This New Diagnosis Hub has been developed to help parents in British Columbia put an intervention program in place for their child who has been newly diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (which we will refer to as autism). It is also helpful to families who may have received a diagnosis some time ago but are wanting to rethink their child’s program.
A diagnosis can be both a shock and a relief, even if a family has suspected for some time that their child has autism. ACT has many resources to help families through this process — you will find an overview on A Quick Overview of ACT’s Resources.
More diagnosis & assessment resources
Step 1: Signing an Autism Funding Agreement
In order to apply for Autism Funding from MCFD, the parent or guardian must contact their local office for Children and Youth with Support Needs, part of the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
- Find your local MCFD office for Children and Youth with Support Needs (CYSN) by contacting the Support Needs Contacts at MCFD.
- When you call your local MCFD office, explain that your child has just received a diagnosis of autism and you would like to talk with a CYSN Intake Worker to apply for autism funding.
- Submit the following to your local MCFD office:
- Move quickly! The month your local MCFD office receives your signed application, along with necessary documents, is the month your child’s funding will start to accrue. Remember to request an email confirmation after you submit all application related document, this can help you keep track on the process.
- Look for your Autism Funding Agreement, in the mail, four to six weeks after you apply. The MCFD site has a list of forms you may need including the Autism Agreement.
- Sign and return two copies of the agreement to the Autism Funding Program in Victoria within two weeks.
For details on funding allocation, equipment purchase and more, visit the Autism Funding Programs page. For details on specific questions, you may wish to browse A Parent’s Handbook: Your Guide to Autism Programs.
If you have any questions about this process, contact:
Autism Information Service British Columbia (AIS BC)
3688 Cessna Drive, Richmond, British Columbia, V7B 1C7
Step 2: Learning About Autism Treatments
In order to build an effective treatment team, parents need to learn about autism and how it impacts their child. This is especially important in B.C., where parents decide who to hire and what to prioritize in terms of therapy — within the limits set by Autism Funding policy.
Best Practices in Autism Treatment
Many approaches to autism treatment share these “best practices”; they are supported by extensive research:
- Intensive, direct one-to-one intervention at home, in preschool programs and in a variety of community settings on a year-round basis.
- High levels of predictability and routine.
- Highly supportive, structured teaching methods, based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), that incorporate a variety of strategies to help your child acquire, generalize, and maintain new skills.
- Use of functional assessment and positive behavior support techniques to address problem behaviors.
- Collaboration between therapists, including behavior consultants, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists (see Step three for details on these professionals).
- Interaction with typical children in preschool or daycare settings.
- Family involvement in development, implementation and review of intervention plans, and training in order to help their child progress.
- Trained and adequately supervised staff (see step four for details on maintaining a strong team).
- Regular, ongoing monitoring of the child’s progress by parents and professionals, and periodic reassessment and evaluation of the program.
Behavior Plan of Intervention
A behavior plan of intervention (BPI) is individualized to target areas where the child needs help. The initial plan also establishes a baseline — “where the child is now” — and sets goals. For more information, see the MCFD Parent’s Handbook page 25.
ACT’s Approach – Positive, Practical, Evidence-informed Support
ACT encourages parents to look carefully at approaches that are supported by research. No approach to autism treatment will have the same effect on all children — the causes of autism are complex and how it impacts each child varies significantly.
Search ACT’s Autism & Intellectual Disability Search, where ACT promotes resources that help parents improve the quality of their child’s and family’s life by targeting communications, social interaction and addressing concerns like anxiety.
Step 3: Finding Professionals to Work with Your Family
The Registry of Autism Service Providers
The Registry of Autism Service Providers (RASP) is designed to ensure that parents of children with autism under six have access to service providers whose education and experience meets basic standards for early intervention. Only if the professional is on the RASP can parents have them reimbursed for their services using Autism Funding.
Parents of children six and over do not have to choose professionals from the RASP. However, parents of children across the age range and with a variety of special needs will find the information contained here useful when making decisions about hiring professional support.
The Registry of Autism Service Providers (RASP) follows the policies set by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
If the child is under six, the following professionals must be selected from the Registry of Autism Service Providers (RASP) list, in order to use Autism Funding.
Do not rely only on the advice of others, look at the RASP list and contact several professionals to help you research the best options for your child. Ask each professional to provide resume, conduct an interview to ask about the professional’s experience and skill, and check references before you make your decision on hiring or contracting with someone.
ACT recommends that parents check carefully the professionals associated with an agency:
- How many of them can work independently of supervision?
- How closely supervised are consultants and behavior interventionists?
- How many well-qualified professionals are associated with the agency?
- If the agency does not have any professionals listed on the RASP, check that they still have staff with at least a Master’s degree to provide supervision to whoever is working with your child.
Be wary of situations where the behavior consultant is not taking an active role in your child’s program but is simply signing the invoices, while allowing an unqualified person to provide service with minimal supervision.
For Children under the Age of Six
Children under six receive $22,000 a year in funding that their families can use to pay for services, training and materials approved by the Autism Funding Unit. While this is a large sum, it can be used up very quickly unless families budget carefully. Families should also think of it as a time when they need to address their own training needs, so that when the funding drops to $6,000 a year when their child turns six, the family is better prepared to manage their child’s program.
Parents, siblings and the extended family are the core of the team
Children with autism are complicated; it often takes a team of people to understand how to engage him or her at first. Parents have crucial information but they need encouragement to build their skills and their confidence so they can learn how to help their child. This is important because parents are there for the long-haul and can have an amazing impact when they are given the tools. Siblings too, are powerful allies; they need to be provided with age-appropriate information on their sibling with special needs, as does the entire family.
If the child is under six, the following professionals must be selected from the Registry of Autism Service Providers (RASP) list, in order to use Autism Funding:
- Behavior Consultant/Analyst (BC)*: Specializes in assessment and development of goals and instructional strategies to target a wide range of skills across all areas of development, including communication, social and daily living skills. BCs also conduct Functional Behavior Assessments and design programs to address challenging behaviours. In most cases, the BC develops a detailed plan of intervention (BPI), trains and supervises BIs on how to implement the plan, and works collaboratively with family members and other members of the therapy team.
- Speech-language pathologist (S-LP): Specializes in assessing and treating a child’s speech, language and social communication difficulties. They can work directly with a child or provide consultation to the team providing ideas on how to target specific communication and social challenges.
- Occupational therapist (OT): Provides assessment, diagnosis and treatment in the area of functional living skills including play, dressing, feeding, school readiness skills, printing, keyboarding and social skills.
- Physical therapist (PT): Provides assessment and intervention that focus on the prevention, identification and easing of movement challenges. They can either provide direct treatment or consult to the team.
*Behavior Analysts are certified by the U.S.-based Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) following a series of courses and a period of supervised practice. Behavior Consultants who have this advanced certification will be listed as either BCBA or BCaBA under Certification on the RASP list.
Behavior Interventionist (BI)
BIs are not on the Registry of Autism Service Providers, but they can invoice the Autism Funding. BIs work one-on-one with your child on goals outlined in the behavior plan of intervention (BPI), developed by professionals on your team. BIs may work in the home, school, or community. It is very important that BIs are supervised by Behavior Consultants. Without supervision, BIs are not competent to deal with challenging situations and are not able to maximize the impact of a BPI.
For Children Six and Over
The average age of a child when diagnosed with autism in B.C is seven years of age. Many parents are very distressed when diagnosis is delayed, concerned that their child will not have the opportunity to progress. However, research demonstrates that children and adults with autism continue to progress, especially when they have good support at home and school. Many parents report significant progress year after year, well into adulthood, even for children who received a diagnosis in their teens.
For school-age children, Autism Funding is intended to cover a variety of services and resources outside of the child’s school day.
It is not a requirement to hire a professional from the Registry of Autism Service Providers (RASP) for children six and over, but it is an excellent starting point.
Working with older children requires a different skill set than working with very young children, but it is still advisable that whoever is providing you professional support is supervised by someone who has at least a Master’s degree in a related discipline like psychology or special education.
Mental Health Issues – Anxiety and Depression
Children with a late diagnosis can often be complex, which sometimes explains why they were not diagnosed much earlier. An area to keep a careful eye on is mental health, especially anxiety and depression. ACT has many resources we are pleased to share. There are videos available free on AVA – Autism Videos @ ACT. Also, the AID has numerous resources on mental health.
Direct Funding Option
If your child is 12 years or older, MCFD provides the option of Direct Payment Funding, after the family has “successfully managed” Invoice Payments for at least two full years. Funding will be provided directly to the parent or guardian at the beginning of the child’s funding period. For more information on the requirements please contact MCFD Autism Funding team.
Step 4: Hiring and Contracting with a Service Provider
Important considerations before hiring a professional
Although the government of B.C. is providing the funding for a child’s program, it is the parent who takes responsibility for spending the funds wisely. Essentially, the parent is entering into a private contract with a service provider.
Do not rush into signing a contract.
Take the time to meet with a few professionals to speak with them directly about the services and programs they are able to provide. Meeting face-to-face with a potential service provider helps to decide who will be the best fit for your child and family.
Will the approach to treatment work for your family?
Be cautious when providers insist that their approach works for all children.
- Are they listening to your family’s priorities?
- How many direct hours of intervention for your child does their program provide?
- What are the costs?
- Are you expected to implement the strategies with little direct support?
- Do you have financial resources to contribute to funding the program, in addition to Autism Funding?
- If you are a single-parent or a low-income family you will need to consider carefully the full financial picture.
- If you are a two-parent family, do you both work? How much time can you contribute to managing the people coming into your home to provide therapy?
- Is there a centre-based program which offers a better fit?
Make sure you understand the contract.
The contract should outline both the service provider’s responsibilities as well as the parent’s obligations. See Chapter 5 from ACT’s Autism Manual for B.C., “Contracting with Professionals on the RASP”— it provides further information on the importance of signing a contract and the details it should include.
Require a monthly invoice.
Many families become distressed when they realize that their child’s autism funding account has been emptied more quickly than planned because they gave a blanket permission to invoice the child’s account and did not track the invoices each month:
- Require a monthly invoice and review it carefully; it should be sent to you at the same time it is sent to the Autism Funding Branch.
- Set limits in the contract on how much can be debited each month.
- Require written authorization for services which are above the limits set in the contract.
Step 5: Building and Maintaining a Strong Team
Maintain a strong team
To maintain a strong team, you will need to:
- Treat all members with respect and encourage ongoing, clear and positive communication.
- Submit invoice forms to the Autism Funding Unit right away to assist in getting your service providers paid as soon as possible.
- Comply with B.C. Employment Standards if anyone working with your child is considered an employee.
Once your family’s intervention team is hired, it is important to remember your role as the parent and leader of your team. Be proactive:
- Meet regularly with team members, and encourage communications
- Focus on whether your child is making improvement
- Review the information recorded by team members
- Review your child’s needs and communicate them to the team
- Consider whether you are seeing progress in meeting the goals set out in the Behavior Plan of Intervention
- Submit invoice forms to the Autism Funding Unit right away so your service providers are paid as soon as possible.
- Re-evaluate, if necessary, whether the team members are a proper fit for your child
As of July 1, 2017, MCFD is taking over management of the Registry of Autism Service Providers and will be the first point of contact for complaints from parents and guardians regarding the service provided by Behavior Consultants, Occupational Therapists, Speech-Language Pathologists and Physical Therapists.
For individualized support, please contact:
Autism Information Service British Columbia (AIS BC)
3688 Cessna Drive, Richmond, British Columbia, V7B 1C7
Step 6: Continuing to Learn about Autism and your Child
Workshops and Training – Live, Web Streaming and Online!
As children with autism develop and grow through different stages in life, parents often need new strategies. To equip you with positive, practical strategies ACT offers a variety of training opportunities, live, web streamed and online, relevant to autism and other special needs, including:
- Social Skills
- Toilet Training
- Puberty and Adolescence
- Recreation & Children with ASD
- Positive Behavior Support
- Transition to Adulthood
Workshops and conferences are also a great opportunity to meet people who share your interests and to find out about new developments in research.
- ACT’s Live & Web Streamed Events
- Autism Videos @ ACT – free, practical, online videos, accessible on your schedule
- Special Needs Community Events: Events presented by organizations from across B.C.
Quick Overview of ACT Resources
ACT provides online information and training resources to families and professionals.
- Online Videos – Autism Videos @ ACT provide expert, practical insights on a range of topics; available on your computer on your schedule; professionally filmed and edited. Free!
- The Autism Information Database – the AID
- A flexible keyword search will generate resources from credible websites around the world.
- The BC Community Resources Database
- Residents of B.C. can search by their postal code for autism-friendly services across the province.
- ACT’s Autism Manual for B.C.
A manual for B.C. parents and professionals, includes chapters on the diagnostic process, developing a treatment team, MCFD-funded services and a glossary of terms and a helpful guide to acronyms.
ACT is constantly developing new resources. We also keep parents and professionals in touch with developments within the autism community across B.C. and beyond. To receive ACT’s Monthly News Round-Up and event announcements by email, sign-up here.
A special thanks to all the families who have provided their engaging family photos for ACT’s information and awareness work.