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Newfoundland and Labrador releases autism action plan

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Al Hawkins (left) and Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie speak during the announcement of the Autism Action Plan Wednesday.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Al Hawkins (left) and Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie speak during the announcement of the Autism Action Plan Wednesday. - Joe Gibbons
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The provincial government on Wednesday released its Autism Action Plan.

A news release states the plan will provide increased services and supports for individuals living with autism spectrum disorder.

Budget 2019 includes $2.5 million for plan implementation. Beginning in 2020, this amount will increase to an annual ongoing expenditure of $5 million.

The plan has 46 actions that will be completed over the short-, medium- and long-term, the release notes. The majority will be completed by March 2021.

Main focus areas include:

• Awareness, acceptance, diagnosis and assessment of autism spectrum disorder;

• Support for individuals, families and caregivers living with autism spectrum disorder;

• Evidence-based treatment and management of autism spectrum disorder;

• Education for children and youth living with autism spectrum disorder;

• Living with autism spectrum disorder in the community; and

• Professional learning and development in autism spectrum disorder.

The province will improve access to home and community support services by eliminating the criteria of IQ 70 from the current eligibility requirements. This means eligibility for support services will be based on functional need only.

The plan will see the creation of two new programs that will ensure seamless supports across the lifespan. The Provincial Autism Services Program will expand Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) programming beyond Grade 3 for children and youth up to age 21, and the Supporting Abilities Program for adults will encourage supportive employment opportunities.

JASPER (Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement Regulation) will be available to children up to age nine. JASPER is an ASD therapy that has proven, long-term positive results in children. Clinicians in the province have received extensive training in JASPER and this training will also be incorporated into family supports.

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