Mar 11, 2019, Hamilton Spectator: New autism supports for Ontario schools to come due to therapy funding changes https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9217253-new-autism-supports-for-ontario-schools-to-come-due-to-therapy-funding-changes/ School boards will get additional money to support students with autism, Ontario's education minister announced Monday, as hundreds of kids may soon enter school because they will get less funding for therapy. Autism and education advocates said the announcement does little to address a problem of the government's own making and attempts to turn teachers into therapists. Families say that recently announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program that will kick in April 1 mean many of those children currently in government-funded, full-time therapy will have to instead transition into school. The government says there are 1,105 children with autism who are not in school. Education Minister Lisa Thompson said school boards will get an average of $12,300 for each new student with autism entering the school system in the remaining months of this school year. "This funding will allow school boards to make sure there are proper supports available during the transition from therapy to school," she announced in Ottawa. The government is aiming to clear a wait list of 23,000 kids by spreading an existing pot of money to all children diagnosed with autism, instead of fully funding the treatment. Families will get up to $20,000 per year for treatment for children under six and $5,000 a year for children six to 18 — with the maximum amounts available to families with incomes under $55,000 — but intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year. Many families say they will be unable to cover the difference to keep their kids in full-time therapy. Thompson also announced that the government will fully subsidize an ASD-specific additional qualification course for teachers, and an after-school skills development pilot project for students with autism will be expanded to all 72 school boards…. "They created a crisis with their changes to the autism funding and (applied behaviour analysis) therapy and now it seems like they're simply downloading their obligations ... to support these kids to school boards." … The after-school program expansion will cost $6.1 million for the 2019-20 school year, and the subsidized course will cost $1 million per year, Thompson's office said. It would not provide an estimate for how much additional per student funding will be provided because it is waiting to see how many of those students register for school. Funding to the Geneva Centre for Autism to provide online training opportunities for educators is also being doubled, to $2 million.
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