MacART 2nd Autism Research Stakeholder Symposium

Autism Care



“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.


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.


“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.


“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.

MacART held its 2nd 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 produced excellent discussions leading to the identification of stakeholder priorities related to autism training!

To learn more about the ideas and knowledge that came from the Symposium, please see our report HERE.



Friday, September 15, 2017 -
09:00 to 15:00
McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), Hamilton, Ontario
Keynote Speaker Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum 

Dr. Zwaigenbaum is a developmental pediatrician and site lead for Child Health at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, where he co-directs the Autism Research Centre. He currently holds the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Autism Research and is Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. His current research focuses on early behavioral and biological markers, and developmental trajectories in children and youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). He also directs one of the two Canadian sites of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, which focuses on approaches to optimizing acute health care for children and youth with ASD. He has been the program director for the national Autism Research Training Program since 2011.

Margaret Spoelstra

Margaret Spoelstra, Autism Ontario

Marg Spoelstra is the Executive Director of Autism Ontario and a Member of the Order of Canada. A special education teacher by training, Marg Spoelstra has spent the past 35 years working with individuals with a variety of special needs, especially those with autism.

Esther Rhee

Esther Rhee, Autism Speaks

As the National Program Director for Autism Speaks Canada, Esther’s role focuses on supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families across Canada through the organization’s mission to increase resources and services, increase autism research, build awareness and work as a collaborative community. 

Cynthia Carroll

Cynthia Carroll, CASDA

Cynthia Carroll is the current chair of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, and Executive Director of Autism Nova Scotia. She is known as a visionary and tireless advocate for autism. In 2008, Cynthia founded the Autism Council of Nova Scotia, uniting autism groups across the province. In 2010, she participated on a working group that made 53 recommendations to government addressing gaps in service, resulting in the first ASD Action Plan in the country.

Kerry Boyd

Kerry Boyd, McMaster University

Kerry Boyd is a psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience working with teams that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan. She currently works at McMaster Children's Hospital and Bethesda Services. She is committed to improving the care of persons living with developmental disabilities through education. As a 2013-2015 AMS Phoenix Project Fellow, Dr Boyd lead the development of the Curriculum of Caring for People with Developmental Disabilities with web-based resources found at

Anna DiFazio

Anna DiFazio, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

Anna DiFazio is the Manager of Intensive Support Services with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. She leads a team of professionals and educators in supporting children and youth with complex communication and/or multiple developmental needs. Many of these students are on the autism spectrum.

Anna DiFazio

Michelle Torsney, Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board

Michelle Torsney is a speech-language pathologist and Manager of Speech Language + Hearing Services at the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. Before taking on her current role, Michelle was a founding member of the ASD team, comprised of SLPs, Resource Teachers and EAs, providing a collaborative, integrated approach to support students with ASD in fully inclusive classrooms.

Sarah Hardy

Sarah Hardy, MCYS

Sarah Hardy is the Director of the Ontario Autism Program Project Team at the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, where she oversees the design and implementation of Ontario’s new Autism Program.

Dr Sean Park

Sean Park, McMaster University

Sean is a teaching professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Health Leadership Academy at McMaster University. He teaches courses in design thinking, creativity, social innovation, and qualitative research. Sean is passionate about helping people listen, dream, co-create and act in ways that bring transformation, from the personal to the systemic.