New supports for children with autism

The Ontario government has put in place a range of new and expanded supports for children with autism and their families. These services are designed to help a child with autism develop essential skills in the preschool years, then progress to school where those skills can be applied and reinforced in a structured, social setting. The government announced in March 2004 a new plan to support children with autism and their families, doubling spending on autism services to approximately $80 million. By expanding preschool services and creating meaningful new supports in school, the government is providing more universal support for children with autism, not only for those at the most severe end of the spectrum. These new and expanded supports will help provide a better future for Ontario's children with autism.

Expanded IBI therapy for preschool-age children The Preschool Intervention Program for Children with Autism provides a range of supports to families, including Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI). IBI is an early intervention therapy most effective in preschool-age children, helping them develop basic skills, including communication and behaviour control. IBI is an intense, individual therapy delivered by trained therapists, supervised by clinical psychologists. The government is expanding the availability of IBI to preschool-age children with autism by spending $10 million to hire new therapists throughout the province. As of October 7, 24 new therapists have been hired and many more will be hired later this year. With these new professionals, 20 per cent more preschool-age children will be access to IBI therapy. In addition to IBI, the government provides a variety of supports to preschool-age children with autism and their parents: - Parent resource materials - Training and workshops for parents to help ready their child for IBI - Referrals to other programs offered by the government or community agencies that provide specialized support for children with special needs (e.g., speech and language pathology, occupational therapy and children's mental health services) Earlier assessment and support New assessment guidelines have been put in place to ensure that more preschool children are assessed sooner. With earlier assessments, children and parents will know whether IBI is an appropriate therapy for that child and can begin to take advantage of the other preschool supports, training and referrals much sooner than in the past.

Transitioning smoothly into school The government has increased the number of Transition Coordinators across the province from 13 to 26 to help children move smoothly from preschool programs into the classroom and other community settings such as child care centres. Transition Coordinators work directly with parents and educators to develop individual plans that meet the social, communication and behavioural needs of children with autism as they enter school. New support in the classroom The government is committed to helping children with autism spectrum disorder progress from basic skill development in their preschool years to greater independence in their school years. A new group of professionals, called Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultants, has been created to enhance educators' knowledge and skills to help children with autism learn in the classroom. Through the newly created School Support Program Autism Spectrum Disorder, consultants will: Be available to publicly-funded school boards; kmj Train teachers, principals, educational assistants, special education teachers; - Provide training based on principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA); Be hired and employed by each of nine regional autism programs across the province; Typically be veteran teachers or behavioural experts with specific experience working with children with autism.

As of October 7, 2004, 75 Autism Consultants have been hired, half of the expected total of approximately 150 by March 2005. The consultants currently in place can provide support to educators who have children with autism in their classroom. As new consultants are hired they will be able to spend even more time with educators. A working group of professionals from the autism community and the education system provided advice on how the new School Support Program should be implemented. Academics, researchers, educators and advocates representing families of children with autism worked together to help the ministry develop the program.


11 October 2004

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