Apr 15, 2024

My Child Has Autism Now What?

What to Do in the First 30 Days: A Guide for Ontario Families 


Take a deep breath! Navigating the complex autism landscape can feel overwhelming, but you’re not alone. At the Geneva Centre for Autism, we’ve been supporting parents and caregivers like you for over 50 years. We’re here to guide you every step of the way. 

Remember, take it one step at a time—you’ll get there. Whenever you need help, we’re just a phone call or an email away.


Step 1: Register your child with the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) 

The government of Ontario provides needs-based funding to families through the ​​OAP. Register your child as soon as you receive a formal diagnosis, as there is a waiting period. This is crucial because programming is expensive, and you'll need to know how much funding you can receive. 


We recommend keeping all your documents organized in one place, whether a physical binder or an online folder. You'll accumulate many registration confirmations, receipts and school-related documents, and having them organized will be very helpful. Don’t forget to keep track of any passwords. 


Take special care of the official autism diagnosis from your doctor. This document is essential for accessing government funding and other related services in Ontario. 


Helpful links:

Ontario Autism Program

How Do I Pay for Autism Services in Ontario


Step 2: Start building your autism support team 

Start building your support team early. Include your family doctor, school officials (if your child is school-aged) and autism service providers who can help you navigate the system. Your team might also include therapists, other family members, online support groups, and close friends and family. It truly takes a village. 


At Geneva Centre for Autism, we guide families on their journey even before they're ready to enroll their child in clinical services. Have questions? ​Reach out to our amazing service navigation team


The sooner you build these relationships, the smoother the journey will be. Start the conversation early so that when you need support, your team is ready and informed.


Step 3: Begin the IEP process 

For families with school-aged children, collaborating with school officials and teachers to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is crucial. This active document outlines the student's strengths and needs, annual goals, special education programs they may require, learning expectations, modifications, accommodations and more. This is an important document to store with all of your other autism resources. Your child's teacher is the best starting point for IEP guidance.  


If your child has autism and is preparing to transition to school for the first time, they can participate in the funded entry-to-school program. This program is eligible for children between three and six years old and supports school readiness and smooth transitions into kindergarten or Grade 1. 


Helpful links:

Ontario Entry to School Program

Toronto Autism Services Network 


Step 4: Research services for your child  

Numerous services for children with autism extend beyond clinical settings. Specialized childcare centers, babysitters and respite services offer valuable support to parents and caregivers. 


Autism Ontario's approved provider list is a great resource for clinical services, although it doesn't cover all support providers like babysitters and respite services. 


Explore the Ontario government's Special Services at Home program, aiding families in hiring individuals to take care of their child(ren) and support them in the community. Ensure thorough interviews, inquire about qualifications and seek references from other families when selecting a provider. 


Helpful links:

OAP provider list

Special Services at Home


Step 5: Join an autism community and make time for self-care 

Find your community by joining an in-person or online autism community. Surrounding yourself with families who share similar experiences can provide invaluable support and a wealth of information. 


Amidst the busyness of parenting and navigating new challenges, prioritize self-care to avoid burnout. Remember to eat well, prioritize sleep and find time for exercise. Seek support in whatever form resonates with you, and consider journaling as a therapeutic outlet. Your well-being matters, too. 


Step 6: Begin educating yourself & your family 

Receiving an autism diagnosis can feel overwhelming, but knowledge is power. Educating yourself ensures effective advocacy for your child and a deeper understanding of their needs. 


Set manageable learning goals, dedicating just 15 minutes daily to reading about autism-related topics. Over time, you'll become more confident and knowledgeable. 


Access on-demand resources through Autism Ontario. Don't overlook our handy ​​Autism dictionary, featuring essential acronyms for easy reference. Empower yourself with information to support your child's journey. 


Helpful links:

Autism dictionary

Autism Ontario

Aide Canada Resource Hub 


We’re Here to Help

Being well-informed is the first step toward taking positive action for your child and your family. At the Geneva Centre for Autism, we’re here to help. We provide state-of-the-art clinical services for families in the Greater Toronto Area, ensuring you have the knowledge and support you need to navigate this journey with confidence and care. 


Speak to our friendly staff