Since 2006, several reports have recommended that APSEA could play a valuable role in the coordination and delivery of programs and services related to autism across Atlantic Canada. A CAMET-commissioned study in 2009 concurred with the advantages of collaboration among the Atlantic Provinces, but recommended that it should "take the form of indirect, rather than direct services" (Bryson, 2009, 19). Following further review and consultation, the APSEA Board of Directors approved the Autism Action Plan on 19 October 2010. It specified that direct service delivery will remain within each province and indicated that the focus of APSEA’s role will be on “indirect services” benefitting the school-aged population. The AIE Partnership thus provides support to province-based services and facilitates the sharing of information and expertise among stakeholders.
The areas of indirect service of the AIE Partnership include:
- Research to clarify and articulate standards of practice
- Dissemination of information and current research on issues of concern among the provinces
- Professional development and training
- A web-based library/resource centre
APSEA oversees the partnership through the Autism in Education Advisory Committee, consisting of the four Directors of Student Services and a representative autism consultant from each of the provinces, chaired by the APSEA Superintendent. An Autism in Education (AIE) Partnership Coordinator has the responsibility of providing “on the ground” leadership to the process. The Coordinator works with the AIE advisory committee and serves as liaison with provincial partners to facilitate the activities and ongoing management of the partnership. The partnership’s work plan is determined by the Coordinator, in collaboration with the Provincial Departments of Education & Early Childhood Development, based on current needs in the identified areas and potential opportunities for collaboration. In a very real sense, the precise nature of the role and the partnership will evolve in relation to the ongoing and emerging needs of the provinces.