In the News

Autism Care

Research
Education
Community
Policy

Research

“Future research needs to focus not only on the biological markers of ASD but also include data about functioning, participation, and environmental barriers and facilitators.”

Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo  //  Developmental Pediatrician

 

MacART is laying the foundation for creating a systematic way of linking scientific research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at McMaster University to clinical practice at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

The physical proximity of McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University has a number of characteristics that provides the rare opportunity for collaborative research. Taking advantage of existing university and clinical infrastructure and cross-appointments for clinicians at the university, ASD experts from these organizations are coming together to integrate ASD research into clinical practice.

The focus of MacART members’ research is in the areas of basic science, clinical practice, clinical research, epidemiology and statistical modelling, knowledge translation and exchange, and social science research. By promoting the collaboration of stakeholders across disciplines, MacART is reducing barriers to implementing research in clinical practice, with the goal of advancing autism care through meaningful research.

Learn more about our research HERE.

Education

MacART members are now supervising more than 50 research trainees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels, and are engaged in the mentoring of junior and intermediate faculty members.

In the future, we intend to establish research and clinical training programs for students in McMaster’s undergraduate medical, health sciences, and psychology programs, and for residents and fellows in Pediatrics and Psychiatry.

By training and mentoring emerging researchers and practitioners, we will help to solidify their understanding of and commitment to using basic science to inform their clinical practice, and to use their clinical experience to help formulate research questions. It is our belief that involving these learners in MacART educational activities will promote their use of practices that advance autism care through meaningful research.

Community

“Our scientists are working collaboratively with local clinicians to generate the evidence needed to improve autism services. This symposium is a great example of McMaster’s community engagement efforts.”

Dr. Patrick Deane // President & Vice-Chancellor // McMaster University

 

The community engagement component of MacART strives to work with stakeholders and involve them as partners in every step of the research process.  By doing so, the questions that drive research begin to change. They become more meaningful because they address the real day-to-day challenges faced by children and their families, and the clinicians supporting them.

MacART aims to increase participation and involvement of members of the McMaster and Hamilton communities in the research process. With community members driving the research, new and relevant knowledge can be produced to bridge the research-to-practice gap in ASD and advance autism care through meaningful research.

Policy

“People whose lives are connected to the challenge of autism can share knowledge – from clinicians to educators to parents – and what an amazing opportunity that is. We have a real opportunity to translate challenges into research, and research into practice that will help families living with autism.”

Rob MacIsaac  //  President & CEO // Hamilton Health Sciences

 

Policies should be created using the best available evidence that make positive impacts on the lives of individuals with ASD, along with their families.

MacART’s founder, Stelios Georgiades, serves on both federal and provincial advisory committees about ASD treatment funding.  Along with the wide-ranging expertise of its many ASD experts, MacART is set to act as a highly credible source of evidence-based information to influence and inform public policy about the provision and funding of ASD diagnosis, treatment, and family supports.

MacART will continue to find ways to collaborate with policymakers to both learn more about the policymaking process, and to contribute our expertise and knowledge to inform policymaking, in order to advance autism care through meaningful research.

Statement from MacART on World Autism Awareness Day 2018

April 2nd is annual World Autism Awareness Day – a day to recognize all those living on the autism spectrum. Here in Canada, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

 

The McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART) is proud to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. MacART is a partnership between McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University that aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap in ASD. MacART is designed to foster collaboration among the families, researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers whose lives and work are touched by ASD.

 

MacART has numerous initiatives underway. This includes collaborations with groups at McMaster University (Offord Centre for Child Studies, CanChild, MacDATA Institute, Health Leadership Academy), community organizations (such as CASDA, Autism Speaks, Autism Ontario, Woodview Mental Health and Autism Services, and South Asian Autism Awareness Centre), and international projects (as the only Canadian site in an NIH-funded study to develop a social-communication measure for neurodevelopmental disorders). And after a successful 2017 Research Stakeholder Symposium, we are using the stakeholder feedback we received to guide the development of future training endeavours.

 

Our team members continue to produce cutting-edge research. Earlier this year, a study led by MacART member Dr. Karun Singh pinpointed a gene that is linked to neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism. “Our goal is to use these findings and search for medications that can be used to treat different forms of autism,” said Dr. Singh, Scientist with McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

 

We also continue to work on the Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative (PARC) Project together with clinicians at McMaster Children’s Hospital, embedding a research protocol into ASD Services. “We are looking to engage families in research in a way that minimizes extra burden for them,” said Dr. Irene Drmic, clinical psychologist at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre and a lead investigator on the PARC Project. “This research will then help us improve the services those families are receiving and continually advance clinical care.”

 

MacART’s various projects are spread across our foundational pillars – research, education, community and policy – all of which aim to advance autism care and help foster increased understanding and acceptance.

 

Click here to download a copy of this statement.

Introducing the Learning Health System - A Visit from Dr. Charles Friedman

 

On Thursday April 26th, we are privileged to have Dr. Charles Friedman, a world-renowned expert in Learning Health Systems from the University of Michigan, visiting Hamilton.   In the morning he will visit the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre to speak to our team on establishing a clinical research system using the Learning Health System framework.

 

We are then pleased to extend this invitation to his Keynote Address to the larger Hamilton research community on the afternoon of April 26th.  This will take place at McMaster Innovation Park; opening remarks will be at noon, followed by the Keynote Address and a panel discussion.

 

This event offers our community the opportunity to learn more about their role in creating a learning health system here in Hamilton – where data and experience are integrated with evidence, and that knowledge is put into practice. The result is higher quality, safer, more efficient care for patients.   

 

Please see the poster for details.  If you are interested in attending the Keynote Address and Panel, please RSVP by Friday April 13th to autism@mcmaster.ca.

MacART part of multidisciplinary CIHR grant for economic forecasting

MacART is pleased to announce it is collaborating with CHEPA – the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis – on a newly-awarded operating grant.

The one-year $265,000 Operating Grant is for economic forecasting, part of a joint initiative of the CIHR and the J.W. McConnell Foundation that will see CIHR contribute $175,000 and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation contribute $90,000.

The research project, Investing in primary and secondary prevention: Economic forecasting to inform policies regarding amortization of program costs, has two goals:

  1. To develop a framework that lays an analytic foundation to support implementation of cost amortization in prevention and early intervention; and
  2. To conduct four economic forecasting simulations that illustrate the analytic framework in action in the areas identified by CIHR in the call for proposals.

The four simulations are:

  • an early psychosis intervention program (mental health);
  • an integrated autism program based on intensive behavioural interventions and applied behaviour analysis (child and youth health);
  • a diabetes prevention program that integrates diet, weight loss and physical activity (food security with a focus on nutrition and diabetes);
  • and a family-nurse partnership program targeted at low-income, first-time mothers to improve outcomes for both the child and the family (intergenerational trauma).

MacART co-director Stelios Georgiades is part of this multidisciplinary team, as the autism expert. The research will be co-led by Jeremiah Hurley, Dean of McMaster University’s Faculty of Social Sciences and a member of CHEPA, and CHEPA Director Jean-Eric Tarride.

For more information, please see http://chepa.org/news/2018/03/06/multidisciplinary-chepa-led-team-awarded-cihr-grant-for-economic-forecasting.

 

Upcoming MacART Representation at INSAR 2018

The International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) is holding its annual scientific meeting in the Netherlands on May 9-12, 2018. This is the world’s oldest and largest autism research meeting, and we are honoured to have had numerous abstracts from MacART members be accepted!

Some acceptances featuring MacART members include the following:

Oral sessions:

  • Social determinants of prevalence of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A population level Study – including Ayesha Siddiqua, Eric Duku, and Magdalena Janus
  • Parsing the Heterogeneity of Multidimensional Adaptive Behavior Profiles over time in ASD – including Eric Duku, Peter Szatmari, Terry Bennett, and Stelios Georgiades
  • Examining the “Turning Points” in Trajectories of Symptom Severity in Children with Autism – Stelios Georgiades,  Eric Duku, Terry Bennett, and Peter Szatmari
  • Predicting attrition in a longitudinal study of children with autism spectrum disorder – including Eric Duku, Terry Bennett, Stelios Georgiades, and Peter Szatmari

 

Poster sessions:

  • Estimating Social Communication Functioning (ACSF:SC) From ADOS-2 Data: Development Of An Algorithm – including Stephen Gentles, Briano Di Rezze, Peter Rosenbaum, Eric Duku, and Stelios Georgiades
  • Predictors of longer-term language development in language delayed children with ASD – including Peter Szatmari
  • Gender differences in narrative language in 10-year-olds with Autism Spectrum Disorder – including Peter Szatmari, Stelios Georgiades, Terry Bennett, and Eric Duku
  • Psychometric properties of the Merrill-Palmer-Revised Scales of Development in Preschool-aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders – including Eric Duku, Peter Szatmari, Terry Bennett, and Stelios Georgiades
  • Child and Parental Correlates of Participation in Sports and Recreational Activities in School-aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder – including Vivian Lee, Terry Bennett, Eric Duku, Stelios Georgiades, and Peter Szatmari
  • Temperament mediates the relationship between symptom severity and adaptive functioning in school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder – including Vivian Lee, Eric Duku, Terry Bennett, Peter Szatmari, and Stelios Georgiades
  • Trajectories of maternal depressive symptoms following ASD diagnosis – including Peter Szatmari, Terry Bennett, Stelios Georgiades, and Eric Duku
  • Do Repetitive Behaviours and Restricted Interests Predict Later Cognitive Ability in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder? – including Terry Bennett, Eric Duku, Stelios Georgiades, and Peter Szatmari

 

This is just a sampling of some of our members’ work – check back after the meeting for a full list and links to the abstracts!

 

 

MacART members at POND Science Day

Various MacART members were on hand at POND Science Day on November 30th – a workshop to share recent findings, network with colleagues, and help set the research agenda for the project’s renewal.

Jane Foster gave an overview of mouse work that looks at how microbiota and the immune system influence brain structure and behaviour.  Some key points include:

  • MRI analysis of germ-free mice lacking exposure to all microbes revealed global changes in brain structure that are not restored if reconstituted in early adolescence.  
  • Gene-environment interactions influence the composition of gut microbiota - the Foster lab is working to determine how these interactions influence brain regions that regulate social behaviour.  
  • Gene-environment interactions influence the composition of gut microbiota - the Foster lab has identified specific gut bacteria that influence anxiety-like behaviour in mice. 

Jane also gave an update on the immunophenotyping platform for POND.  Four sites are now collecting blood samples to examine inflammatory markers and immune cells in peripheral blood. This work will help identify biological differences in individuals with neurodevelopment disorders.

It is exciting to see such cutting-edge research being done by our members! 

MacART member recognitions

Recently two MacART members were recognized for their various achievements.

Congratulations to Dr. Peter Rosenbaum for receiving the 2017 Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centre (CAPHC) Award for Individual Leadership. This annual award was created to recognize outstanding leadership by an individual who has dedicated their career to making a difference in the health and well-being of children, youth and families in Canada. The award specifically recognizes creativity and initiative to promote positive change and long-term improvement. 

Peter also recently was honoured at the Canadian Friends of Haifa University's Mount Carmel Dinner, with the Carmel Award of Merit in recognition of his lifetime achievements in childhood disabilities research.

 

Also, Dr. Ronit Mesterman received the Leadership Award at the 2017 Ontario Association of Children's Rehabilitation Services (OACRS) Conference. The Leadership Award recognizes outstanding leadership in innovation, system integration and/or furthering family-centred care. Ronit’s work with PONDA – Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy – was recognized.

Congratulations on these prestigious honours! 

SAAAC Inaugural Conference

On Friday March 2nd, 2018, one of MacART's collaborators, the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC), will be holding its inaugural conference. Entitled "Culture Counts - Culturally Responsive Autism Support in Research and Practices", this event will focus on the important and timely issue of how to provide effective ASD supports to a rapidly changing multicultural population. The list of speakers will include MacART's co-director, Dr. Stelios Georgiades.  For further information, please see the Culture Counts Conference website

 

 

Dr. Stelios Georgiades presenting at the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Autism Conference

MacART Co-Director on “Collaboration Across the Spectrum”

On Friday October 20th 2017, the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) hosted its first Autism Conference, with the theme of “Collaboration Across the Spectrum and Across the Age Span”. MacART Co-Director Dr. Stelios Georgiades was invited to give the keynote presentation, entitled “Tracing Autism’s Trajectories Can Help Explain Its Diversity”.

Dr. Georgiades’ program of research investigates development trajectories in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Presenting findings from his research studies, such as the Pathways in ASD Study, Dr. Georgiades discussed how children with ASD have different strengths and challenges that vary across domains and over time, and that models of care should reflect that dynamic variability. Further fitting in with the day’s theme, he also discussed the need for interdisciplinary collaboration through strategic partnerships and funding. One example of such teamwork is the upcoming Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative (PARC) Project, a partnership between researchers and clinicians in embedding a research protocol into clinical practice.

The day’s other presentations included discussions on early interventions, collaboration between professionals, agencies, and parents, and building strong partnerships, along with remarks from the Minister of Education, Mitzie Hunter. The OSLA Autism Conference was a wonderful example of how through strong, strategic, interdisciplinary collaborations, autism care can be enhanced.   

MacART 2nd annual autism research stakeholder symposium

MacART held its 2nd annual symposium on Friday, September 15th, 2017 at McMaster Innovation Park. This year’s symposium theme was “Rethinking Autism Training” and our keynote speaker was Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Co-Director of the Autism Research Centre in Edmonton, Alberta and leader of the national Autism Research Training Program. This year’s theme was a topic ripe for innovation, and is sure to produce excellent discussions leading to the identification of stakeholder priorities related to autism training!

With 250 stakeholders joining us, both the venue and the agenda were packed! We were pleased to welcome speakers from our stakeholder organizations (Autism Ontario, Autism Speaks, CASDA), local school boards, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, and many of our supporters from McMaster and Hamilton Health Sciences. We were also very excited to have group breakout sessions led by Dr. Sean Park (McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences), a leader in design thinking methodology.  We will be using the feedback generated in these breakout sessions to create a 'training manifesto' to determine ways we can towards improving autism services, supports, and training through collaboration and innovation.

Thank you very much to all of our supporters, speakers, attendees, and volunteers for a successful day. Stay tuned for the videos and reports that will come from this exciting event! 

Summer students - 2017

This summer the McMaster Autism Research Team was pleased to host 3 summer students, each from different backgrounds, and provide them with experience in the world of research.  These bright and capable students showed great initiative and willingness to help with whatever tasks were thrown their way – we truly appreciate the help they provided us over the past few weeks! 

 

Sandra Lee 

Sandra Lee worked with us in 2015, as a recipient of a Hamilton Health Sciences Health Research Bursary Award for graduating high school students. At that time she worked on the Pathways in ASD study - a longitudinal study following up on children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Sandra has since been accepted into the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster, and this year was the recipient of a BHSc Summer Research Scholarship. This scholarship program contributes funds for BHSc (Honours) students to pursue summer research opportunities at McMaster University with a faculty member. Her faculty research supervisor was MacART co-director Dr. Stelios Georgiades.

We were happy to have her back with us! This summer Sandra supported us on a wide range of tasks, including data checking and scanning for various studies, developing promotional materials, conducting literature reviews, questionnaire development and pilot testing, supporting the planning of our MacART research stakeholder symposium, and more. It was a very busy summer, particularly with preparing for the rollout of the Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative (PARC) Project, but Sandra took on the many tasks given to her with ease and aplomb!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahsas Nagee

MacART participated once again in the Hamilton Health Sciences Health Research Bursary Awards Program for graduating high school students, and this year we hosted Ahsas Nagee.  Ahsas is a graduate of the IB program at Michael Power/St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke. He will be attending the Medical Sciences program at Western University this fall, hoping to pursue a career in medicine and healthcare research.

During his time with MacART this summer, Ahsas has computerized patient surveys and conducted a literature review for the Pediatric Autism Research Collaborative (PARC) Project, which aims to build a standardized research protocol that caters to the needs of families dealing with autism.  Ahsas has also worked with the WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health model to evaluate the measures used in the PARC Project. He has learned extensively about research not only in neurodevelopmental disorders, but the state of scientific research in general while also gaining invaluable skills in the field.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rukaiyah Lakkadghatwala

Rukaiyah Lakkadghatwala is a first-year medical student at Queen's School of Medicine, who has an interest in gender studies and the social determinants of health. She has a passion and considerable experience working with children (as a support worker for children and youth with intellectual disabilities, a tutor for children and youth at community shelters, a leader of a Girl Guide unit, and an Ontario Early Years Centre volunteer), and recognizes the many factors that impact wellness. She contacted the Offord Centre for Child Studies searching for volunteer experiences to strengthen her knowledge of the social determinants of health and was put in touch with our ASD team, who are interested in similar issues. 

This summer Rukaiyah has helped MacART with developing presentation materials, conducting literature reviews, drafting an evaluation plan, questionnaire development and pilot testing, supporting the planning of our MacART research stakeholder symposium, and more. Together with Ahsas, she is also using the WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health model to evaluate the measures used in the PARC Project.  Rukaiyah was eager and willing to take on all the tasks given to her, and we appreciate her efforts to volunteer her time with us!