Program Profile: Hamilton Children's Autism Services
Originally published June 2018
Under our Hamilton Autism Program umbrella, Woodview has two separate Children and Teen programs that were each started at different times. In 2005 the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) approached Woodview to provide services to help children and young teens with ASD between the ages of 13-15 ease their transition into high school (a tough transition for many, not just people with ASD). This program runs out of Delta High School in Hamilton. A few years later in 2007, the Ministry recognized the need to provide skill-based respite services to support children, youth and adolescents ranging from 7-12 and 15-18 years old. There was a community process that voted for Woodview’s proposal to start up groups, which we have been running out of our Mischa Weisz Centre on 1900 Main Street West for a number of years.
How was the program created / developed?
Woodview originally started doing these groups for youth back in 1989. Woodview already had a new adult residential program in place, but it was clear early on that there was a need to start teaching some basic life and social skills at a younger age. It was a natural progression toward a very unique model that over the years has been studied and copied by other agencies and professionals in both Canada and the United States. In the model we began supporting children and continued to support many of the same children through their teen, adolescent, young adult and adult years. Though there has been a shift in Adult Developmental Services in the past five years that forced us to change this model, we still find opportunities to support our younger clients as they age into adulthood.
Who We Serve
We have groups for children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) between the ages of 7- 18 years old, who live in the Hamilton area. Participants must be willing and able to participate in a variety of activities, accept support and direction from staff, and function in a group environment with a staffing ratio of 2:6 to 2:10 (depending on the age of the group).
Over the course of the week, our program will see just over 40 children and teens across the various groups we run.
The program has a program manager, one full time staff, as well as 6 other staff that are involved with running groups on a part time basis; all of which work across the Hamilton Autism Programs.
What does a ‘day-in-the-life’ of the program look like?
Our week consists of:
Mondays – Group for Grade 8 and 9 aged teens
Tuesdays – Group for 10-12 year olds’
Wednesdays – Group for 16-18 year olds’
Thursdays – Group for Grade 7-8 aged teens
Thursdays – Group for 16-18 year olds’
Saturdays – 2 Groups for 7-9 year olds’
range from 2.5 – 4.5 hours per group. All groups have a meal component incorporated, during which we work on teaching/practicing life skills that we continue to build upon as participants age through our various groups. We then have a social skills lesson followed by an activity (depending on the age of the group). Our younger groups enjoy crafts, games and park days while the older groups enjoy mini golf, bowling and laser tag. These groups run on a weekly basis from September – June, with Day Camps, Trips, and PA days over the summer, winter Holiday, and March Breaks.
Good to Know
What makes our program unique is that as long as participants are continuing to enjoy and benefit from the program, we do our best to provide space in our groups for them as they age. This means that we might see the same children weekly, across our various groups, for over 10 years! We have a number of participants who have started in our younger groups and have grown up into our oldest teen groups. Some even started as young children and are now part of our adult programs.
All of our referrals come through Contact Hamilton – parents call Contact Hamilton (905-570-8888) and, after the intake process with them, if Woodview groups would be beneficial for the family a referral is sent to Woodview. Parents are always encouraged to call and talk to the Program Manager as well to learn more about the groups.
I have been involved in the children and teen programs for almost 17 years! The first couple of years I was involved as a “peer helper” in the group, where we have a same aged peer in our groups to help facilitate and model positive behaviour interactions. One of my first years being involved in the groups I went on one of my first extended camping trips – 9 days! On this trip was a little boy who had started the groups that year as well. Over the years, he aged up in to the older groups, and was even involved in some of our adult programs. He went away to college, but his first summer back he got back in touch with Woodview, and we invited him to come on our camping trip with a younger group as an experienced Woodview camper! It was great to have him help the teens (and us!) on that trip!