Clinical Expert Committee to Advise Government on Autism

December 12, 2012

Ontario has appointed eight researchers, academics and clinical experts to advise the government on effective treatments, current research and best clinical practices for children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The committee, reporting to the Minister of Children and Youth Services, will provide expert advice on up-to-date and evidence-based research to inform policy design and program development, including the implementation of clinical practice guidelines and benchmarks.

Committee Members

Ian Dawe - Chair
Dr. Ian Dawe is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and the Physician-in-Chief at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. At Ontario Shores, he provides leadership for medical professional practice and champions the quality and safety of medical practice and care at the hospital. Working in collaboration with the Ontario Shores' senior leadership team, as well as its medical and allied health professionals, he is focused on advancing the quality of care and fostering leading inter-professional practices.

As an ex-officio member of Ontario Shores' Board of Directors, he serves as the Board's principal advisor on matters of medical care. As Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC), he is responsible for ensuring that the MAC fulfills its statutory duties such as advising the Board on credentialing of physicians; managing physician appointment and reappointment processes, and overseeing the quality of clinical care at the organization. He is also an active member of the Board of the Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health which was established in the spring of 2009 to support the hospital in achieving its vision of recovering best health, nurturing hope and inspiring discovery.

Wendy Roberts - Vice-Chair
Dr. S. Wendy Roberts is a Developmental Paediatrician and Co-Director of the Autism Research Unit at the Hospital for Sick Children and Professor Emerita at the University of Toronto. Dr. Roberts has actively participated in programs to enhance the development and lived experiences of children with special needs and their families. She led the first Canadian site of the Autism Treatment Network in Toronto, with the goal of improving the quality of evidence-based medical care offered to all individuals with autism and their families. Current areas of active research include early identification, genetics and intervention trials in autism.

Dr. Roberts is entering a new stage of her career in which she can focus on activities that will further enhance families' experience of autism and their relationship with the service system from early identification of special needs through the transition to adulthood.

Lise Bisnaire
Dr. Lise Bisnaire is currently the Director of the Autism Program - Eastern Ontario at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Associate Investigator at the CHEO Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Psychology at the University of Ottawa. She is also involved in the development and implementation of the Total Clinical Outcomes Management approach to mental health and autism services for children, youth and their families in Ontario.

Dr. Bisnaire served as Clinical Director of Inpatient Psychiatry and as Professional Practice Leader for Psychology at CHEO, and as Chair of the Regional Autism Providers of Ontario from 2008 to 2011. She has a wealth of experience as a service provider, clinical professor and researcher. Her past experience includes work in both hospital and school settings in Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, and New Brunswick.

Kelly Boyko
Dr. Kelly Boyko is currently the Managing Psychologist - Behaviour and Complex Needs at the York Region District School Board, where she is responsible for managing the Regional Behaviour Team and Complex Needs Services. Presently, she is leading a review of all Autism Spectrum Disorder resources, supports and services in the Board, as well as the committee reviewing the Board's Safe Schools Policy and Procedures. In addition, Dr. Boyko is Co-Chair of the Board's Safe, Caring and Supportive Schools and Workplaces Committee, and a Board representative on the York Region Autism Spectrum Disorder Day Treatment and Mobile Service Steering Committee, and the York Region Crisis Response/Protocol Committee.

Within her current school board, Dr. Boyko has been instrumental in the roll-out and training related to PPM 140: Incorporating Methods of ABA into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Boyko has a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which school boards, community agencies, health care settings and organizations can work collaboratively to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. She is committed to improving the lives of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, through advocacy, as well as provision of resources, supports and services, at a regional, provincial and national level.

Susan E. Bryson
Susan E. Bryson, PhD, holds the Craig Chair in Autism Research at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. She was Head and Clinical Director of the Developmental-Clinical Psychology Program at York University and Founding Director of the Autism Research Unit at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Dr. Bryson's research focuses on mechanisms of attention, emotion and cognition in Autism Spectrum Disorder and its early detection and treatment.

She recently completed a review of education practices for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Canada's four Atlantic Provinces. She also took the lead in establishing Nova Scotia's innovative Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention program for preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder and served as its Provincial Clinical Leader from 2005 to 2010. In this context, she worked closely with government officials to develop a service delivery model that is feasible and sustainable.

Irene Drmic
Irene Drmic, PhD, C.Psych., is a psychologist and post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, Offord Centre for Child Studies, carrying out research to better understand factors that mediate positive treatment and outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are anxious, using a treatment program based on cognitive behavioural therapy.

Her graduate work focused on examining cognitive processes, as well as examining the overlap of observable characteristics between Autism Spectrum Disorder and co-occurring conditions. Her work has the potential to inform clinical practice in terms of diagnosis and intervention. She also works as a Psychologist at the Autism Research Unit at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, providing research and clinical leadership support to several large research studies in Autism Spectrum Disorder. One study examined the experiences, care requirements and outcomes of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and another the genetic causes or origins of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Rob Nicolson
Dr. Rob Nicolson is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Medical Biophysics at The University of Western Ontario. He is also Chair of the Division of Developmental Disabilities and co-director of the Autism Centre of Excellence at Western.

Dr. Nicolson is a child psychiatrist whose practice is largely devoted to children and adolescents with autism and intellectual disabilities. He is a psychiatrist in the program at the Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic, Child and Parent Resource Institute in London. In addition to his clinical work, he is engaged in research investigating the brain abnormalities associated with autism and treatments for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Jonathan Weiss
Jonathan Weiss, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at York University and Clinical Psychologist, who works with children, adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. His research focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder or intellectual disabilities. He studies the impact of stressors, such as bullying or transitions, and how cognitive behaviour therapy can help youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder who have mental health problems. Dr. Weiss conducts studies of the changing service needs and barriers to service use for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families across the lifespan. He is involved in many stakeholder engagement initiatives and in a number of committees relevant to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, including the York Region Autism Spectrum Disorder Partnership and the Inter-ministerial Working Group for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In November 2012, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research announced Dr. Weiss as the new Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment and Care Research. He and his team will examine why people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are prone to develop mental health problems, evaluate novel treatment strategies to help youth and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder deal with these issues, and find ways to improve access to care for all. Dr. Weiss also holds a New Investigator Fellowship from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation.

For more information, please visit the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, or contact:

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact:
Communications and Public Affairs
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
905-430-4055 ext. 4001