Ottawa announces funding for COVID-19 autism challenges in Quebec

Projects to improve capacity to address issues stemming from pandemic

The Trudeau government last week announced funding of over $1.8 million for four projects aimed at addressing the negative impacts of COVID-19 on autistic individuals in Quebec.

COVID-19 presented significant challenges to accessing resources for autistic people and their families and caregivers. Disrupted routines and restricted or reduced access to programming, services, and activities had and continue to have a negative impact.

As well, due to the pandemic, many people in Canada, including autistic people, continue to experience increased stress, anxiety, and depression.

Here are the projects

  • Spectrum Productions will receive $464,945 to adapt its in-studio programs and services into a nationally scalable virtual hub where Autistic creatives of all levels can engage with an inclusive, diverse and supportive community and access various social and educational training and employment opportunities online.
  • McGill University will receive $470,000 to create an online platform where caregivers of Autistic children can acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to empower children, improving their well-being and functioning. The project will reach low-income populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and seek to increase skills and support training to help improve the lives of Autistic individuals, their families and caregivers. 
  • The Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Ste-Justine will receive $469,485 to deliver the AUTISME 5SSE (Social Support, Stigma-Free Care, and Experiential Knowledge) project to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the determinants of health of autistic individuals and their families through social support and reducing barriers to care.
  • The “Centre d’innovation sociale en agriculture” in Victoriaville will receive $442,020 to develop and test the “L’insertion socioprofessionnelle des jeunes adultes présentant un trouble du spectre de l’autisme par l’agroalimentaire” program. The program will support young autistic adults entering the workforce in the agrifood industry.

Overcoming barriers

“Our government is committed to addressing barriers for autistic individuals when it comes to their health and well-being,” said Outremont Liberal MP Rachel Bendayan, announcing the funding on behalf of federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos.

“The pandemic has been a stressful and life-altering experience for many people, and many autistic Canadians and their families have struggled to access critical services while dealing with social isolation,” she continued. “The projects announced today will make a real difference in the lives of those who need them.”

“Our government is working to improve the health and well-being of people on the autism spectrum and support their families and caregivers,” said Duclos.

“To do so, we are committed to working with organizations like the ones announced in Quebec today to help provide community-based autism resources. By easing access to care and important services, we are working towards better support for autistic individuals, their families and caregivers.”

Fed funding for autism

According to the 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth (CHSCY), 1 in 50 (or 2.0 per cent) of Canadian children and youth aged 1 to 17 years were diagnosed with autism. The federal government’s budget 2018 allocated $20 million over five years to better support the needs of autistic individuals, their families and caregivers.

Of this overall investment, $9.1 million was allocated to establish the Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategic Fund to support community-based projects.

The four projects announced last week are the last under the Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategic Fund. The government says it is working collaboratively with provinces, territories, families, Indigenous organizations and other stakeholders toward the creation of a national autism strategy.