Supporting Children with Autism: A Roadmap for Divorced Parents

April 1, 2024
Erika Holter

Article written by Erika Holter

April 2nd marks World Autism Day, a day declared by the United Nations in 2008 as dedicated to raising awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and advocating for the rights and well-being of individuals on the spectrum. This has since kicked off World Autism Month, an annual opportunity for a dedicated conversation and celebration of autism.

For families with children on the autism spectrum, finding adequate support and resources can be a challenging journey, especially within the context of divorce. For families who are already grappling with the complexities of divorce, accessing appropriate support for children with autism can add yet another layer of stress. Here we will explore some Ontario-specific programs available to provide support for children with autism, as well as the steps that can be taken to receive funding, particularly within the framework of divorced households.

World autism awareness day, understanding love concept, a beautiful mother holding hands of little autistic child making heart shape over symbol colored puzzle.

Navigating Autism Support Services in Ontario

There is a range of support services and programs designed to assist Ontario-based children with autism and their families.

  • Ontario Autism Program (OAP) – provides funding, services, and supports for children and youth on the autism spectrum until the age of 18;

  • AutismOntario - the province’s leading source of information and referral on autism, and one of the largest collective voices for the autism community, representing seven regions across the province;

  • Kinark Autism Services - provides evidence-based and individualized services to thousands of families across southern and central Ontario; and

  • Lake Ridge Community Support Services – offers a range of funded and fee-based behaviour therapy services.

Accessing Funding for Autism Support Services

While these support services can be invaluable, navigating the funding process can be daunting, especially for parents going through divorce. Fortunately, there are avenues available to assist families in accessing the financial support they need to afford these services.

One of the primary sources of funding for children with autism in Ontario is the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). This program provides funding for various services, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Families can apply for funding through the OAP, which is typically allocated based on the child's individual needs and the family's financial situation.

Father helps daughter to put color copybooks in school bag before a school day

When it comes to divorced households, both parents may be eligible to apply for funding through the OAP separately. However, it's essential to note that the allocation of funding may vary depending on each parent's income and the custody arrangements for the child. In some cases, families in single-income households or those facing financial hardship may qualify for additional financial support.

Legal Considerations Around Decision-Making

In addition to understanding the available support services and funding options for children with autism in Ontario, it's crucial for parents in divorced households to consider the legal aspects surrounding consent and decision-making for their child's participation in these programs.


In Ontario, parents share joint custody of their children unless otherwise specified by a court order or separation agreement. This means that major decisions regarding the child's health, education, and well-being should ideally be made jointly by both parents, even in cases of divorce or separation.

However, there may be situations where obtaining consent from both parents is not feasible or practical. In such cases, one parent may be granted sole decision-making authority by a court or through a separation agreement. This could occur if one parent is unavailable, uninvolved, or unable to participate in the decision-making process due to factors such as distance or estrangement.

Seeking Legal Advice

If there are disagreements between parents regarding their child's participation in support programs for autism or if one parent is seeking to make decisions unilaterally, it may be necessary to seek legal advice. Family lawyers can provide guidance on navigating these complex issues and help parents reach agreements that prioritize their child's well-being.

Young girl with autism spectrum disorder

Co-Parenting Through Autism

Co-parenting comes with its own set of challenges. When you add in the complexities of co-parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it may feel daunting. Fortunately, there is support available. By leveraging programs such as the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) and seeking guidance from professionals, parents can access the resources and financial support necessary to help their child thrive. Above all else, it is important to be proactive in advocating for your child's needs and ensuring they receive the support and resources necessary for their well-being.

World Autism Day provides a reminder of the importance of supporting individuals on the autism spectrum and working together to create a more inclusive and supportive society for all. At this time, and at any time, if you need support, we are here for you!