On January 10, 2021, the Ontario Government announced a further $7.5 million in funding for training to support students in the public school system with Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”). The funding will be used for online courses and training by the Geneva Centre for Autism for teachers and educational assistants in all 72 of Ontario’s district school boards. The Sonderly autism training program, offered through the Geneva Centre for Autism, teaches educators to apply evidence-based techniques in their classrooms, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), to help students with ASD succeed over the school year.
The training program will begin in 2021, and will help educators support the educational, social, communication and behavioural outcomes of students identified with ASD. Subsidies will also be available for educators to take the ASD-specific Additional Qualification course and to build the capacity of school leaders to support students with ASD.
This is a positive step that recognizes the importance of evidence-based programs and the implementation of ABA in classrooms. However, students with ASD and their parents/caregivers are cautious that this funding may not be sufficient to appropriately train and qualify staff working directly with students in the classroom at the level required to effectively implement ABA, including the fact that the training is not mandatory for teachers and educational assistants.
There are currently 24,700 students identified as being on the autism spectrum enrolled in the publicly funded school system in Ontario, with ASD being the fastest growing exceptionality in Ontario, growing by 111% in the last decade.
The government’s news release is available here: https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/59909/ontario-provides-funding-for-autism-training