Smith said the government was acting on “clear direction” from experts and the families of autistic children, and would be launching consultations on the issue in the fall.
“Our commitment is that behavioural clinicians will be regulated like other health professionals,” he said in a statement. “Parents who are choosing a behavioural clinician deserve to have peace of mind knowing they are choosing from qualified professionals.”
The government said that as it stands, those who see behavioural clinicians don’t have clear recourse to report issues because the majority of clinicians are not regulated and do not work under a local governing body that can handle complaints or discipline.
In addition to a complaint mechanism, the government said that developing a regulatory body will give the field consistent ethical and professional standards and clearly defined educational requirements.
The ministries of health and social services will both be involved in the consultations, the province said.
The move towards regulation comes after the Progressive Conservative government was forced to reverse course on a revamp to its autism program that initially based funding solely on age and family income.
Smith announced last month that the province would switch back to a needs-based approach to funding.
The original program announced in February capped the amounts families could receive at $20,000 a year for kids under the age of six, with funding dropping to $5,000 per year until they were 18.
The maximum amounts were only available to families earning less than $55,000 a year.
Parents said that was entirely inadequate for kids with severe needs, whose therapy can cost up to $80,000.
WATCH: Ontario government promises needs based autism program (July 29, 2019)
The incoming president of the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis, also known as ONTABA, said the government appears to be taking steps in the right direction.
“We’re really encouraged by this. It’s something that our organization has been advocating for for many years,” said Kendra Thomson, who will take over later this year as president of the organization that advocates for those offering behavioural analysis therapy.
The previous Liberal government also committed to regulating the field in 2017, but the measure didn’t take effect before last year’s provincial election.
Thomson said she’s glad to see that this government will follow through on that commitment.
WATCH: Father says he will have to pay thousands for autism therapy (Jul 11, 2019)
ONTABA will advocate for a regulatory body that encompasses the broad spectrum of people who use applied behavioural analysis in their fields, Thomson said.
While it’s most commonly associated as a proven support for people with autism, she noted that behaviour analysis can also be used to help those with dementia or brain injuries gain more independence.
Behavioural analysis therapies look different for each person, Thomson said, but a core tenet of the practice is incorporating teaching into things that patients or clients enjoy.
“How do we make sure they’re living a fulfilled life? We’re incorporating things that are enjoyable, so that we can get them to engage in activities that get them more independence,” she said.