Consultations and advisory panel

In May 2019 we sent out an online survey and held seven telephone town halls to get public feedback on services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

To support this work, we formed the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) Advisory Panel made up of:

  • parents with lived experience
  • clinicians
  • autism advocates
  • adults on the autism spectrum
  • educators
  • experts from a range of disciplines such as psychology, behavioural analysis, rehabilitation services, developmental pediatrics and research

The advisory panel reviewed and analyzed the results from our provincial consultations, including the online survey, telephone town halls and written submissions as well as relevant evidence, science and data.


The panel’s mandate was to provide input and advice on developing consistent approaches to:

  • describe children’s abilities and needs in areas such as communication, thinking, social skills, mental processes and self-regulation based on best practice and evidence
  • address children’s needs in a transparent manner without going over the program’s $600 million budget
  • determine the needs of children and youth to define the roles, responsibilities and qualifications of clinicians and others conducting needs assessments
  • implement actions to improve support for children and youth with autism

The mandate also included providing advice on the best ways to coordinate services for children with autism in the education, child development and health sectors.


In October 2019, the advisory panel co-chairs submitted a summary of the panel’s input and advice to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. The report delivered advice on the design of a needs-based program that:

  • is sustainable within an annual budget of $600 million
  • serves as many children and families as possible
  • is coordinated with education, child development and health sectors

Read the advisory panel’s report.

Advisory panel members

Dr. Marie Bountrogianni (co-chair)

Margaret Spoelstra (co-chair)

Christie Brenchley

Jeanne-Marie “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

Implementation working group

The Ontario Autism Program implementation working group’s role was to provide input on implementing key design elements of the needs-based program. The working group’s input was based on key recommendations in the advisory panel’s report and covered:

  • a standardized clinically informed process to determine each child’s level of support needed and applicable OAP funding allocation within the following parameters:
    • implementation of service and/or duration caps for core services
    • move a minimum of 8,000 children off the waitlist into core services in the first full year of the new program
    • no fewer than five levels of need
    • special consideration for children with multiple or significantly complex needs
  • eligibility criteria for early intervention programs and urgent/complex needs services;
  • various approaches to early intervention programs supported by evidence
  • proposed timelines, sequencing and phasing of implementation of new elements of the program, including opportunities to leverage existing infrastructure and resources
  • transition plans and associated business processes to support children and families entering the new program beginning in April 2020
  • capacity building initiatives and other targeted supports, with specific attention given to Northern, rural and remote areas

The implementation working group began their work in December 2019 and held regular meetings.


The implementation working group was composed of a broad range of research and clinical experts, including autism service providers, self-advocates, individuals with autism and parents, and representatives from Ontario’s northern and Indigenous communities. It also included representatives from the former Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel for consistency and continuity.

Anne Huot (chair and member of the former Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel)

Dr. Jessica Brian (member of the former Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel)

Matthew Jason Dever (member of the former Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel)

Carly Eby

Sherry Fournier

Karen Ingebrigtson

Debra Kennedy

Dr. Meng-Chuan Lai

James Maunder

Dr. Melanie Penner

Ken Robertson

Dr. Caroline Roncadin

Lanni Zinberg-Swartz