Nova Scotia premier says extreme autism cases merit additional support

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says a "national conversation" on autism is needed, but the province must examine existing programs to provide additional support for families who need help.

McNeil is reacting to the case of Carly and John Sutherland, a Halifax-area couple who say there is a lack of supports and programs to help with their nine-year-old son Callum, who struggles with a type of autism that results in violent outbursts.

While not directly addressing the Sutherlands' concerns, McNeil says the government needs to respond in "acute" situations.

McNeil says it may not be appropriate in some cases to have a means test for programs such as respite care.

Earlier this week, Autism Canada and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance renewed calls for a national strategy, saying Callum's case illustrates what happens when families can't get crisis assistance.

In a recent interview, Health Minister Randy Delorey said the range of conditions and individual needs on the autism spectrum make for challenges when it comes to funding specific needs.