Working with Northern Ontario Families through the Autism Services Transition
Under the government’s new approach to Autism Services, families are being asked to direct their child’s autism services and funding. This represents a significant change to service delivery. Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca (Hands), which has been providing behavioural services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Northeastern Ontario for more than 18 years, has been working to ensure its families are supported through this transition and also, to determine how they can best be supported in this new model.
Hands is actively reaching out to families across the Region for feedback and insight to determine how we might create a future Autism Services model. In speaking with families, we have heard their concerns and worries, which have included:
- Having access to the appropriate behavioural intervention services to meet their child’s needs and level of severity;
- The ability to afford the necessary services for their child to reach their full potential;
- A fear of future transition points throughout their child’s life;
- The availability of qualified professionals to provide evidence-based services in their community;
- Ensuring long-term independence for their child;
- The availability of supports in crisis situations; and,
- Navigating services and managing funds for their child in the new model.
These worries are grounded by the significant challenges and hardships that will specifically face families in Northern Ontario, under the new ‘one size fits all’ approach to Autism services in Ontario. This approach does not take into consideration the barriers to service delivery for families living in rural and remote communities across Northern Ontario. Parents will be required to seek out the expert and skilled supports needed in geographies where availability will be limited or cost prohibitive, leaving some families forced to travel long distances to access appropriate services. Additionally, the availability of Francophone services is expected to be minimal to non-existent with the loss of protections through the French Language Services Act.
We respect that the government sets policy and that we, as a service provider, will need to adapt, as will impacted families. The hardships produced under the province’s new approach to Autism Services, however, require further consideration.
Hands is here and we will continue to support families throughout this transition. We welcome your feedback and encourage you to reach out for an open conversation with us as we work to best understand how we can support and provide services to families in the new system. Please visit www.TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca or connect with us directly at 1.800.668.8555 ext. 1333 or email [email protected].