Today’s Announcement: “Ontario Continues to Support Students with Autism”

Today Education Minister Lisa Thompson (Huron — Bruce) held a press conference in Ottawa and released her plan of supports for students with autism. The announcement was accompanied by a press release and a page of information on the Ministry website. I highly recommend reading both.

There’s a number of points in these documents, but the biggest tell is the use of the word “continues” in the title of the press release. Most of what was announced is simply things that the government is already doing. But it has to be considered a success for the government, as it generated a number of headlines making it look like these are new initiatives.

The biggest thing we should take-away from this is something we have all suspected, but Thompson has now confirmed:

The government’s plan for kids currently receiving therapy is to save money by cancelling that therapy and “mainstreaming” them into schools without proper resources.

In a nutshell the plan is: Cancel therapy, put those kids into school full-time instead, make teachers watch a webinar about autism and pocket the savings.

Everything else is of secondary importance. I found this portion of the press conference particularly enlightening:

In the clip, Thompson states:

As you know, more children and youth with autism will be entering school, on a full-time basis, later this spring.

We actually didn’t know this. I mean, we suspected it, but this confirmation is new.

Here’s how the government summarizes this initiative:

Promote professional learning by fully subsidizing an ASD-specific Additional Qualification course for teachers;
Double funding to the Geneva Centre for Autism to provide online training opportunities for educators;
Fund behavior expertise and student supports by continuing special education funding, including components responsive to enrollment of students with high needs;
Expand after-school skills development programs for students on the Autism spectrum by providing funding to all 72 school boards;
Support students transitioning into school through the Connections for Students model with autism service providers, educators and families; and
Fund school boards for each new student with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) entering the school system in the remaining months of the 2018–19 school year with an average of $12,300 to make sure there are proper supports available during the transition from therapy to school.

Education Twitter immediately jumped on the final point:

Here’s a useful description of the $12,300 amount, which comes from a pre-election memo from the Ministry of Education:

The full 27 page memo can be found here.

Kristin Rushowy of the Toronto Star had a good summary of today’s announcement:

In total, it has pledged $6.1 million for after-school activities, $1 million a year for three years to pay for the “additional qualification” for teachers, and $2 million to the Geneva Centre for Autism to run online training for school staff.
The $12,300 is an average — and equal to the per-pupil amount alloted to each Ontario student for an entire school year — but in this case will be spent over three months, between this April and June.

In summary, it’s a continuation of what the government already doing, along with a few bucks for webinars (which likely isn’t “new”, as it probably comes out of existing program funding).

A webinar isn’t a replacement for therapy. The province is sending a bunch of kids into classrooms, without proper resources, who don’t belong there. It’s not good for those kids, nor is it good for their classmates or teachers. Children will be hurt by this, all to save a few bucks.