From September 23, 2020 to November 21, 2020, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services conducted a survey of professionals who provide clinical services to people with special needs. The aim of the survey was to better understand the availability, location, skills and experiences of these professionals.

This survey was open to people who provide:

  • behavioural services (applied behaviour analysis or ABA)
  • occupational therapy
  • speech-language pathology
  • physiotherapy

We’re using the survey data to understand current workforce capacity and to support planning for programs that fund services for people with special needs, including autism spectrum disorder.

Survey findings

Supply of service providers in Ontario

A total of 2,269 people participated in the special needs workforce survey, including:

  • 897 individuals who provide behavioural services (40% of survey sample)
  • 801 individuals who provide occupational therapy (35% of survey sample)
  • 571 individuals who provide speech-language pathology (25% of survey sample)

An additional 93 survey participants indicated that they provide physiotherapy services as their primary area of practice. We analyzed these responses separately due to small sample size.

This sample is a small proportion of the total clinical workforce in Ontario. For reference, in Ontario there are over 1,600 registered behavioural clinicians, 3,500 registered speech-language pathologists and 6,500 registered occupational therapists in Ontario.

Distribution of service providers in Ontario

The survey sample includes respondents in each of the ministry’s five service regions. The greatest proportion of survey respondents reported that they serve the central and Toronto regions. Among survey participants:

  • 47% of survey respondents providing behavioural services indicated that they have ‘some’ or ‘significant’ capacity to serve more clients. The highest proportions worked in Toronto (53%), east (49%) and central (48%) regions.
  • 49% of survey respondents providing behavioural services to children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) indicated that they have ‘some’ or ‘significant’ capacity to serve more clients. This was highest among providers in Toronto (55%) and east (51%) regions.

Demographic profile of service providers in Ontario

Among survey participants:

  • 79% identified as white (for example, European descent)
  • 91% identified as female
  • 60% reported they are under 45 years of age
  • more than half have dependent care responsibilities (for example, children, elders)

13% of survey respondents reported that they can deliver services in French. Less than 1% of survey respondents identified as Indigenous.

Service provider experiences in Ontario

More than half of survey respondents (59%) have been practicing for more than 10 years.

Most survey respondents (72%) reported that they are satisfied with their primary employer.

The most common reason survey respondents considered leaving their primary areas of practice was physical, mental, emotional stress or burnout, followed by compensation and lack of career advancement.

COVID‑19 has caused several changes in how clinicians work, including a shift to virtual service delivery and new safety protocols being implemented.

Challenges and opportunities

The survey asked participants to identify challenges and opportunities related to their work. Participants’ responses touched on the following subjects and themes:

  • funding
  • support for in-school service delivery
  • learning and professional development opportunities
  • pay and benefits

Read the results

Learn more about the survey and read a summary of all the findings.