Starting school

Students with autism may require special education programs and services. Parents and families are a valuable source of information, and you have an important role to play when your child starts school.

When a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is ready to start school in the publicly funded school system, the school principal, teachers, other educators and relevant community personnel should work with you and your family to plan for your child's successful transition into school. Learn how school boards identify and place students in special education programs and read about individual education plans (IEPs).

Connections for Students

Connections for Students can help children with autism move from community-based services delivered through the Ontario Autism Program into school. Connections for Students is centred on multi-disciplinary, student-specific, school-based transition teams.

Check your school board’s website for more information.

Going to a new classroom, grade or school

School staff must plan transitions involving students with autism.

Your family can work with educators and community organizations to plan for your child’s transitions through the IEP process.

These transitions may include:

  • entering school
  • changing between activities and settings or classrooms
  • transitioning between grades
  • moving from school to school or from an agency to a school
  • moving from elementary to secondary school
  • transitioning from secondary school to postsecondary destinations and/or the workplace

Make an individual education plan

You can work with teachers and school staff to develop an individual education plan (IEP).

Your child’s IEP will include input from parents and families, relevant school board personnel, and relevant community personnel (when parents and families have provided consent).

Learn more about individual education plans.

Teaching methods

Students with autism have a wide range of educational needs.

The ABA teaching methods your child receives in school may look different from ABA services provided in community-based and therapeutic programs. The methods can differ in the intensity of hours and service. Some of the ABA methods that schools use include:

  • prompting
  • modeling
  • task analysis
  • the use of reinforcement

Educators can read Ontario’s Policy Program Memorandum 140 (PPM 140) to understand expectations on how to use applied behavioural analysis (ABA) teaching methods. ABA methods can be used to increase positive behaviours, teach new skills, maintain behaviours, and generalize or transfer behaviour from on situation to another.

Educators should use the following principles in ABA programming for students with autism, where appropriate:

  • the program should be individualized
  • positive reinforcement should be utilized
  • data should be collected and analysed
  • transfer, or generalization, of skills should be emphasized

School board applied behaviour analysis experts

Every school board in the province gets funding to hire at least one expert in applied behavioural analysis and conduct ABA training.

ABA expertise professionals support principals, teachers, educators and other school staff by:

  • providing and coordinating ABA coaching, training and resources
  • facilitating school boards’ collaboration with community service providers, parents and schools
  • supporting the Connections for Students model and other student transitions

After school skills development programs

Your school board might offer after school skills development programs. These programs, for students with autism and other special education needs, offer additional targeted skills development opportunities to strengthen the skills students will use in the classroom and accomplish other goals.

Check your school board’s website for more information or talk to your school principal.

If you have a question

If you have a question about your child’s special education programs and services, your first step is to contact the person most involved in you child’s education: the classroom teacher or the special education (resource) teacher.

In addition to talking to a teacher, you may also wish to speak with the principal of the school who can help guide you through other school board resources.


Autism in Ontario

Ontario Autism Program

Children with special needs