Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
80 Grosvenor St.
Toronto, ON M7A 1E9
May 30, 2019
Dear Hon. Minister MacLeod and MPP Fee:
I’m writing to provide feedback from the roundtable conversation with parents, educators, and service providers that I hosted in Guelph on Friday May 24.
As you invited MPPs to hold local consultations on the changes to the autism program in Ontario, we asked four questions based on the Ministries own consultations. We had productive discussions over the course of the afternoon, and enclosed you will find notes from our discussions.
There are three key themes that emerged from the afternoon:
1. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
Each child is different, and the needs of the child change over time. Setting arbitrary caps based on age and without consideration for the unique needs of that child simply doesn’t work. We need a responsive program that considers the needs of the child and that each child will change over time.
2. It’s time to deliver.
Parents and other stakeholders in the autism community have been consulted extensively over the years, and yet program delivery continues to be patchy and insufficient. It is the hope of everyone that the government is prepared to truly listen during this round of consultations, and deliver a stronger program that is communicated clearly to all stakeholders.
3. It’s essential to support more integration and collaboration.
Parents, kids, doctors, therapists, advocates, schools and other service providers are all involved in the care an individual receives. The outcomes for children depend significantly on the collaboration between these groups, and yet there is no support for this collaboration to take place. Investments in coordinating services for children with autism are needed.
I also heard about the confusion and fear caused by the lack of communication about the new plan and its roll out. People spoke not only about not knowing what the changes were, but also the difficulty they had in finding any answers. This confusion is continuing now, even as the new plan rolls out, particularly with the awareness that more changes are coming. Poor communication is causing additional anxiety.
I urge you – after listening carefully to the needs and experiences of those in the autism community – to make sure that when you announce the updated program, that you have the details ready and available at the same time. It is essential for government to provide clear guidance on where people can find answers to their questions.
I know this is an emotional issue. I’m writing in the spirit of working together to find solutions for children with autism and their families. Although I believe that consultations should have taken place last summer and fall, I appreciate that you have now embarked on this consultation. I urge you to listen and to act on what you hear.
Children with autism and their families need to know the Ontario government is here for them.
I also want to touch on an issue that is beyond the scope of this consultation but is very important. Autism does not end at 18, yet most services do. Adults with autism and parents have approached me with real concerns about whether their adult children will receive support. Early intervention must be a priority, but we must also ensure that the government’s autism plan provides support for adults with autism and developmental disabilities.
Thank you for listening and for acting in the best interests of children with autism across Ontario.
cc. MPP Jeremy Roberts