Tories launch consultations on Ontario's autism program after public backlash

TORONTO -- 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.

MacLeod says 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.

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.