Providers team up to offer new, easy-to-access support for children with autism

August 22, 2023

From left to right: MJW-CYDC Assistant Director Katelyn Bryant, Associate Dean of Research and MPED in ABA Coordinator Nicole Neil, MJW-CYDC Director Colin King, BCBA and Western Education Graduate Student Lina Hawi, TVCC Autism Services Project Coordinator Lynn Seward, TVCC Autism Services Manager Jennifer Sanders and TVCC Autism Services Director Laura Pritchard.

A pair of local service providers are joining forces to provide accessible and vital support to families raising children with autism spectrum disorder.

The new partnership between Western Education’s Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic (MJW-CYDC) and TVCC — formerly the Thames Valley Children’s Centre — is a step towards clearer pathways of care for children and youth on the spectrum. The project is supported by the Ontario Government’s Ontario Autism Program workforce capacity fund.

Dr. Katelyn Bryant, Psychologist and Assistant Director of the MJW-CYDC, says the work is essential for families raising children with autism.

“We constantly hear about the complex needs of these families, and how difficult it is for them to navigate the service system and access intervention that addresses the full scope of their needs,” Bryant added.

“This project will bring service providers and families together to design a series of virtual groups that address a range of intervention needs. We are also planning to offer trainings and practicum experiences to enhance the skills of current and future autism services providers.”

The project’s virtual groups are now available on TVCC’s website and will start in the fall.

Through these groups, parents and caregivers will learn the skills needed to deal with a variety of challenges that may be impacting their children. One example includes the “Facing Your Fears” group, which, over the course of ten weeks, will teach attendees skills to target specific fears or worries that interfere with day-to-day functioning at home and at school.

Bryant says partnering with TVCC for the project was an easy decision, adding that the teams quickly found “a shared enthusiasm for innovation, collaboration and dissemination of best practices.”

“TVCC is at the heart of youth developmental service provision in southwestern Ontario and their team brings incredible experience and expertise in working with children and youth on the autism spectrum,” Bryant said.

“Partnering with TVCC allows us to do more interdisciplinary work and build a network of educators, allied health professionals — like behaviour therapists and psychologists — and doctors that kids with autism desperately need.”

Another product of the partnership is a valuable set of new learning opportunities for students in the Faculty of Education’s Master of Professional Education in the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).

These students, who are studying to become Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBA), will be enrolled in a virtual training series and will help deliver the project’s services through a virtual practicum supervised by ABA supervisors, giving them real-world experience that makes a real-world impact.

ABA students will be cross-trained alongside graduate students in the Faculty’s School and Applied Child Psychology program who receive training from MJW-CYDC. These graduate students will also take part in the virtual practicum under the supervision of licensed child psychologists.

Laura Pritchard, TVCC’s Director of Autism Services, says providing this training to future BCBAs will ensure the highest quality of effective treatment is offered to families raising children with autism.

“We are grateful for this opportunity and the funding from the grant to enrich the skills of future clinicians within our community,” Pritchard added.

“We are also thrilled to offer our clinicians some additional education and training as they benefit from the expertise of our partners at the Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic.”

As mentioned, the full list of virtual group services available can be found online. For those seeking support from the MJW-CYDC, more information can be found on the clinic’s website.