Ontario Announces Autism Advisory Panel

Published on May 31, 2019

Panel members will make recommendations on needs-based funding model


TORONTO — Ontario's government continues to support children and youth with autism with the creation of an expert panel on needs-based supports. On the heels of the province's autism consultations, the 20-member panel will collectively provide recommendations to Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, on the best way to incorporate consultation feedback into the Ontario Autism Program.

Ontario intends to double the current level of funding to ensure children with autism receive the appropriate supports.

"We continue to hear from families about how the Ontario Autism Program can better address the needs of children with autism," said MacLeod. "This advisory panel brings together people well-versed on autism to provide important advice and guidance."

The panel will be co-chaired by former cabinet minister Dr. Marie Bountrogianni and the executive director of Autism Ontario, Margaret Spoelstra.

Bountrogianni is formerly the dean of the Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University and served as Ontario's minister of Children and Youth Services from 2003-05. Spoelstra has worked with the Geneva Centre for Autism and Autism Ontario and has been a member of the Order of Canada since 2011.

In addition to the co-chairs, the autism advisory panel includes parents of children with autism, clinicians, autism self-advocates, service providers, former public servants and others who have knowledge of and experience with autism. Members of the panel are:

  • Christie Brenchley
  • Gina Brennan
  • Dr. Jessica Brian
  • Dr. Robert Cushman
  • Matthew Jason Dever
  • Alex Echakowitz
  • Cindy Harrison
  • Anne Huot
  • Sheri Ketchabaw
  • Laura Kirby-McIntosh
  • Dr. Julie Koudys
  • Marie Lemaire
  • Christine Levesque
  • Dr. Janet McLaughlin
  • Anne O'Brien
  • Wendy Prieur
  • Sherri Taylor
  • Dr. Mohammad Zubairi

The announcement follows extensive consultations with the public through telephone town halls and an online survey. The panel will discuss the feedback from those consultations and expects to offer recommendations to the minister by September 2019.

"We have made reforms to bring about a fairer system, where children aren't left to languish on waitlists for years," continued MacLeod. "I look forward to the expertise of our panel members to help ensure that our needs-based component improves outcomes for children and youth with autism."

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