FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is introducing an enhanced model for the Preschool Autism Intervention Program and increasing funding.

“In New Brunswick, we are fortunate to have an intervention program that has been recognized nationally and that makes a real difference in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny. “There are no waiting lists and every child with autism begins receiving services as soon as they are diagnosed. We know that we can make this program even better through these improvements which will increase funding and standardize services across the province while incorporating new evidence-based practices.”

Improvements include:

  • Providing additional funding per child for services each year, increasing the average funding from $27,500 to almost $33,000 per child.
  • Providing training for parents to increase their involvement.
  • Aligning the new model with the school districts to ensure that children are served equally throughout the province and have an easier transition to school. This means that children will receive services by the agency in their school district.
  • Increasing wages and travel reimbursement for intervention staff, aimed at reducing turnover and improving services.
  • Increasing the quality of service to children through a pod staffing model that serves 25 children with set ratios of professional to paraprofessional staff to ensure sufficient clinical supervision.
  • Using the Comprehensive Assessment for Learning and Independence and the Comprehensive Curriculum for Learning and Independence as assessment and intervention tools. These were developed by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Lovaas Institute in Minnesota and are currently being used for children in New Brunswick schools.
  • Providing training to all agency staff in new intervention strategies and tools to increase the rate of learning for children and help reduce staff turnover.

The province has also developed preschool autism online training which is available to personnel working with children with autism. This training will align with the online training for school professionals and is available across the Atlantic Provinces. It is provided through an interprovincial partnership as part of the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training. The development of the online training is a key element in the positive transition to school for children with autism.

“As part of our efforts to improve this service, we asked families currently using the program, experts, and service providers for their input to better understand the needs of parents and their satisfaction level with the program,” said Kenny. “These improvements are a direct result of the information gathered during those sessions.”

In conjunction with these improvements and to increase transparency and accountability, a request for proposals was issued for the delivery of the enhanced model for the Preschool Autism Intervention Program. The successful proponent, Danielle Pelletier Speech-language Pathologist Corp. DBA Autism Intervention Services, will begin offering services in February. In the meantime, children will continue to receive services from their current agency.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity to provide preschool autism intervention services to children around the province,” said Danielle Pelletier. “I am looking forward to reaching out to staff in the existing centres to ensure a smooth transition, and look forward to sharing my passion and expertise with families participating in the program.”

Autism spectrum disorder is recognized as one of the most common developmental disorders affecting children in Canada and around the world. The Preschool Autism Program provides 20 hours of intensive behaviour intervention to preschool children with a diagnosis of autism. In 2015-16, this program served 816 children. The goal is to provide early intensive behavior intervention that reduces the features of autism for children. Intervention is most effective in reducing the need for future support when it is carried out intensively during a child’s preschool years.

In the 2016-17 provincial budget, funding to the pre-school autism program was increased by $1.3 million, for a total program budget of $17.2 million.

More information on autism services is available on the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website.