VIDEO: Ontario Conservatives Launch Austism Consultations

Ontario is launching consultations as it looks for ways to provide more supports for children with autism.

Following backlash over its original program, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod says an advisory panel made up of parents, autistic adults and experts will review the consultation results and provide recommendations.

According to MacLeod , additional needs-based supports for children with complex needs could include more direct funding.

The original Ontario Autism Program announced in February capped the amounts families could receive at $20,000 a year for kids under six, with funding dropping to $5,000 per year until they were 18.

Parents said those amounts were woefully inadequate for kids with severe needs, whose therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year.

Meg Ridgen of Windsor has a 2-year-old son Liam who has severe autism.

The provincial changes allowed Liam to be removed from the waiting list for therapy. Meg Rigden says they will receive $20,000 a year from the province, but her son needs $77,000 worth of therapy, so the changes will not help them.

Faced with sustained protests by parents, MacLeod announced changes to the program, including eliminating an income testing aspect to the funding.

She says the new program, which takes needs-based supports into account, could cost up to double the original $321-million budget.

The news comes after John McGivney Children's Centre in Windsor announced layoff notices for 17 staff.  The centre provides provide autism therapy to children and families.

“I've seen ebbs and flows of staffing reductions, and budgets that were frozen but never anything to this magnitude,” said CEO Elaine Whitmore.

She tells CTV Windsor the layoffs don't take effect until the end of June, so she is hoping there may be new information about the autism program before they take effect.



— With files from CTV Windsor