians, autism self-advocates, service providers, former public servants and others.

As previously announced, Ontario is investing an additional $278 million in the province’s autism program, bringing the total amount of funding to $600 million annually.

“As a result of listening to families, service providers and advocates across Ontario in the past few weeks, it’s clear we all share a goal to provide the best care and make a positive difference in the lives of children and families living with autism in Ontario,” said Smith.

Smith added he is looking forward to receiving the expert advice of the advisory panel.

“I have every confidence that together, we will get this right. It’s clear we need to ask the advisory panel to provide us with a broader set of recommendations and advice – and we need to give them the necessary time to do so,” said Smith. “In the interim, we will continue services for families, move more children into service and give our experts the time they need to bring forth their considered recommendations. These measures will also bring greater transparency for parents and families across Ontario.”

While providing his update, Smith was joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, who pledged their collaboration in an integrated service approach.

“The advisory panel’s expert advice will be critical to ensuring our investments across government, including in Ontario’s health care system, promote and advance a truly child-centred approach,” said Elliott. “I look forward to receiving their recommendation. In the meantime, we are continuing to listen to families of children and youth with autism and remain fully committed to supporting them through enhanced supports.”

Added Lecce: “Our government is committed to ensuring that Ontario schools are safe and inclusive places for students with autism. We will work tirelessly with Ontario families, educators and school boards to achieve seamless transition and enhance school-based supports.”