Please note that there are hyperlinks in this post
Balance SSCS recently started a "Did You Know" series that explains the different parts of the current OAP (Ontario Autism Program) and some aspects of previous provincial programs
As parents of neurodiverse individuals ourselves, we understand how confusing it is to navigate and keep track of a seemingly ever changing autism program. The series is meant to (hopefully) explain the different aspects of the OAP that are currently in place; as well as show and give some perspective as to how different things were just a few years ago
1) The Current OAP (Ontario Autism Program)
DYK the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) consists of both direct funding and funded programs?
Families registered in the OAP may be able to access the following FREE programs:
Core Clinical Services is the part of the OAP that gives direct funding for:
mental health services
program materials/technology/equipment recommended by a RHP and/or BCBA
Read this blog post to learn more about the different parts of the OAP
2) OAP Foundational Family Services
DYK if you're registered in the Ontario Autism Program that there are FREE 1:1 consultations, groups and workshops where you can learn more about ASD and strategies to support your child?
OAP Foundational Family Services are offered by over 30 providers and can include the following:
Family and peer mentoring
Caregiver workshops and follow-up 1:1 coaching sessions
Brief targeted consultations
Family resource and clinic days
Not only are they unlimited, you're also not restricted to providers just in your region.
These programs are not meant to replace direct service from trained professionals but should be complementary. They will provide more insight into your child's neurotype and give you tools to help support them.
For more info, go to our blog
3) OAP Caregiver Mediated Early Years Programs
Did you know that parents/caregivers of children aged 12-48 months registered in the OAP may be able to access FREE evidence-based parent-mediated programs?
According to a study, parent-mediated interventions (PMIs) are effective for teaching autistic toddlers new skills.
Caregiver Mediated Early Years Programs offer six different PMIs that parents/caregivers can choose from:
These are meant to teach parents/caregivers strategies to support their children's learning and skill development in:
adaptive development and self-help skills
4) OAP Entry to School Program
School transition can be difficult for our children. New environment, new demands, new expectations.
The Entry to School Program is FREE and is meant to help autistic kids (aged 3-6 yrs) who are entering school for the first time.
Elements of this program include:
a six-month, group-based, skill-building program focused on preparing children to start school
transition supports for children when they begin school
consultations to support a successful transition for the first six months a child is in school upon request
(NOTE: If your child is already attending school, they are not eligible to attend. But, you may still receive an invitation if your child is in the eligible age range since MCCSS does not have access to school registration information).
5) OAP Urgent Response Services
DYK families registered in the Ontario Autism Program can access up to 12 weeks of FREE supports to help address an urgent need?
Eligible children and youth who may be experiencing one or more key high-risk factors (such as aggression, property destruction, self-injurious behaviour, etc.) can access Urgent Response Services to:
help stabilize the situation
reduce the risk of the child or youth harming themselves, others and property
Supports and services include:
short-term consultation with an interdisciplinary team
time-limited respite support
service navigation to existing services within and outside of the OAP
direct support to the family and/or relevant professionals to implement behaviour intervention and therapy techniques
6) Before the OAP
DYK there used to be two provincial autism programs?
Prior to 2018, there was the Autism Intervention Program or AIP (2000-2018) & Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)-based Services program (2011-2018)
The AIP delivered IBI (Intensive Behaviour Intervention or comprehensive ABA) and was meant for children with high support needs. Families had a choice between DFO (Direct Funding Option - money was paid directly to families to hire a private service provider) or DSO (Direct Service Option - services were delivered by a public service agency).
Service intensity in the AIP ranged from 20-40 hours per week. But children were in the program for only about 2-3 years before aging out or being discharged
Not all families could access the AIP. Children had to first be assessed for eligibility into the program. This was determined by the nine lead service agencies or regional providers at the time (keep in mind that each agency managed their own waitlist). The Ministry did not mandate a common assessment tool (or set of tools) & intake criteria for these agencies to use. So who was considered eligible was inconsistent from region to region
The ABA-based Services program was a parent-mediated model that provided time-limited skill-building services (2–4 hours per week for 2–6 months). All children with autism were eligible. But once the block was done, children were put back on the waitlist for the next block of service
While parent-mediated interventions have shown to be beneficial (and we encourage parents/caregivers to take advantage of any learning opportunities - especially Caregiver Mediated Early Years Programs), children in the ABA-based Services program worked on just one goal at a time. Because families had to wait months between blocks, the program was not really effective in addressing multiple areas of need
Having two different programs with multiple waitlists was just confusing. Change was needed
In 2018 both programs were dissolved when the Liberals implemented the OAP (or "legacy program). Each region had a single intake point & all children with ASD were eligible
7) Before the OAP - Multiple Waitlists
DYK there were multiple waitlists for provincial autism services?
Nine lead service agencies or regional providers were once responsible for all aspects of service delivery (including clinical decisions regarding eligibility, service intensity and duration), wait list management, administrative oversight of funding and transition support.
These lead service agencies were:
Chedoke Child and Family Centre (now Hamilton Health Sciences)
Algonquin Child and Family Services (now HandsTheFamilyHealthNetwork.ca)
Pathways for Children and Youth (now Maltby Centre)
These agencies also subcontracted an additional 13 service providers to help deliver services in their region/area.
At one point, each regional provider handled their own waitlists into TWO provincial autism programs (Autism Intervention Program or AIP and ABA-based Services program). Some families were on both waitlists.
Two different programs. Nine different regions. That's 18 waitlists. At least. There were other waitlists for eligibility assessments, DFO, DSO, etc.
Because provincial autism services were managed regionally, wait times varied from region to region. A family in one region could be waiting 2 years for funding in the AIP and another family in a different region could be waiting 3-4 years
The Liberals developed a program that had a single intake for each region. Transition to the OAP or "legacy program" (this is different from the current OAP) started in 2017 and was fully implemented in 2018. But, intake and management was still handled regionally.
In 2019, all of these regional waitlists were finally consolidated into one provincial waitlist. Now there is just one point of entry for the OAP. Wait time is not dependent on where you live. Instead, placement is based on registration date
8) Before the OAP - Direct Funding
DYK prior to 2018, not all families of autistic children and youth were eligible to access direct funding?
The Autism Intervention Program or AIP (2000-2018) had two service options. It provided either direct funding to families to use towards private ABA services (DFO or Direct Funding Option) or direct services delivered by the regional providers (DSO or Direct Service Option)
However, children had to be assessed for eligibility into the AIP. Those who were determined to have lower support needs were not eligible. We've also seen instances where families were outright denied eligibility assessments simply because the diagnostic reports had wording such as "mild" or "moderate"; or their children had an Asperger's or PDD-NOS diagnosis
Most children were not eligible for the AIP
Hence, their families did not have the opportunity to choose direct funding
Furthermore, back then it was the regional providers who decided how to allocate ministry funding between the two service options. As a result, wait times differed significantly between the two options and among regions depending on how those lead service agencies allocated their funding and available capacity.
Obviously, this was grossly unfair and changes had to be made.
In 2018, the government fully implemented an OAP where all registered autistic children and youth were eligible for direct funding if their families chose (please note that this version of the OAP was the "legacy program" and not the current OAP). And, in 2019 all those regional waitlists were consolidated into one so that waits no longer depend on region
9) Before the OAP - Eligible Services
DYK previous provincial autism programs only provided ABA services?
In the past, families did not have a choice. ABA was the only intervention available in both the Autism Intervention Program (AIP) and the "legacy" program (the OAP that was implemented in 2018).
This meant that children did not have access to other interventions that potentially would have been more beneficial.
Autistics have individual needs and may need support in different areas. A program that provides only one type of support is not "needs based"
With the current Ontario Autism Program, families will be able to access other supports besides ABA - such as speech services, OT, and mental health services - to help their children