Jonathan Lai, Director of Operations and Strategy

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Jonathan Lai (PhD) is the Director of Strategy and Operations 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.

In his spare time, Jonathan likes to conduct cooking experiments in the kitchen, entertain his cat, and stay active outdoors. LinkedIn

Stephanie Côté, Policy and Research Analyst

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Stephanie Côté (she/her), MA CYC, is a Research and Policy Analyst with 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 young 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.

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.

Megan, Krasnodembski, Marketing and Policy Intern

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Megan Krasnodembski 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 Project Specialist 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.

Carolyn Abel, Policy and Communications Intern

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Abel, B.Sc., is a second year MPH student with a concentration in Health Policy at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. Carolyn joined CASDA as a policy fellow for the KBHN-CASDA housing policy working group, and is coordinating communications for the Employment Recovery Project, an initiative aimed at addressing COVID-related employment challenges for people with autism or intellectual disability. In her free time, she enjoys running, exploring the diversity of NYC’s neighbourhoods, and traveling. LinkedIn

Jacalyn Guy, MITACS-CASDA Post-Doctoral Fellow

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Jacalyn earned her BSc, MSc, and PhD (Neuroscience) all at McGill University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford. Funded by the Fonds de Recherche Sante-Quebec, she investigated sensory-related abilities that underpin cognition and behaviour in autism and fragile-x syndrome.

Currently, Jacalyn works at the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge. Her work aims to understand how and why children struggle at school irrespective of any clinical diagnosis, with a long-term goal of developing targeted interventions and risk factors for long-term difficulties. She is excited to broaden her interests outside of a traditional academic setting with the MITACS-CASDA fellowship to engage with stakeholders and translate research into evidence-informed policies.

Vanessa Tomas, Project Coordinator

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Vanessa Tomas, M.Sc., is a second year Ph.D. student in the Rehabilitation Science Institute and Collaborative Program in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. Vanessa is the Project Coordinator for the Autistic Voices Project, under the Employment Readiness Project, at CASDA, to explore the impact of COVID-19 on employment experiences of Autistic Canadians. Outside of work, Vanessa enjoys finding ways to exercise and be active, bake homemade treats, and explore, travel, and learn from new places around the world (visited and explored the Amazon Rainforest in 2019!)