Dr. Jonathan Lai, Executive Director

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Jonathan Lai (PhD) is the Executive Director at CASDA. He also holds an Adjunct Faculty position in Health Services Research at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Previously, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at York University, examining predictors of changes in service use for people with developmental disabilities. He led a series of TEDx talks and other integrated knowledge translation projects. This was followed by a CIHR Health System Impact Fellowship at McGill University and the Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities, where he led the development of a program evaluation of a specialized medical-dental primary care clinic for people with developmental disabilities, led federal government engagement of evidence-use in policy dialogues, and reports at the United Nations Convention on research evidence used in rights-based approaches for children with disabilities in Canada.

His graduate training in Neuroscience at Guelph and McMaster focused on gene-environment influences on the developing brain, funded consecutively by Ontario Mental Health Foundation and a CIHR Vanier Scholarship. LinkedIn

Dr. Deepa Singal, Director of Scientific and Data Initiatives

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Dr. Singal is a Research Scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, a world renowned Centre for population-based research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Singal is a quantitative child and maternal health researcher working at the intersection of academia and policy. As a two-time Health System Impact Fellow at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and a CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (CIHR-IHSPR) Rising Star, Dr. Singal has a breadth of experience working in multiple jurisdictions with senior level policy makers and key change makers in the health data science sector. She has a demonstrated history of leading multidisciplinary teams and her work has informed government policy and has been widely disseminated among media outlets throughout the country. LinkedIn

Stephanie Côté, Manager, Policy Initiatives

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Stephanie Côté (she/her), MA CYC, is the Policy Initiatives Manager at CASDA. Stephanie’s work at CASDA has been informed by her academic focus on anti-oppressive practice in child and youth care and on the social model of disability as it relates to services for Autistic people. On a personal note, Stephanie’s experiences being raised in a neurodivergent family have contributed to her passion for her chosen field. She is a runner, coffee enthusiast, and absolutely not a fan of the new Star Wars movies. LinkedIn.

Rakhee Chowdhury, Communications Manager

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Rakhee Chowdhury, M. Sc., is the Communications Manager at CASDA. Rakhee completed her graduate studies at l’Université de Montréal (Québec) in Psychology, where her research focused on the intersection of language and music processing in children on the spectrum.

Over the last years, Rakhee has been involved in a variety of projects alongside neurodivergent youth and their families. At the Centre for Innovation in Autism & Intellectual Disabilities, Rakhee coordinated EmploymentWorks, a pre-employment initiative for young adults, and provided parent coach services to families of pre-school children. At McGill University, Rakhee supported the operations of accommodated exams for students registered at the Office for Students with Disabilities and participated in the unit’s leadership team.

Outside of work, Rakhee loves creating pantry concoctions, watching international movies, and exploring the outdoors. LinkedIn

Adelina Nielsen, Executive Coordinator

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Adelina, Hon.BSc-BCR, aspires to become a clinician-scientist focused on providing, informing and/or advocating for autism-informed health policy and healthcare services. She is currently pursuing graduate studies and research in community rehabilitation and disability studies at the University of Calgary. Adelina’s passion for making a difference in the lives of individuals with autism and their families was sparked in middle school, when she had her first of many volunteering experiences alongside autistic children, and it has led to several autism research endeavours. In her free time, Adelina enjoys learning new languages, journaling, reading and photography. She loves adventuring in her own backyard, the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and can be found exploring hiking trails in the summers and shredding powder in the winters. LinkedIn

Megan Krasnodembski, Special Projects Coordinator

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Megan Krasnodembski (she/her) joined CASDA in 2019 as a Communications Student intern. Following her graduation from McGill University, she returned once again as a Marketing and Policy Student Intern in 2020 and is currently a Special Projects Coordinator at CASDA. By day you can find her supporting CASDA’s many projects, including the Canadian Journal of Autism Equity, and in her spare time, she is an avid reader, aspiring polyglot and amateur cook. LinkedIn

Courtney Weaver, Project Coordinator

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Courtney Weaver, M.A., is the Project Coordinator for the Work From Home project at CASDA, a project that seeks to highlight the challenges and best practices of working from home for neurodivergent employees in order to better inform employers. The hope is that this will help them in their efforts to employ and retain neurodivergent talent as well as create and maintain workplaces where such talent can thrive. Courtney obtained her Master of Arts in Critical Disability Studies from York University and since then she has been, and is, involved in a variety of autism and disability roles. These include Program Support Officer for the Accessibility, Accommodation & Adaptive Computer Technology (AAACT) Program, office assistant to MP Mike Lake, and self-advocate advisor to the Autism Mental Health Literacy and Housing Through an Autism Lens Projects (AMHeLP and HAL). In her spare time, Courtney loves to do a variety of activities including reading, writing, taking long walks and bike rides and making up her own pun jokes just to name a few! LinkedIn

Dr. Kaela Scott, Project Coordinator

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Kaela Scott, Ph.D., is the Project Coordinator for the Autistic Voices Project 2.0 at CASDA, a project that seeks to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on the employment of Autistic Canadians. Kaela joined CASDA as a guest writer and has been involved with Autism Ontario, London as the Virtual Events Team Coordinator where she helped organize events for neurodivergent youth and young adults. Kaela completed her graduate studies at Western University (London) in Neuroscience, where her research focused on how sound is processed in the brain, and its relevance for people on the spectrum. Outside of work, Kaela loves playing with her dog, eating ice cream, and going for hikes. LinkedIn

Sharon Chernyak, Policy Intern

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Sharon Chernyak (she/her), B.HSc., is an incoming first-year law student pursuing her J.D. at the University of Ottawa. Sharon initially joined CASDA as part of the student placement program, where her projects focused on streamlining autism research efforts in Canada through the development of a National Autism Research Framework as part of a National Autism Strategy. Following her placement, she returned to CASDA in 2021 as a Research and Policy Intern. As she embarks on her legal education, she hopes to further develop her interest and skill set in public policy and advocacy. LinkedIn.

Urwa Ghazi, Policy Data Systems Intern

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Urwa Ghazi is a fourth-year student at McMaster University currently completing her Bachelor’s of Health Sciences. She started at CASDA in the beginning of 2021 as a student assisting in the initial stages of the Canadian Autism Data Network project. Currently, she holds the position of Policy Intern working to assist in CASDA’s various policy projects including knowledge translation and advocacy. In her free time, you can find her camping in a forest, biking up trails, listening to podcasts or watching UFC matches. LinkedIn.

Siobhan Rourke, Communications Intern

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Siobhan Rourke joined CASDA in 2019 as a communications student intern. Siobhan went on to complete her Masters at the University of Ottawa in Intervention and Consultation. Following her recent graduation from U of O, she has returned once again as a communications intern at CASDA for the summer before beginning her PhD in Human Kinetics this coming fall. Siobhan is excited to return to her role on the communications team. Outside of work you can find Siobhan spending time outside hiking or running, baking treats for her friends or tending to her plants. LinkedIn.

Emilyanne Stocks, Policy Communications Intern

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Emilyanne Stocks recently graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours). Emilyanne has worked with neurodivergent children throughout her undergraduate education which has contributed to her passion for bettering Autistic Canadian’s quality of life. Emilyanne is currently working with the McMaster Demystifying Medicine Program to improve online scientific knowledge translation and hopes to apply those skills to her role at CASDA. Emilyanne also has just received an acceptance to medical school and believes that working with the CASDA team will provide her with a greater understanding of health policies that impact everyone. In her free time, she loves to hike, travel, and eat Thai food. Twitter @Emmy42926905. LinkedIn.