In April of 2018, the Ontario Government released a statement about their new approach to providing services to children with special needs and their families.
“Ontario’s Special Needs Strategy marks the beginning of a new way of delivering services to children and youth with special needs and their families.”Ontario Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services
They identified 3 areas of focus and change:
Developmental Surveillance Initiative
It seems like the focus of this is empowering parents to raise concerns with healthcare providers and early childhood staff by comparing their child’s development to milestones set out in an online tool, which is yet to launch. This feels a little patronising to me: I don’t think the barrier to services and identification tends of be parents who don’t notice irregularities in their child’s development; it seems to be getting health care providers on-board with pursuing a diagnosis or recognising the validity of a parent’s observations. I’m curious to see what the online tool framework looks like when it launches.
Coordinated Service Planning
This area deals with having one point agency in each region that will work with families to develop a cohesive, coordinated service plan for children and youth with complex needs, listing key contacts and roles. The idea of this plan is to increase clarity and accountability, ensuring everyone is working towards the same goals, while limiting the amount of repetition and overlap that can occur when multiple agencies are supporting the same child. The point agencies seem to generally be the provincial treatment centres in the area. Check out the responsible agency for your area here.
Has anyone had any experiences dealing with one of the point agencies to this point? How is the connection between treatment-centre-based services and the local school board?
Integrated Delivery of Rehabilitation Services
This area of focus aims to provide continuity of services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology from birth to school exit, as well as across the entire calendar year. This could help eliminate the challenges families face with transitions between early intervention providers and school districts, as well as providing services year-round instead of only during the school year. However, based on the very limited amounts of direct service that is currently publicly provided in these areas, I wonder how much difference will be seen on an individual level without a significant increase in funding.
Parents: what do you think?
What are your thoughts on this new strategy? Do you think the government has accurately identified key areas that need improvement? Does anything really strike you as exciting or concerning?