Group A: Employment Readiness and Transition

Breanna Hayes (B.A. Hons, RRP), Employment Coordinator

Title Autism Resource Centre

Bio Breanna Hayes (B.A. Hons, RRP) is the Employment Coordinator at Regina’s Autism Resource Centre. She works closely with employers and jobseekers to match the needs of the employer, to the talents of jobseekers, in competitive positions. Breanna believes all individuals can work, and is excited to help individuals with autism show the world their unique employment talents. Breanna has a background in workplace safety and insurance, and has also worked with adults with autism and other disabilities for a number of years.

Summary Autism Works is an innovative employment program tailored specifically to those on the autism spectrum who are motivated to prepare for, secure and maintain competitive, paid employment. The program offers person-centered employment support to jobseekers through a supportive coaching and education model. If deemed necessary, job seekers can also access an 11-week evidence-based, autism-specific assessment as part of their pre-employment journey.

Autism Works also provides customized awareness teaching to employers. This helps all to learn of the contribution that employees on the spectrum can make in a workplace, learn best practice strategies for managing and supporting spectrum employees as well as tips to recruit candidates from this untapped talent pool.
Autism Works currently supports 38 individuals, 26 who are currently employed, and 12 looking for employment.

Dr. Briano Di Rezze and Robin Brennan

Title The Job-Train Program: Preparing Youth with ASD for Employment: A Cross- Context Transitions Approach

Bio Dr. Briano Di Rezze is an occupational therapist and Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. His research is aimed at measurement development and examining the impact of interventions on participation in everyday life for youth with ASD. Briano works with individuals with ASD, families and other community members to facilitate community-based approaches to developing and evaluating programs.

Robin Brennan is Director of Autism Services at Woodview Mental Health and Autism Services ( Hamilton, Halton and Brant). Robin has spent 30 years developing programs and supports for children, youth and adults with ASD. She is passionate about providing quality learning opportunities so every individual on the spectrum reaches their goals.

Summary The Job-Train Program (JTP) is a pre-vocational program developed from a partnership between McMaster University, a community agency, and a school board. In this mixed-methods “proof-of-concept” study the JTP was tested with 12 secondary school students with ASD (83% males; mean age 16.5 years). JTP involved a weekly curriculum and support group, and paid job placements in various university departments supported by job coaches. Study results demonstrate the successful implementation of the JTP through strong partner collaboration. Promising outcomes included shifts in the perception of youth and/or their parents of the students’ vocational abilities, independence, self-awareness and confidence.

Garth Johnson and Joy Hewitt

Title This poster will high-light the new employment opportunities for people with ASD in high tech careers created by Meticulon and our world-wide partners. This poster will also describe how Meticulon Assessment Services creates ground-breaking job fit and career preparation and support in multiple industries for all people with ASD who are employable and are seeking work.

Bio Garth Johnson – A lifelong entrepreneur, Garth Johnson loves planning, developing, and growing businesses that create wealth and community impact for customers, suppliers and staff. Driven by this passion, Garth has had great success and failure along the way – engraining in him a love for the “risk / fail” culture than inspires creativity, innovation, and implementation. As VP with iStockphoto and as President of Fotolia North America, which became Adobe Stock Photo, Garth built ambitious teams that shared this passion for doing good business that did good – which led him to launch Meticulon after the sale of Fotolia. Meticulon was the first IT consulting business in Canada to leverage the unique skills of people with autism to become a market leader in the quality assurance and software testing industry. Meticulon gives away its unique skills assessment and training toolkit to any enterprise wanting to employ persons of disabilities and it is this mission to create opportunity for skilled people with disabilities in Canada that led Garth to found Meticulon and help start similar enterprises across Canada.

Joy Hewitt – Joy brings her vast experience in developmental and support services to her role at Meticulon. Her dedicated passion for supporting, motivating and advocating for others has been enhanced by her educational and professional background – assets that she’s excited to bring to the Chief Employment Coach position. Besides Joy’s education in psychology and counselling, she’s also an experienced Training Facilitator and Trainer Educator whose goals go beyond just providing education as she believes in creating awareness to the community as a whole. She’s continuing to share her insight by working with a committee to develop a Job Coaching curriculum at the Canadian college level. Joy is inspired by Meticulon’s vision and feels it’s a great fit with her philosophy to focus on people’s abilities.

Summary Meticulon is an IT Consulting firm specializing in superior, cost-efficient, outsourced Quality Assurance and Data Management services either on site-or done remotely, on a project, time and materials or retained basis. Our consultants are all trained to ISTQB standards and our work is guaranteed to be on-time and on-budget – we have never failed here. Meticulon has a performance advantage because we leverage the unique abilities of exceptionally gifted people with autism spectrum disorder to outperform typically-enabled people doing the same work. The Autism Advantage is real and we can show you how to effectively tap into this tremendous labour resource.

MAS, Meticulon Assessment Services, offers a free toolkit allowing companies and agencies around to world to effectively implement Meticulon’s amazingly accurate job fit assessment and employment model in their enterprise. Consulting services include business model planning, assessment process implementation, and job coaching support for both employees and employers. In development are two early-stage intervention toolkits which will help youth prepare to be employable and succeed in employment – rooted in a self-development and capacity-focused, web-based practical coaching tool used daily by the client, parents, teachers and employers. Let us help you help someone unleash the autism advantage in their life.

Jackie Ryan MA, CPA, CMA, Director of Teen and Adult Services

Title How can the Centre for Autism Services Alberta exercise leadership to promote self-determination of people with autism spectrum disorder?

Bio Jackie Ryan has more than 16 years working in the autism field and is currently the Director of Teen and Adult Services at the Center for Autism Services Alberta. She recently completed a Master’s Degree in Leadership from Royal Roads University. Her research was on leadership to promote self-determination of individuals with ASD, for which she won the University Founders’ Award. Jackie was recently diagnosed with ASD. She is the mother of three sons, the youngest of whom is 21 years old and has autism. She is passionate about the inclusion of individuals with ASD in all that affects them, including research, development of programs, and directing their own supports.

Summary Utilizing action research engagement with a neurodiversity lens, this study produced the following findings: (a) the need to include the voice of the autistic community in all that affects it; (b) the need for an organizational culture change to promote self-determination of individuals with ASD; and (c) the need to address systemic barriers beyond the Centre’s mandate. Recommendations included (a) enabling organizational change as a foundation for work with strategy and policy; and (b) the establishment of an advisory group of self-advocates with ASD.

Katie Blasetti, Principal

Title New Heights School

Bio Katie Blasetti is the Principal at New Heights School in Calgary, Alberta. She works with students on the autism spectrum, as well as staff and families, to provide the supports students need to be successful and confident in their educational journey and in the community. Katie started out her career as a teacher, moving into administration. She has been working with New Heights for ten years, and has recently earned a Master’s degree in Educational Research, with a dual focus on Mental Health in Children/Adolescents and Educational Leadership.

Summary Since 2013, New Heights has developed and implemented the Employment Project, in partnership with Prospect Human Services. The goal is for high school students at New Heights to gain skills for ongoing employment as they prepare to transition into adulthood. The extra-curricular program focuses on enhancing practical learning experiences, building independence and work skills through part time employment. Through job coaches, employment placement specialists, and daily classroom discussion, each student is supported from the initial job search and interview, to on-the-job problem solving, to performance reviews. The Employment Project has shown significant positive impacts on confidence and engagement of students at school and in the community.

Laura Brawn

Title – Carleton University’s Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities

Bio – Laura Brawn has been a Disabilities Coordinator and Learning Strategist at the Paul Menton Centre (PMC) for Students with Disabilities, Carleton University for over 15 years, supporting students with a variety of neurodevelopmental and acquired disabilities, including ASD.  She initiated and continues to coordinate PMC’s supports for students with ASD, for their transition and throughout their academic career.  Laura completed a Master’s Degree in Psychology at Carleton University where her graduate research investigated the use of neuropsychological tests of information processing speed to identify adults with ADHD and LD.  She has worked in the past as a psychomotrist, completing educational, neuropsychological, and psychoeducational assessments, and heads up the recent Assessment Initiative at the PMC.

Summary – Several years ago, consistent with a publication from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (Alcorn MacKay, 2010)*, my colleagues and I at Carleton University’s Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities witnessed a substantial increase in the number of new students with ASD . Since then, we have attempted to provide the most appropriate supports for this unique and wonderful group of students.   I would like to display information based on what we have learned from professional experience as well as from ongoing surveys of new students as part of a research project entitled Evaluating components of a successful transition to university for students with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I will display information about our integrated supports for students with ASD, from transition to graduation, as well as more general information for future postsecondary students with ASD regarding critical considerations as they prepare for the transition to postsecondary.

* Alcorn MacKay, S. (2010). Identifying Trends and Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Transitioning into Postsecondary. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Liam O’Rourke and Dan Van Teen

Title Creativity: A new tool in employment training

Bio –
Liam O’Rourke
is a Haligoian, who now calls Montreal home. Since graduating from Dalhousie with a degree in Kinesiology, he has devoted his life to traveling, work in the mental health and addiction field and since moving to Montreal 8 years ago his work with youth on the Autism Spectrum. His likes are steel Italian road bikes, sail boats, cameras, beer and telling stories. His dislikes are public speaking, waiting and bad food.

Dan TenVeen hails from BC. After studying and working in human services in Vancouver for many years, he made the move to Montreal. His passion for creating meaningful employment and media production are a driving force in Spectrum Productions. He enjoys mountains, bikes, rock climbing, cooking and fishing. He dislikes burning his tongue, itchy shirts and dry wintery hands.

Summary Spectrum Productions started as a video production day camp. The talent and creativity from this first camp drove their expansion of services to include employment and year round social and creative opportunities. Spectrums innovation is the way they have cultivated employable skills by encouraging the creative works of their participants. It has resulted in an immense body of work and a talented pool of producers who are now working with Spectrums Production team on contracts across the country. They are achieving their goal of bringing their participants into the creative workplace and bringing their ideas into the creative marketplace.

Spectrum Productions is a unique and innovative organization that is challenging the existing model of Autism service providers. They are operating a video production social enterprise alongside their social and creative programming, and all of their programs operate under the mandate of providing opportunities in media production to individuals with ASDs. The revenue generated from the production services serves as a subsidy to our social and creative programs and additionally provides job opportunities to members of our vocational programming.
Spectrum Productions is proud to announce that in 2017 their contract production revenue will greatly exceed philanthropic support for the first time, taking them one step closer to long-term self-sustainability.

Maureen Barnes B.Ed., M.A., Manager, Learning Disability Services, York University

Tara Connolly B.Ed., M.A., RP, Coordinator, Transition Support Centre for Students with ASD, Algonquin College

Title York University and Algonquin College

Bio Maureen Barnes B.Ed., M.A.

Manager, Learning Disability Services, York University
Maureen Barnes has been working with Learning Disability Services at York over the past 18 years in a variety of capacities. Her focus has always been on supporting students to transition effectively to the university so they can successfully pursue their academics at the post-secondary level.
She works individually with students, manages Learning Disability Services and an assistive technology lab, and teachers a first year transition course at York.
Tara Connolly B.Ed., M.A., RP, Coordinator, Transition Support Centre for Students with ASD, Algonquin College.
Tara Connolly is a counselor and consultant with over 20 years’ experience working with people with disabilities in a diversity of settings including roles as an educator in the school system, an ASD Consultant with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, an ASD Content Expert with the Public Health Agency of Canada and most recently as the Coordinator of the Transition Support Centre at Algonquin College.

Summary Since 2013, an innovative Pilot Project has been offered at Algonquin College and York University to strengthen the transition of students with ASD into their first year of post-secondary and beyond. This poster presents the two demonstration models developed, the measured outcomes, challenges faced, lessons learned, and finally the Transition Process developed including Core Principles that are critical components to creating meaningful, effective transition supports. The proposed Transition Process has an inherent flexibility in order to respond to the diversity of students with ASD and the diversity of campuses they access. In adopting these core principles, campuses can increase the probability that the comprehensive needs of students with ASD will be addressed affording them an equal opportunity to succeed.

Wendy Mitchell

Title The Sinneave Family Foundation

Bio To Follow

Summary Worktopia

Poster Presenter(s): TBD

Title The Sinneave Family Foundation

Bio – To follow

Summary CommunityWorks Canada® is one of three programs available via a unique national initiative called Worktopia. It is a community based, peer supported, pre-employment program for teens and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) ages 15-21 who are currently attending high school. It provides participants opportunities to develop basic job skills, improve social and communications skills, acquire community volunteer experience and explore areas of potential vocational interest. Program details and early findings will be presented, and attendees will have the option to interactively share information regarding their local community’s needs/capacity relative to employment programming for high school students with ASD.

Poster Presenter(s): TBD

Title The Sinneave Family Foundation

Bio To follow

Summary CommunityWorks Canada® is one of three programs available via a unique national initiative called Worktopia. It is a community based, peer supported, pre-employment program for teens and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) ages 15-21 who are currently attending high school. It provides participants opportunities to develop basic job skills, improve social and communications skills, acquire community volunteer experience and explore areas of potential vocational interest. Program details and early findings will be presented, and attendees will have the option to interactively share information regarding their local community’s needs/capacity relative to employment programming for high school students with ASD.

Poster Presenter(s): TBD

Title Autism Nova Scotia

Bio To follow

Summary TRAACE (Transition Readiness & Autism Community Employment) is a pre-vocational training program designed to support high school students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in four regions across Nova Scotia. The classroom based curriculum focuses on pre-vocational skills development from resume writing to workplace health and safety, and is complemented by volunteer work placements in the community with job coaching support. Program details and early findings will be presented a part of the Worktopia initiative and engagement in SchoolWorks Canada. Attendees will have the option to interactively share information regarding their local community’s needs/capacity relative to school-based employment programs in ASD.


Group B: Family Supports and Navigation

Amanda Smith-Demers, MSc, Registered Provisional Psychologist, Doctoral Candidate – School & Applied Child Psychology

Title The Elephant in the Room: Talking to Children with ASD about their Diagnosis

Bio Amanda Smith-Demers is a registered provisional psychologist currently in the final year of her PhD program in School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary. As a part of her PhD program, her dissertation research focuses on how families make decisions pertaining to when, how, and if their child or adolescent with ASD should be informed about their ASD diagnosis. Amanda is also a member of the Autism Spectrum Education, Research, and Training (ASERT) group under the supervision of Dr. Adam McCrimmon. She has extensive experience working with individuals with ASD, such as being a facilitator for Program for the Enrichment and Education of Relational Skills (PEERS) program. Currently, Amanda is completing her doctoral internship with Rockyview School District and Renfrew Education Services acting as a school psychologist.

Summary For parents, deciding upon if, when, and how to disclose an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis to their child can be challenging. This is a qualitative project, conducted using a semi-structured interview with 40 parents. The current project aims to analyze the common, and less common, themes that parents have experienced when disclosing a diagnosis of ASD to an affected child. Although many parents hold mixed opinions regarding if and how to disclose a child’s ASD diagnosis to them, when done effectively the disclosure of this diagnosis can lead to a greater understanding of self for the individual with ASD.

Brittany Rappaport and Dr. Mayada Elsabbagh

Title The Autism Family Navigator. Authors: Brittany Rappaport and Dr. Mayada Elsabbagh

Bio Brittany Rappaport is currently completing her Master’s degree in the Child Studies program at Concordia University. She is also an Autism Speaks/MITACS research intern at the Autism Spectrum Disorders program at the Montreal Children’s Hospital with Dr. Mayada Elsabbagh. Her research interests include different models of intervention with children and their families, and more specifically the parents’ role in supporting their child and the outcomes for both the child and the family. Brittany is also a behavioral therapist who has worked with children with autism and their families for the past five years. Mayada Elsabbagh is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Canada.

Mayada’s research, in the area of early infancy and developmental disorders, is focused on understanding the brain basis of behavioural genetic disorders. Her recent work has identified very early brain function markers for autism prior to the onset of behavioural symptoms. Prior to returning to Canada from the UK in 2011, she supported the successful launch of collaborative research networks including BASIS and ESSEA, aimed at accelerating the pace of discovery in early autism. Mayada is active in the area of knowledge translation locally and internationally. She managed the Knowledge Translation portfolio for NeuroDevNet, a Canadian national Network of Center’s of Excellence. She chairs the International Society for Autism Research Special Interest Group on Early Identification and Intervention. Mayada was the recipient of the 2010 UK Economic and Social Research Council Neville Butler Memorial Prize for Longitudinal Research awarded in recognition of the public value and social relevance of her research.

Summary At the time of a child’s diagnosis, parents experience significant barriers in the access and coordination of care. Families describe their experience with care systems as a confusing maze, in contrast to local and international principles. The Family Navigator program responds to these unmet needs by supporting parent empowerment and care continuity. We will present the development phase of the Family Navigator program where we integrated the best available evidence with input from community navigators. The program is currently undergoing evaluation using a randomized control trial.

Carrie Mazoff, MBA, PMP, Senior Project Manager

Title “See Things My Way” Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities

Bio Carrie Mazoff, MBA, PMP, is the Senior Project Manager of the “See Things My Way” Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities (CIAID). The CIAID launches innovative and sustainable solutions for individuals and their families living with autism and intellectual disabilities. Ms. Mazoff is currently working on the Health Services and Pre-Employment Training portfolios of the CIAID. With almost 15 years of experience in healthcare administration and project management, Ms. Mazoff worked for 10 years as an Associate Director at the McGill University Health Center (MUHC). Within the context of a major redevelopment project, Ms. Mazoff focused on supporting the organizational transition required for the move to a brand new hospital.

Summary As of September 2016, the “See Things My Way” Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities in Montreal has launched its pilot medical and dental services. The vision for this clinic is to provide high-quality interdisciplinary services to patients 16 years old and over with ASD and/or ID. Our overarching goal is to integrate medical and dental care, along with support from allied health practitioners, and in partnership with healthcare education programs. Our professional approach is inspired by deep clinical experience with our patient population, other exemplary services locally and abroad, and global best practices. Our care team takes into account the broader social context of patients and families, as well as the high prevalence of certain co-morbidities relative to neuro-typical populations. The poster will describe the clinic’s vision, progress to-date, and learning from the start-up phase.

Daniella Tarquini and Umberto Cellupica

Title A Parent-coaching group model for delivering PRT

Bio Dr. Cellupica is a community-based pediatrician with a special interest in developmental and behavioural pediatrics. He works as part of a team that provides diagnostic assessments to diagnose or rule out ASD in children. Dr. Cellupica completed his Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Toronto, and he received his MD from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He completed his training in Pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Dr. Cellupica serves on the Board of Directors of The Canadian Pediatric Society and he has served on expert panels for the Government of Ontario, as well as other provincial and federal organizations.

Summary Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is an evidence-based form of Applied Behaviour Analysis that focuses on pivotal areas of development. We have developed a novel approach to introducing children and families to PRT. Our six-week Early Language Acquisition program provides instruction to caregivers in a classroom setting, followed by individual parent coaching from trained PRT therapists. By bringing families together to learn the principles of PRT, we have also created a supportive environment that fosters social connections between families. This approach is child and family-centered, as well as being a cost-effective alternative to traditional IBI therapy.

Hayley Vininsky and Richard Kerkhoven

Title Case studies of optimal outcomes of children in a centre-based EIBI program

Bio Hayley Vininsky is a PhD student in the Human Development program at McGill University. Her research interests include best practices in applied behaviour analysis, using technology in early intervention, and the experiences of siblings of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Hayley is a practicing Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) working as the Program Supervisor of the Abili-T+ Program in Montreal, which provides ABA consultation services for children and teenagers aged 2-18.

Richard Kerkhoven obtained a Master of Science degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Applied Behaviour Analysis from Kaplan University. He is also a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst. Richard has supported young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and behaviour difficulties and their families in home, school and community based settings, since 2004. He is currently the Clinical Coordinator of the Gold Centre’s Abili-T EIBI Program.

Summary We will be examining case studies of children who received services from the Abili-T EIBI Programme who are considered as having achieved optimal outcome. A focus will be placed on autism symptomatology (PDDBI), language and development (VB-MAPP), and educational placement. Scores at intake, following 1 year of services, and post-completion of services will be compared. Children’s skills at intake will be examined to suggest the skills or learning profiles that are associated with optimal outcomes.


Laura Henderson, M.A.,BCBA

Title Effectiveness of an Intensive Toilet Training Camp for Children with Autism

Bio Laura Henderson, M.A., BCBA started her career in Applied Behaviour Analysis 10 years ago as an Instructor Therapist implementing 1:1 behaviour therapy to young children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2011 Laura received a Master’s degree from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behaviour Analysis. While in grad school, she completed a 2 year placement at a Special Education school where she assisted classroom teachers with creating and implementing individualized behaviour support plans for elementary school students diagnosed with behaviour disorders and/or emotional disturbances. For the last 6 years, Laura has been a Supervising Therapist in the IBI program at the Geneva Centre for Autism.

Summary Nine children with autism participated in a 4-day centre based, modified rapid toilet training program (RTT). Components of the intensive toilet training included reinforcement of in-toilet urination, scheduled toileting, communication training, verbal redirection as a consequence for accidents, and parent training. Parents were given daily verbal and written explanations of the procedures to continue at home. Results indicate that 8 participants learned to remain dry on a toileting schedule of 1.5 hours or more. Three participants were independently requesting to use the toilet when needed and going at naturally occurring schedules. Follow up was conducted at 1 and 3 months.

Monika Ferenczy BA, BEd, Med

Title Horizon – Education Consulting

Bio Monika Ferenczy was born in Montreal and educated in French and English public, separate and private schools in Quebec and Ontario, obtaining her BA and BEd at the University of Toronto and her MEd with a concentration in Leadership in Education from the University of Ottawa. She is an educator with over 25 years’ experience in all four school systems in Ontario, in three major regions of the province. Having taught in the primary, junior, intermediate and senior divisions and in French language and English language public and separate school boards in the Greater Toronto Area, Southwestern Ontario and Eastern Ontario, she has expertise with French Second Language programming (Core French, French Immersion) and French First Language curriculum. She holds qualifications in English as a Second Language and Specialist qualifications in French Second Language and Special Education. As a former school board Special Education Coordinator she supported staff with special needs children, including autism, child and youth mental health, learning disabilities, school and program transition, liaison with post-secondary institutions and participated in various professional committees. Monika also holds Principal’s qualifications and an additional qualification in Education Law. She also has training in Mediation for Educators. Monika was also the Education columnist for Ottawa Woman newspaper for three years, and currently maintains her own blog through the website of Horizon Educational Consulting (

Summary As an independent Education Consultant in Ontario, Monika provides information, support and coaching to parents of children with special needs. A large portion of her practice is helping families of children completing IBI therapy successfully transition and integrate public education. She helps many parents with children on the ASD spectrum understand and navigate the school system, advocate for programs and services to support their children and youth, as well as direct them to community providers who offer programs to develop social skills. Transition help to high school and post-secondary, or community and work programs is offered for young adults with Autism. Her interest in helping special needs children and youth is based on seeing opportunity and not disability.

Nadia Abouzeid, PhD & Thiago Lopes, BSc

Title “See Things My Way” Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities

Bio Dre Nadia Abouzeid is the Director and Lead Psychologist of the See Things my Way Assessment Centre, an Associate Professor in Psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal and a Lecturer at the Université de Montréal. Her research and clinical work is focused on understanding the experience, well-being and quality of life of families with children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. She is currently involved in various research projects studying evaluation, intervention and educational services provided to these families.

Program coordinator at the See Things My Way Centre for Innovation, Thiago Lopes is responsible for the implementation of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) based parent coaching service for families of children with ASD. PhD candidate in psychology, he completed a Certification Program at the MIND Institute to become an ESDM Trainer. His research is focused on the implementation of parent coaching services in public agencies and the effects of low-intensive behavioural services for very young children with ASD.

Summary The See Things My Way Centre for Innovation will be launching a pilot project to assist families of young children (<36 months) after receiving a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with or without a Global Developmental Delay (GDD). We are developing a parent coaching program, based on the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), to support, orient and educate parents and children while they are waiting for more intensive services in the public sector. The vision for this service is to provide high quality services to families within one month of diagnosis to ensure the progress of specific areas of the child’s development as well as to promote families’ well-being and quality of life. The poster will describe the centre’s vision and model.

Dr. Stelios Georgiades

Title Towards an Integrated Model of Autism Research and Clinical Care: The Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative – PARC Study.
Authors: Stelios Georgiades, Terry Bennett, Caroline Roncadin and the McMaster Autism Research Team

Bio Dr. Stelios Georgiades is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, the Co-Founder of the Child Health Specialization in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) Program, a Core Member of the Offord Centre for Child Studies, and the Founder and Co-Director of the McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART). Dr. Georgiades’ program of research investigates developmental trajectories as well as clinical heterogeneity in Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is the Co-lead for the McMaster site for the Pathways study, a Canada-wide longitudinal study of children and youth with ASD. He is also a Co-Principal Investigator for the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental (POND) Network, an Ontario-wide project focusing on improving the long-term outcomes for children with Neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Georgiades served on the Working Group for the Canadian Autism Partnership and sits on the ASD Clinical Expert Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Summary The PARC Study aims to establish an ASD Research Protocol embedded into clinical practice at McMaster Children’s Hospital (Hamilton, Ontario). Children with an ASD diagnosis and their families will be part of a longitudinal study that will generate data – at the biological, clinical, and socio-contextual level – used to inform the development of more tailored and adaptive intervention plans. By creating a systematic clinical research process through consultations with families, clinicians and other stakeholders, the PARC Study will help bridge the research-to-practice gap in ASD.


Group C: Building Community Capacity

Andreas Forsland and Tom Ladd

Title SmartStones

Bio Andreas Forsland: Andreas Forsland: Founder & CEO of SmartStones, Maker of the communication app for nonverbal speakers using body language including taps, swipes, movements and even brainwave thought inputs. :prose has been internationally recognized with the prestigious Edison Award, and winner of the Singularity University Grand Challenge for Education. Andreas lives in Santa Barbara with his wife and two boys.
Tom Ladd: Tom has been working in private health care for many years, assisting Canadians in navigating the Canadian healthcare system. He is primarily engaged for the last several years in bringing new technology for health care to market. A native of Montreal, Tom currently resides in the Beaches area of Toronto.

Summary SmartStones: prose is being used in 10 schools across 5 boroughs of NYC city. Beginning as a small pilot it has grown to over 70 students, with dozens of speech language pathologists and occupational therapists trained and using it daily with students.


  • One on one language acquisition and behavior therapy.
  • Social/group interactions using an Inclusive Learning model for inclusive classrooms.

Results of a one year use program on nine students with a Special Education Teacher, are shown representing observed results:

  • Decreasing inappropriate behaviors due to increased communication capabilities.
  • Increase in self-directed communication capabilities.
  • Decreasing anxiety

Arwen Caines

Title – Society for Treatment of Autism

Bio – Arwen Caines completed her Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from McMaster University in 2011. She also holds a baccalaureate in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, from the University of Calgary. Since joining Society for Treatment of Autism in 2011 as an Occupational Therapist, she has worked directly with children and families to facilitate the development of functional self-help (e.g., dressing, and mealtime skills), leisure and play skills (e.g., gross motor, fine motor, oral motor). Arwen has consulted in the Community Based Options program; the Residential Program and most recently been part of the multidisciplinary team consulting to the Calgary Board of Education for students in two CSSI stabilization classrooms.

Summary – The Calgary Board of Education and Society for Treatment of Autism collaborated to provide an educational placement for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder who were not successful in other settings due to their complexity. A specialized classroom was developed with the intent to stabilize students utilizing low ratios (i.e., 1 to 1 or greater), a teacher with extensive ASD experience, high levels of multidisciplinary consultation (Speech-Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Behavioural Consultation), along with School Therapists trained in behaviour management. The team collaborates to facilitate both individualized and group learning. Once stabilized, students are supported to transition to an appropriate classroom/program.

Carmela Campanella-Borraccia

Title – The Geneva Centre

Bio – The Geneva Centre for Autism has been a leader in providing services and supports to individuals with Autism and their families since 1974. Our mission is to empower individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and their families, to fully participate in their communities. Through the vision of successful committee inclusion, the Geneva Centre began offering the Worktopia program in January 2016. Over the past year, we have been working with youth and adults with autism to strengthen employment and volunteer skills through two streams of service: EmploymentWorks and CommunityWorks. Our aim is to share strategies that have been successful with us and learn about other possible tools that service profilers in Ontario are using in their programs.

Summary – Using the title “Ensuring Dignity and Respect during Program Delivery”, this poster aims to share the experiences of how our program approaches adult learning with individuals on the spectrum. Through modified gestures and prompts that reduce stigma and increase skill development, Worktopia has supported individuals with ASD in respectful ways that honour the lived experiences of participants. By highlighting our staff training, open communication with participants, and teaching of self-advocacy skills, our posters hope to share some of the successful strategies that have helped some of our participants finding volunteer and employment opportunities.

Corinna Ohanley and Kirsti Mardell

Title Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Bio Kirsti and Corinna are We are both mothers born and raised in Fort McMurray both with sons on the autism spectrum both 7 years old non-verbal. We are motivated to make changes to our community so our families can stay here and not be forced into a bigger urban area.

Summary In 2010 the Fort McMurray Autism Support Group started a “Kids First” camp for children with special needs. In 2015 our group partnered with autism Society Alberta. With this partnership we were introduced to Dr. David Nicholas at the University of Calgary. Dr. David Nicholas is working on an Autism Speaks research study focusing on building capacity for Autism spectrum disorder in rural and remote areas. During this research we held community engagement sessions. From this research we identified a need in our community for an autism centre. 12 days later our community was evacuated due to an uncontrollable forest fire. Our community members left and found supports and services not provided in Fort McMurray, in other communities. Now that we are home we started an Autism Society and are gathering support to build an autism centre to support all ages and all disabilities on or around the spectrum.

Jacqueline Chan

Title The role of school-based health centres in improving access to an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis in inner-city, school-aged children.

Bio – Jacqueline Chan is a research assistant in the Centre for Urban Health Solutions with a focus on The Model Schools Paediatric Health Initiative at St. Michael’s Hospital. She has a master’s in early childhood studies and examined child, parent, and teacher perspectives at a school-based health clinic as part of her thesis. She is interested in research on the health of clinical child populations and inner city communities.

Summary Authors: Sloane Freeman, Anne Mantini, Jacqueline Chan

Despite the importance of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in early childhood, school-aged children continue to present with developmental concerns with little access to a developmental assessment, particularly among inner-city families. School-based health centres (SBHC) can provide developmental assessments leading to ASD diagnoses for underserved school-aged children. This study examines children presenting to two inner-city elementary SBHCs in Toronto who received a diagnosis of ASD. Wait-times, referring patterns, family demographics, as well as medical and mental health co-morbidities were determined. Results provide support for the utility of SBHCs in facilitating improved identification and diagnosis of ASD in school-aged children.

Dr. Katelyn Lowe, Chief Strategy Officer

Title – Building mental health system capacity for individuals with ASD

Bio Dr. Katelyn Lowe is the Chief Strategy Officer at The Sinneave Family Foundation. In her role, she works to develop, execute and sustain strategic initiatives across the organization. Since joining Sinneave in 2008, Katelyn has been involved in the development, delivery and evaluation of a number of key initiatives including the Launch Program, PEERS® and Worktopia. Dr. Lowe is a Registered Psychologist specializing in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders and mental health issues. She has trained in a wide range of evidence-based interventions such as HeartMath®, Mymind, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Katelyn is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Calgary and is involved in numerous research projects translating new knowledge and technologies in developmental neurosciences into autism programming, clinical training and service delivery.

Summary The high prevalence of co-occurring mental health issues in ASD are well documented. For individuals with ASD, access to mental health services is extremely limited. Untreated mental health issues can be a barrier to successful employment, post-secondary education and independent living, Policy and practice change is required. This presentation outlines how the Sinneave Family Foundation has engaged a multidisciplinary committee as well as a family advisory committee to address four key needs:

  1. Adult ASD diagnosis
  2. Psychiatric assessment and medication follow-up
  3. ASD training for mental health professionals
  4. Effective interventions to manage anxiety disorders

Croen, LA., Zerbo, O., Qian, Y., Massolo, ML., Rich, S., Sidney, S., Kripke, C. (2015). The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism, 19(7), 814-823.
Roux, Anne M., Shattuck, Paul T., Rast, Jessica E., Rava, Julianna A., and Anderson, Kristy, A. National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, 2015.

Mike Barrett, MC, R.Psych

Title The ‘Beast Mode’ Fitness First Experience

Bio Mike Barrett, MC, R.Psych, is a Registered Psychologist with a Master’s degree in Counselling from the University of Calgary. He has worked in the field of adult and adolescent mental health for over 17 years. Mike comes to the Ability Hub with experience and knowledge in mental health, stress, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, motivation, self-confidence, and transition planning. He enjoys providing assistance and support to adolescents, adults, and families from a variety of diverse backgrounds in both individual and group settings. Mike’s educational interests include a focus on research in Health and Well-being, Socialization and Sport Psychology.

Summary Health and wellness are significant topics for individuals living with Autism. The “Beast Mode” Fitness First Experience is a new program developed in partnership with the University of Calgary and The Sinneave Family Foundation. The program targets individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) between the ages of 16-30 years and provides group-based physical fitness training. It aims to promote physical development and conditioning, healthy eating, improve self-confidence and self-esteem, encourage social-skill development, reduce anxiety, and enhance overall mental health. The focus of this poster will be to share information about what the program has learned about group-based physical fitness training, the benefits to overall health and well-being, social-skill enhancement, and addressing mental health challenges for individuals with ASD will be shared. It is hoped that the information provided may help inform practice and build capacity to improve overall health outcomes.

Authors: Mike Barrett and Al Bhanji

Dr. Terri Barriault, C. Psych

Title – Building Capacity for Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ontario’s Northern and Rural Communities

Bio Terri Barriault is a Psychologist and Clinical Director at Child & Community Resources. She leads a team of professionals who provide screening, diagnosis and evidence-based developmental and behavioural treatment services to children and youth with ASD across the Sudbury/Manitoulin, Algoma, Thunder Bay and Kenora Rainy River Districts. She has served provincially as Chair of the Clinical Director’s Network for Regional Autism Intervention Programs. Terri has received the Canadian Psychological Association Foundation Award for Innovative Access to Psychological Services, and led Société Santé en français (SSF) and Health Canada grants for the development of community based interdisciplinary diagnostic teams for ASD. She has enjoyed being an instructor in psychology at Laurentian University and supporting graduate students in their training and research. A true Northerner, Terri is passionate about community collaboration and capacity building in order to bridge service gaps for children, youth and their families. She enjoys the outdoors and travel with her husband and two daughters.

Summary Early diagnosis and intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can have significant positive impacts on long-term prognosis. In Ontario’s Northwest, the district of Kenora Rainy River has unique challenges in providing localized access to early diagnosis. Child & Community Resources (CCR), Kenora Rainy River Child & Family Services (KRRCFS) and Firefly partnered to build capacity in this district by increasing professional knowledge and competency in screening, diagnosis and assessment of ASD. The results of this project were positive and encouraging. This poster will outline the project activities, lessons learned, and recommended next steps to continue to build and sustain capacity.


Group D: Community Engagement and Quality of Life

Alana Shields Barker

Title Our poster will feature background & practice of our Social Improv © Program, as well as outcomes for participants from the last 6 years.

Bio Alana Shields Barker is the mother of a young adult withASD, ADD and a NVLD. She is a parent, advocate, drama & improv teacher, writer, roleplay coach, workshop facilitator and presenter. As well, she is a certified PEERS trainer (UCLA, Semel Institute) and Autism Intervener (Geneva Centre for Autism, Toronto). In 2008 Alana developed Social Improv ©, a social skills program that teaches social understanding using drama and improv. And in 2011, she established ImprovAbility!. an organization dedicated to providing social communication training and coaching to teens and adults with ASD and other social learning exceptionalities. ImprovAbility! became a Not-For-Profit organization in 2016. Alana is a past member of the York ASD Partnership and is a co-chair of the Asperger’s Society of Ontario. She is based in Georgina, Ontario where she lives with her family.

Summary Visuals of our model will be offset with participant quotes as well as an overview of the research & theory that informs the creation of Social Improv ©. Viewers will learn about program practices such as pre-­‐ screening and player follow up. Unique program elements to be highlighted:

  1. Three Levels of Classes:
    • Yes Let’s – Basic: Agree to play
    • Yes And – Intermediate: Weaving together verbal, contextual and non-­‐verbal signals
    • Storyboard – Advanced: Combining different elements to create stories, & scenes.
  2. The C.A.R.E. process of Communication
  3. The ARRTS Teaching Framework.
  4. Peer Mentor Training Program

Dr. Jonathan Lai, PhD Neuroscience

Title Dimensions of Community Participation in Young Adults with Autism: Findings from the National Needs Assessment Survey

Bio Dr. Jonathan Lai (PhD Neuroscience) is a post-doctoral fellow at York University with Dr Jonathan Weiss. His research involves: 1) identifying service needs of individuals with ASD and factors that influence service use and 2) knowledge mobilization through research dissemination and stakeholder engagement events. In his past work with Autism Speaks Canada, he supported the implementation of Worktopia and worked on mental health awareness initiatives. He is interested in bridging the gaps between brain science, mental health and society-at-large through translating research into evidence-informed policies and programs.

SummaryCommunity participation for young adults is an important dimension of well-being. Using data from the National Needs Assessment Survey, we characterize demographic, clinical and service use patterns in 584 young adults with autism based on their level of community participation.

Eighty-two percent had a typical structured daily activity for their weekdays, such as school or work. Compared to those without any structured day activity, they were younger, used more services and had less clinical concerns. They also had greater breadth and frequency of participation in recreation and leisure activities (e.g., sports, arts, etc.). Correlates of community participation will be discussed.

Judy Mead

Title Adults with Autism and people who love them

Bio Judy Mead, Founder and President, Autism Home Base Durham Inc.

Judy is mom to a 25 year old son with complex, non-verbal autism.
A fundraising specialist, Judy helps non-profits realize financial goals. Judy was drawn to serve the non-profit sector following a career providing communications and advertising support for private business sector clients.
Now semi-retired to caregiver role, Judy remains a recognized business leader.
She founded Autism Home Base Durham with support from community leaders and $2,500 of start-up funding.

SummaryThis poster presents a solution to the social isolation experienced by many life-long family caregivers as well as the adult with autism in their lives. Autism Home Base Durham offers community-based sports, recreation and cultural activities for caregivers to participate in alongside the adult with autism they support. Surrounded by peer families in a non-judgmental environment, caregivers adapt programs to suit the individual skills and strengths of their family members. All participants create meaningful connections and new circles of support.

Small group size, caregiver leadership and regularly scheduled programming are keys to the success.

Justine Wiegelmann, MA., BCBA. | Behaviour Consultant

Title Bio-behavioural assessment and treatment of ASD and mental health concerns: A case study.

Bio Justine Wiegelmann is a Behaviour Consultant at Geneva Centre for Autism, a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), and holds a Master’s of Psychology in Developmental Psychology. In her work with Geneva Centre for Autism, Justine’s services include parent education and training and the development of behaviour intervention plans to address severe maladaptive behaviour and skill deficits. She is passionate about collaborating within interdisciplinary community teams to develop more effective services and supports for individuals with autism and their families.

Summary This poster will highlight the need for a bio-behavioural approach to the assessment and treatment of individuals with autism and mental health concerns. A case study of pre-teenage boy whose anxiety presented as symptoms of catatonia and psychosis will illustrate the importance of collaboration between medical and behavioural service sectors to effectively treat individuals with complex needs. A service map will highlight specific components of the assessment and treatment involving medical and behavioural teams across two agencies (Geneva Centre for Autism and Surrey Place Centre).

Karen Unger, Home and Community Support Coordinator

Title New Heights School & Learning Services

Bio Karen Unger is the Home and Community Support Coordinator at New Heights in Calgary, Alberta. She works with families with children on the autism spectrum to provide the supports they need to be successful in their homes and the community. Karen started out her career as a teacher, moved into the non-profit sector after completing an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and has recently earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Summary In 2016, New Heights ran a pilot project called New Heights Backyard. It was a once a week drop-in summer camp for students age 7-14 who attend New Heights School. Weekly themed activities targeted social skills directly and indirectly and allowed students to maintain friendships with school peers through the summer months. In the same way that summer school works to prevent academic regression, New Heights Backyard aims to prevent social regression for New Heights’ students. This low-cost program had a high impact, supporting students with the transition into summer, as well as their transition back to school in September.

Keely Murphy, Student

Title Improvements in Emotional Intelligence and Social Skills Following Completion of PEERS® in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Murphy, K.A., Purdon, L., Matchullis, R. L., Coret, M.C., & McCrimmon, A.W.

BioKeely Murphy is a second year Master’s student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. She is currently the program coordinator and lead facilitator of a social skill intervention (PEERS) for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Her thesis research focuses on examining the effectiveness of a social skill intervention on social skills and emotional intelligence in adolescents with ASD. Interdisciplinary community teams to develop more effective services and supports for individuals with autism and their families.

SummaryGiven the social and emotional difficulties observed among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), investigation of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in the context of social intervention is warranted. We investigated EI upon completion of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills in 32 adolescents with ASD aged 13-18 with intact cognitive functioning. Adolescents improved in overall EI and intrapersonal skills, adaptability, and stress management. Overall EI was correlated with initial self and parent ratings of social skills. The results represent an important contribution to our understanding of the relation between EI and social skills in adolescents with ASD.

Laura Purdon, BSc., MSc Student

Title An Evaluation of the PEERS® Intervention and its Efficacy in Improving Social Skills and Social Competence

Purdon, L., Murphy, K.A, Matchullis, R.L, Stubbert, F., Coret, M.C, & McCrimmon, A.W.

Bio Laura Purdon is a second year Master’s student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. She is currently a lead facilitator of a social skill intervention (PEERS) for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Her thesis research focuses on the evaluation of the PEERS program, specifically identifying improvements in social competence (i.e., social cognition, social motivation, and social awareness).

Summary This study examined the influence of the Program for the Enrichment and Education of Relational Skills (PEERS) on social skills and related variables for 13-18 year olds with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with intact cognitive functioning in a Canadian setting. Results indicate improvement in parent- and teen-rated social skills, and in Social Awareness, Social Cognition, Social Motivation, and Social Communication. These results provide cross-cultural support for PEERS and corroborates existing findings on PEERS. Additionally, the results provide an important contribution to the research literature in that PEERS enhances important variables related to social skills that can influence program efficacy.

Monica Hoffman, Dancer/Choreographer/Artist and Renata Soutter, Co-Artistic Director

Title Propeller Dance

Bio Moni has been dancing with Propeller Dance since 2008. As one of three choreographers selected for Propeller’s Emerging Choreographer’s Program, Moni received training to create, produce, and dance her original piece Behind the Mask. Moni also delights in using both dance and choreography in her worship of God both at home and in church. For the past 5 years Moni has been working to become fully bilingual and hopes to use both languages in her future dance career. Moni loves working with the young in many capacities including as Teacher’s Assistant in the Propeller Children’s Program.

Summary Propeller Dance is in it’s 10th year as an organization. Over the last 10 years we have provided dance training to people with a variety of disabilities including Autism. As one of the staff members of the Propeller Dance’s thriving children’s recreational program, I have seen many children with Autism find their creative voice through dance and movement. Their communication, participation and creativity thrives in the Propeller environment that is accepting and celebratory of who they are in the world. Propeller Dance believes dance is for all people and it is our mission to create an inclusive dance environment for all.

Philippe Manning, BA Psy/ABA

TitlePro Set Autism

BioMy name is Philippe Manning. I am the founder and CEO of Proset Autism Inc. Proset (means eight games in a Tennis Set ) and this my story of Adaptive Tennis. My company began 5 years ago in Montreal, with the passion of setting up and adaptive tennis program for special needs. Since the commencement of this fundamental link in the autism community and other special needs, I have since provided programs for many individuals both young and old. School Programs and Communities have been a part of sport awareness and offering physical literacy is our mandate.

We currently offer programs now in the Ottawa area.

SummaryPro Set Autism will highlight Adaptive Tennis Programmes it currently offers in Ottawa and Montreal.

Our Poster will show developmental activities that take into account participants’ skills and age and how we use recreation to help them stay engaged.
Our presentation will address three topics:

  • The dynamic relationship that exists between innate abilities of junior participants and how they perform in private or group lessons
  • A Pilot Project to help adolescent participants transition to adult programmes. We hope the Project will help us better understand how participants might adapt when they leave a sportive environment and enter a less controlled one
  • Setting-up a tennis training facility for special needs participants

Theresa Laurenti, Life Coach, Certified ABA Educator

Title Program: Edge of the Box Theatre & Movement for Autism/Special Needs

Bio Theresa Laurenti is a Certified ABA Educator , Neuro-Linguistic Programming Master Practitioner and Yoga Teacher.  She comes with 25+ years of competitive theatre and music background,  Her work in the autism field began with private coaching consultations which then lead to creating and facilitating group programs.

Summary Edge of the Box Theatre and Movement is a one-of-a-kind children’s program that teaches through theatre, music and dance. We are currently running our third 9-week series in the Sudbury area which ends with a performance given to invited guests (averaging 30 attendees). Studies have brought on the following results:

“Theatre activities can be used to teach emotion recognition and expression, non-verbal behaviors and gestures, listening skills, eye contact, conversation skills, strategies to handle social situations, and critical social skills.” Indiana Resource Centre for Autism, Bloomington, IN

My program is a fun and motivating, hands-on approach that gives each participant the opportunity to explore their unique expression through theatre-games, role-play and body movement. This teaching style is powerful as it encourages social skills, rapport, eye contact, self-awareness and self-confidence.
*With theatre and improv we ‘rehearse’ our real-life situational interactions in the outside world.