Ottawa

OCDSB raises concerns over autism changes

Imminent changes to the way autism treatment is funded in Ontario could mean many more students with autism will be attending school full time.

More students with autism to be integrated into classrooms after April 1

OCDSB chair Lynn Scott says there's been a lack of communication as the board prepares for changes to the provincial autism program. (CBC)

Imminent changes to the way autism treatment is funded in Ontario could mean many more students with autism will be attending school full time.

That's causing concern among school boards worried about meeting the students' needs, including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB).

The bottom line is that many children with autism do not manage transitions and change particularly well.- Lynn Scott, OCDSB chair

"We are certainly encouraging parents to contact their local schools to give us some idea of the potential for changes that we will be working with them on," OCDSB chair Lynn Scott said on CBC's Ottawa Morning.

According to Scott, the most pressing issue is finding qualified staff to assist children with autism in the classroom by April 1, when the changes come into effect.

"Every school board is competing to some extent to get qualified people," she said.

Scott said the OCDSB currently has the staff, but could run into problems when it comes time to replace people who retire or take sick leave.

Poor communication

Later, on Ontario Today, Scott said a lack of communication between the various ministries involved in the transition and the school boards is a concern.

"Anything that can be done to coordinate better and actually build in proper planning time would be a good thing," she said.

The impending changes have caused worry among many caregivers, too, Scott said.

"Parents are right to be concerned. We will certainly be working very hard to make the transitions as easy as we can and as smooth as we can, but the bottom line is that many children with autism do not manage transitions and change particularly well." Scott said.

Scott is concerned that without proper programs in place for students with autism, advancements made in intensive therapy could be lost.

At its next meeting, the OCDSB will discuss sending letters to the ministers of social services and education to raise concerns about the autism program overhaul.

CBC's Ottawa Morning and CBC's Ontario Today

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