In December 2019, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) announced key elements of the needs-based, sustainable and family-centred Ontario Autism Program (OAP), including a broad range of services that will offer families more supports for their child’s specific needs. The program will recognize that every family’s experience and needs are different, and that children and youth on the autism spectrum have different levels of need at different points in their lives. In the needs-based OAP, all children/youth up to age 18 with a written diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from a qualified professional will be eligible to register for the OAP. Families will have access to several service pathways and program supports, one of which is Early years supports and entry to school services to help young children access critical services when they will benefit most, and to prepare them to enter school.
The entry to school program will be a six-month group-based skill-building program for young children, aged 3 to 5 years, who are entering school for the first time (either kindergarten or grade one). The program will be focused on preparing them to enter school. Following the group-based program, children will receive transition supports as they enter school, to support a successful school transition. Families and educators will be able to access consultation services from entry to school program staff, upon request, during a child’s first six months in school. A child may not require a full six months in the program if it is determined by OAP program delivery staff and the family that the child is ready to transition into school. The group program cannot be extended beyond six months. Most children enter school in September, and efforts should be made to support children within the entry to school program to be transitioning to school within this typical entry point among their peers.
TDSB is supportive of this initiative. More information is forthcoming.