Health and Community Services
Children, Seniors and Social Development
Education and Early Childhood Development
April 17, 2019

Ministers Release Autism Action Plan

The Provincial Government today released its Autism Action Plan. The plan will provide increased services and supports for individuals living with autism spectrum disorder. Budget 2019 – Building Towards a Brighter Future includes $2.5 million for plan implementation. Beginning in 2020, this amount will increase to an annual ongoing investment of $5 million.

The Autism Action Plan has 46 actions which will be completed over the short, medium and long-term. The majority will be completed by March 2021.

The breakdown of the actions is as follows:

  • Short-term: 19 actions to be completed by March 2020.
  • Medium-term: 22 actions to be completed by March 2021.
  • Long-term: Five actions to be completed by March 2022.

All 46 actions fall into six main focus areas:

  • 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 Autism Action 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.

The plan was developed with the Autism Action Council. Council representatives include individuals and families with lived experience, the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living, health care and education professionals, as well as the departments of Health and Community Services; Children, Seniors and Social Development; Education and Early Childhood Development; Advanced Education, Skills and Labour; and Justice and Public Safety.

The council and the Department of Health and Community Services will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the plan. Progress reports will be provided to the public. The first progress report will be provided in March 2020.

The Autism Action Plan delivers on commitments in The Way Forward to deliver better services and better outcomes for residents. The Way Forward outlines all actions the Provincial Government is taking to achieve a strong, diversified province with a high standard of living. The Way Forward can be viewed at:

“Our Autism Action Plan is built on the principle of person-centred planning. It’s essential to ensure treatments, supports and services are based on the specific strengths and needs of each individual. Wraparound support will be provided at home, in the community and in schools based on where the needs are.”
Honourable John Haggie
Minister of Health and Community Services

“As a government, we are committed to the removal and prevention of barriers that are experienced by persons with disabilities, including persons with autism. We as a government, a community and a people are continuing to work together to promote a more inclusive province where true citizenship exists.”
Honourable Lisa Dempster
Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development

“Enhancing services for autism spectrum disorder complements the work of the Education Action Plan to increase teacher resources, such as teaching and learning assistants, ensuring teachers and students are receiving the supports they need and helping achieve an education system that is responsive to students’ strengths and needs.”
Honourable Al Hawkins
Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development

“A planned strategic approach to supporting those on the autism spectrum is something families have looked forward to for a long time. This plan encompasses integrated autism-related services for children and adults and will positively impact hundreds of families across the province. We are delighted to see this action plan come to fruition.”
Anthony Jackman
President, Board of Directors, Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

“The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and families across our province advocated for many years for a simple approach to the delivery of autism services across the lifespan with a single point of intake. Actions in this plan, when implemented, will have an incredibly positive impact on those affected by autism of all ages and their families. We are excited to see this ASD-specific provincial strategy finally come together.”
Scott Crocker
Executive Director, Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

“The UCLA team is so impressed by the Autism Action Plan developed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Few regions of the country have had the forethought to implement evidence-based interventions in such an organized, planned way as Newfoundland and Labrador. We have been impressed with the professional, skillful manner in which JASPER has been implemented into the health system, and the successful results that have been documented.”
Dr. Connie Kasari
UCLA International Autism Expert and Researcher

“I applaud the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for putting forward an action plan to support positive outcomes for people with autism living in the province. This is a bold plan that considers many kinds of supports across the life course and across sectors.”
Dr. Jonathan Weiss
York Research Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disability/Mental Health

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Learn more
Autism Action Plan PDF icon

The Way Forward

Towards Recovery: The Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador PDF icon

Education Action Plan PDF icon

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Media contacts
Kathy Dicks-Peyton
Health and Community Services
709-729-6986, 699-1982

Gina MacArthur
Children, Seniors and Social Development
709-729-3768, 730-2977

Tina Coffey
Education and Early Childhood Development
709-729-1692, 687-9903

Tess Hemeon
Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

Dr. Connie Kasari

Dr. Jonathan Weiss
York University 

2019 04 17                              10:10 a.m.