This free preschool program actually drove me nuts. To begin the waitlist to even receive service is like a 6 month wait. Once you get an assessment you then wait for the next available open “block of service”. After your “block” you have to wait 6 months for a reassessment and then the cycle goes on with you waiting for the next available “block of service”.
Background info on the said program. It is available to children from birth to JK entry. Once your child goes to school, the school board kicks in for speech resources. We applied for this before JB was 2 years old and got our first “block” in August of 2017. After our 6 week session we had to wait till March 2018 to get reassessed. After the said reassessment, we had to wait for the next available block which was June/July 2018. Again it was a 6 week session and the cycle goes on with waiting for reassessment and next block. To sum this up, we essentially got 6 sessions of 45 minutes once per year. With the timing when someone register for the program before 2 years of age they will likely get 3 blocks of service before they go to school. According to the SLP, that is their policy and guidelines. You must wait 6 months before getting reassessed and after reassessment you have to wait for next block.
I got so frustrated I reached out the City for clarification on the said policy. They forward my request to a media relations advisor. It took about 1-2 months before I got some answers. I didn’t push further at the time as life was busy and we did private speech which was covered through work for a certain amount of dollars. This have got to be the worse so called early intervention program. Not just for autism children but so many kids have delayed speech and language. If early intervention is so important, why am I only getting one block of treatment per year?
I copied the email response below.
RESPONSES PROVIDED BY TORONTO PUBLIC HEALTH SPOKESPERSON NANCY CHISHOLM, MANAGER EARLY ABILITIES
Q1: What services does the Early Abilities speech and language program offer to children and families?
A1: Early Abilities provides services for children with speech and language concerns at no cost to client and families. The services are available to children from birth to when they start junior kindergarten. Our service providers offer services including assessment, consultation, monitoring, parent and caregiver education, therapy and supported transition to school. Service providers work with parents and caregivers to improve children’s communication skills. Our main goal is to help every child be the best communicator they can be.
Q2: How long are the waits to get into the speech and language program?
A2: Currently the wait time from referral to assessment is approximately 4-6 months. This is in part attributed to the number of children currently enrolled in the program actively receiving services, the volume of new referrals Early Abilities receives annually and current program resources/capacity. For example, each year the program receives over 4,500 new referrals and also continues providing services to other children who receive interventions for up to three years after they initially enroll in the program. In the past two years, the Early Abilities program has been making significant efforts to decrease wait times for children and families. Our current wait times are the lowest they have been in several years and we endeavor to continue to improve these times.
Q3: Is it correct that once you get a block of service or a round of treatment which is 6 sessions of 45 minutes (maybe this will change pending on the need of your child) you have to wait 6 months before qualifying for another assessment?
A3: No, for some children reassessments are provided after 3 months, in other instances reassessments are provided after 6 months.
Q4: If so does this mean a child can only get 6 sessions of 45 minutes per year?
A4: No, we work to ensure that we provide services that respond to the individual needs of children and families. This approach is informed by the best available research and scientific evidence. Intervention blocks typically range from 2 to 10 sessions depending on factors such as the nature of the child’s difficulty, severity, and progress etc. We endeavor to provide services that respond to the individual needs of children and families, and as informed by best available research and scientific evidence. Wherever possible, we strive to provide a range of service locations across the City of Toronto and ensure that these services are delivered in a timely and responsive manner.
Q5: Can you confirm if one gets more than 6 sessions of 45 minutes each per block? If so what is the range?
A5: See A4
Autism families can agree, actually most parents can agree on this statement: You choose your battles you want to fight. I would love to fight this battle but in reality I don’t think it will get me anywhere. I just have too much on my plate right now to be fighting a losing battle. I am extremely disappointed in this speech service the city provides. I was told Surrey Place also offers speech and language and the infancy department staff working with me confirmed she sees families receive 2-3 blocks of service per year. 2-3 is much better than 1. Had I known, I would of registered with Surrey Place instead. You cannot access both because it is deemed as duplication of services and the government would not allow this. I get it but how is it that one avenue you get only one block per year and if you go through another agency you get double or even triple? How unfair is that?
My recommendations for families with little ones with speech concerns, contact Surrey Place and put your name on that waitlist. Skip the Toronto one to avoid disappointments. Disclaimer, the service we received was good but just the so call policy of making you wait 6 months if full of bs. I think the general blanket statement to cover their butts is they provide services based on the child’s needs. Who determines what my child needs? How do you say ok this child needs to wait 6 months? How do you tell all your staff (at least those who I’ve contacted) that every family must wait 6 months but claim that every child/family is different. The SLPs, I’ve worked with both told me that their policy is you must wait 6 months before reassessment. Maybe you need to train your staff about the so called policy.
I provided the link to Surrey Place below.