Core Service invites are going out for the Ontario Autism Program – What you need to know

Invitation emails for the new core services pillar of the program finally started to go out yesterday (March 19th, 2021), beginning the first phase in the launch of core services (or at least the pilot program).

Did the Ministry make any kind of announcement to share this information?

Of course not.

This was only discovered by families sharing this information with each other.

Minister Todd Smith announced way back on February 3rd, 2021 that:

“ … approximately 600 children and youth from across the province, who represent a diverse sample of Ontario Autism Program registrants, will be invited to participate in the launch of core clinical services beginning in March.”

Here’s a redacted screenshot of what the invite emails look like:

Participation in this pilot program is not mandatory.

“You can wait until later. It is your choice.”

They also make note of a deadline to apply. The first recorded deadline was April 6th, which is only giving families about 2.5 weeks to decide whether to take part in the program or not.

They are offering an information session to help you decide whether to participate in the pilot, though you are not required to do the session to move ahead.

For people just invited, they’d only have 2 choices if they want to attend the info session before their deadline:

Ministry Information Sessions about the launch of Core Services

Once you officially register for the pilot, you’ll be contacted by a care coordinator to move on to the determination of need process.

Registering for the pilot program

Here’s the link that parents will be sent to apply:

If you are a primary caregiver and you choose to enroll, at least one legal guardian of the child or youth, and the child/youth if desired, will be interviewed by one or more Care Coordinators to understand your child/youth’s goals and strengths, as well as your child/youth’s support needs.

An interesting note here, stating that more than one care coordinator may be used per family, likely to see if the results agree. They don’t say how many people will be assessed multiple times.

They also show the same funding ranges we saw back in the February announcement, that are unfortunately still based on age, and also include minimums (which may lead to spending waste again):

Once you move to the next step, it’ll ask for basic identification information, and consent to collect and disclose information to the Ministry, Service Agencies, and other Ministries (Education, Health, etc).

There are a few really important questions in the consent section:

Once you’ve had your interview with the Care Coordinator, there’s no turning back.

There’s also the important consideration of what funding agreement you’re currently in, and how moving into the new program will affect that.

For those in Behaviour Plans (“legacy kids”):

You can either switch right into the new model, or you can finish up your current term, and then move into the new program.

It’s not clear how the money will be handled if you chose to end your current plan right away. You must have to reconcile what has been spent so far, then your new allotment may be reduced by the amount you have left over? Not sure.

For those with an active Childhood Budget or Interim One-Time Funding agreement

This is interesting.

They’re allowing you to be actively participating in two separate agreements. You can continue to spend your IOTF, while also accepting core service funding at the same time.

It’ll be important to have a good idea of how you’ll spend both sources of funding, because if you accept money, but don’t spend it all, it will affect any future funding you can receive.

Terms of Funding

The terms are straightforward, but are incredibly important to understand as you go forward with the new program.

They include, but are not limited to:

  • I understand that I have one year or up to 12 months (from and including my funding start date, until and including my funding end date) to spend the funding.
  • I understand that if the cost of the expenses that I choose to incur for my child or youth exceeds the amount of funding provided under this agreement, the ministry will not be responsible for paying the difference.
  • I understand that I will be required to submit an expense form to the ministry showing a summary of how the funding was spent and when payments were made, including when services (if applicable) were provided.
  • I understand that the funding I spend may be subject to an audit, and if I am unable to provide proof of how funding was spent or if I spend funding on ineligible expenses, my funding cannot be reconciled and that any unreconciled funding will impact the amount of Ontario Autism Program funding for core clinical services that I will be eligible to receive on behalf of my child or youth in future year(s).

Though I think the most important one is this:

  • I understand the Ontario Autism Program core clinical services includes: Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, mental health services and technology, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) at the recommendation of a regulated health professional or Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA). I understand that I can only use the funding provided under this agreement to purchase services and supports from the list of eligible core clinical services for the child or youth, and I agree to utilize the funding only for such purposes. I understand that I am responsible for repaying the ministry for any amount that is spent on ineligible services and supports.

What you are applying for is funding for therapy.

The free-for-all of interim funding may have people confused with what the Ontario Autism Program was meant to be, especially for newly registered families.

You are being assessed for how much therapy funding you need.

Some families may have have applied for the program because they knew they could get a lot of cool stuff for their kids (like trampolines, sensory equipment, etc). Although helpful, it’s important to know that this kind of thing was never the intention of the program. Eligible spending was blown wide open by the Ministry to compensate for their own major delays, as well as access complications due to COVID.

Going forward, the Ontario Autism Program will be going back to a model with therapy at its core.

You’d think with information this important, the Ministry would be sharing all this information directly, but instead we’re left scrambling to understand things on our own.

The Ford government continues their trend of poor communication.

Dad to 2 kids on the spectrum. Autism Advocate.