TORONTO - Canadian actor and director Eugene Levy has signed on as a spokesman for autism and is calling for a national strategy to help those affected by the disorder.

Levy and Senator Jim Munson are holding a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday to speak about what they consider the need for affordable and accessible autism treatment.

"I feel extremely passionate about the need for a national autism strategy," Levy said in a release.

"Canada is blessed in so many ways but somehow some of our most vulnerable citizens are being wrongfully neglected. It is time to address this wrong and provide these individuals with the same access to medically necessary treatment that the rest of us enjoy throughout our lifetimes under our country's alleged universal health-care system."

Autism is a developmental disability resulting from a disorder of the central nervous system.

While effective treatments for autism exist, some - such as Applied Behaviour Analysis - are costly and not always covered by insurance plans or the government.

"Many (families) are forced into privately funded treatment, with a price tag of $70,000 to $80,000 per year," said Norrah Whitney, the mother of an autistic son and executive director of Families for Early Autism Treatment.

"Families are losing their homes and cashing in their retirement savings, yet are still not able to sustain treatment for their children. This is nothing other than a two-tiered health-care system."

Levy will be sharing his personal views on autism at the news conference, where organizers plan to unveil a multi-faceted strategy that, if implemented by the federal government, would see autism covered under medicare.

Levy, 60, gained early fame as a star on the comedy TV series "SCTV." The Hamilton native also had a memorable role in the movie "American Pie" and has become a fixture of Christopher Guest films like "For Your Consideration" and "Waiting for Guffman."