Ontario Ministry of Education’s Policy/Program Memorandum 140: a review and critique of current resource allocation and practices for supporting autistic students in elementary classrooms

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A review of recent literature on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and alternative evidence-based therapies for autistic students, as well as data extracted from Ontario school boards’ recent financial reports. Information from this review is used to conduct a critique of Ontario's Policy/Program Memorandum 140 (PPM 140) by scrutinizing current funding models to determine whether they allow the policy to be implemented in a way that facilitates execution of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) methods that align with best practice recommendations. The critique determines that most of Ontario’s school boards are currently underspending from their Behaviour Expertise Amount (BEA) allocations, which are intended to fund ABA training for educators, ASSD programs for students, and school board hiring of behaviour experts. Data reviewed as part of this critique revealed that half of Ontario’s school boards employ two or fewer full-time behaviour experts. Based on best-practice guidelines, this behavioural expert-to-student ratio makes the mandated requirement of integrating ABA methods into the IEPs of students unsustainable and likely means that autistic students are not receiving the required support. Underspending in ABA training for educators indicates that limited teacher-focused educational opportunities are available, creating a divide between policy and practice. The current approach to PPM 140 in Ontario schools renders genuine and authentic application of ABA principles difficult, if not impossible, to implement and indicates a need for improvements moving forward. This critique and review of the literature reveals that PPM 140 could be more efficient if new oversight and monitoring protocols could be developed, including standards and quality indicators used to establish training requirements for education staff, behaviour expert hiring practices that align with board enrollment numbers, and accessible data collection protocol to monitor implementation and to measure student outcomes.
ABA, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Education, Funding, Ontario