Press Release: Ontario Provides More Supports for Families of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Foundational family services are tailored to children’s needs and stages of development. 

Ontario is providing families in the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) with services to support their child’s ongoing learning and development. Foundational family services such as family and peer mentoring, caregiver workshops and coaching will be tailored to the unique regional and cultural needs in different communities. These services will build on existing virtual and remote options introduced during the COVID-19 outbreak. The first phase of foundational family services is part of the ongoing implementation of the new needs-based, sustainable and family-centred OAP. 

“Feedback received through public consultations and the OAP Advisory Panel highlighted the importance of having ongoing capacity-building supports available to families. That’s why family supports that put children at the centre of care are a key element of our new needs-based Ontario Autism Program. We know having virtual services as an option during this challenging time has become critical to families and service providers.” 

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

The first phase of foundational family services is launching August 7, 2020. Services will be offered at no cost in a variety of formats with individual and group supports and virtual and in-person sessions. Options may vary during the first phase of implementation as providers continue to expand their services and as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. For example, families may participate in an online group workshop to learn strategies to help toilet train their child and then receive one-on-one clinical follow-up afterward, or they may access coaching sessions to help with managing challenging behaviours. The services are based on a family’s changing needs over time and their child’s needs, strengths and developmental stage. 

“In these unprecedented times, the needs of children and youth on the autism spectrum and their families are greater than ever. It is encouraging to see the new foundational family services being implemented province-wide as recommended by the panel and now through the sustained efforts of the OAP Implementation Working Group.” 

Marg Spoelstra, co-chair, OAP Advisory Panel

Families can contact select Ontario Autism Program service providers to learn more about the types of supports currently available in their community. 

“Ontario’s publicly supported providers are ready to increase their offerings for this essential component of the new OAP. Building on the system that is in place aligns with the recommendations of the OAP Advisory Panel. The government is responding and that’s good news.” 

Jennifer Churchill, CEO of Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Since announcing the new needs-based Ontario Autism Program in December 2019, the ministry has: 

  • Launched a variety of interim early years supports focused on younger children on the waitlist to help build skills in social communication, engagement, speech and language and emotional regulation. 
  • Made it easier for families to receive funding by streamlining and reducing administrative steps. 
  • Begun development of a new user-friendly family website, the future one-stop-shop to register for the OAP, apply for funding and get updates on status in the program. 

“We are working extremely hard to implement an Ontario Autism Program built by the community, for the community that supports the needs of families and their children. This significant transformation will lead us to a sustainable, needs-based program that will provide all families access to supports and services no matter where they live in Ontario.” 

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

Quick Facts    

  • Foundational family services are one of many service pathways that families will have access to in the new Ontario Autism Program. 
  • These pathways include accessing: Core services like Applied Behaviour Analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health services;Early intervention and school readiness services to help young children access critical services when they will benefit most, and to prepare them to enter school; and Urgent and complex needs services to support children and youth who are in service, or are waiting for service, and have significant and immediate needs. 
  • In July 2019, the Ontario Autism Program budget was increased from approximately $300 million to $600 million annually to help ensure it is both needs-based and sustainable moving forward. 

Additional Resources 

Learn more about our Foundational Family Services, or send write to us at

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO