An autism treatment clinic in Barrie is preparing to lay off nearly a quarter of its staff in the wake of new changes to the autism funding program announced by the Progressive Conservative government.

The owner of IBI Behavioural Services says the facility is expecting to lose a number of frontline part-time and full-time employees in the next few months due to the reduction in funding.

“We are looking at a ballpark figure of 25 to 30 layoffs come April and May,” Amanda Baysarowich told CTV News Toronto.

Under the new Progressive Conservative autism program, families can receive a maximum of $20,000 per year in funding for children with autism up to the age of six. Families of children over the age of six will be eligible for up to $5,000.

The government said the changes would eliminate the waitlist for fully-funded services within 18 months, while giving all children with autism access to an equal amount of funding, regardless of need.

Baysarowich is also critical of Premier Doug Ford who, on Wednesday, told reporters that no frontline workers have been impacted by his government’s quest to find savings in the provincial budget.

“So far, we have made these efficiencies without one person who lost their job,” Ford said.

"You know who's going to lose their jobs, unfortunately, are the people in the LHINs -- the CEOs that are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, the big silos they have there, the big executives, presidents and vice-presidents making outrageous amounts of money.”

Baysarowich says the employees that would be laid off at her clinic earn an average of $50,000 per year

“We are losing frontline workers,” Baysarowich said. “They are being laid off and I don’t know where his information is coming from and it’s quite frustrating to sit back as an Ontarian and watch that and see what he is saying because it is not accurate.”

Autism advocates warn the layoffs could be “in excess” of 1,500 jobs, as highly specialized therapists experience a reduction in funding.

“These will be frontline staff. These are the staff that are literally sitting across a child with autism, teaching them language, teaching them safety skills, getting them ready for school,“ says behavior analyst Louis Busch, who suggested the bulk of the cuts would be represented by young professionals and women.

Advocates are also warning that some colleges and universities are also dialing back or cancelling their programs as a result of the changes, saying there will be fewer jobs for therapists once they graduate.

“As agencies let people go, the community college programs start to shut down,” says James Porter, a therapist at IBI Behavioural Services. “As they shut down, we’ll have fewer and fewer well trained people.”

“The reality is people are going to go where the employment is, and it’s not in autism,” Porter says.

The program changes will go into effect on April 1.