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.

Call for Postdoctoral Fellows!

MacART is pleased to announce a call for Postdoctoral Fellows!  Applications are now open for McMaster’s Martha and Vincent Wagar Intellectual Disability and Autism Research Fund award, for innovative projects in the area of intellectual disability and/or autism research.

This annual award is designed for candidates who demonstrate excellence in their research and are interested in pursuing postdoctoral work related to autism and/or intellectual disability in McMaster University's Faculty of Health Sciences. This postdoctoral fellowship will be awarded on the recommendation of a selection committee. Funded through the generosity of the estate of Vincent Wager, the award will provide support of $56,000 for one year; funds may be used to cover salary and/or reimburse expenditures including conference travel/fees, workshops, and other expenses as deemed eligible by the selection committee.

Further information on eligibility and how to apply can be found HERE.  The deadline for 2022 is Friday June 3rd, 2022.

 

New publication - program evaluation of a pilot mobile developmental outreach clinic

A new paper by members of our team published in BMC Health Services Research describes a program evaluation of a pilot mobile developmental outreach clinic for autism spectrum disorder in Ontario. MacART collaborated with our colleagues from the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) on this evaluation of the Mobile Developmental Outreach Clinic (M-DOC) – a program led by SAAAC and designed to help families act early and to help their children receive important support services. The mobile aspect of this clinic allowed their team to deliver community-based, point of care service to vulnerable populations by meeting families where they are.

Lead author Mahdis Kamali, a PhD candidate in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University, spearheaded this evaluation and noted, “I am thrilled to play a role in the recognition of the important work SAAAC leads in delivering accessible services to vulnerable families. We hope to use this evidence to advocate for increased services for all underserved families in Ontario and beyond.”

The mobile delivery model of the M-DOC highlights opportunities for other programs and organizations to adopt a similar outreach approach, providing the means to increase access to services for hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations.  

This academic article is available to read here.

Statement from MacART on World Autism Awareness Day 2022

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day – an internationally recognized day to continue raising awareness of autism spectrum disorder, and to promote acceptance and inclusion for the over 75 million autistic people across the globe. In Canada, the latest statistics (PHAC, 2022) tell us that 1 in 50 children and youth aged 1 to 17 are diagnosed with autism, highlighting the necessity and importance of creating an inclusive world.

As always, the McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART; www.macautism.ca) is excited to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, kicking off World Autism Month. 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 autism. MacART is designed to foster collaboration among the families, researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers whose lives and work are touched by autism.

The theme of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day is inclusive education, tied in closely to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #4 - ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as the foundation for improving people’s lives and reducing inequalities. Ensuring quality inclusive education for people on the autism spectrum is essential; a report recently released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (February 2022) noted that more than 75% of Canadian autistic children attending school had special education needs (compared to just 13% of those without autism). The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in school closures over the past two years, impacting an estimated 90% of students worldwide and disrupting learning that has only exacerbated inequalities in education.

MacART member Dr. Magdalena Janus focuses her research on early child development – including investigating children’s developmental health at school entry. Her work has shown that, even before receiving a diagnosis, children diagnosed with autism by age 9 show observable and meaningful differences in kindergarten classroom behaviours. Population-level research has indicated that most children diagnosed with autism by school entry show challenges as measured by the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which is highly predictive of their later academic and adjustment pathways – but research also showed that factors such as higher neighborhood advantage was associated with lower levels of these developmental challenges. The EDI is a tool that can be used to explore such social determinants of health and assess programs that prepare children for school.

In collaboration with McMaster Children’s Hospital and its regional partners, the EDI will be used in their new Entry to School Program to measure the extent to which this school readiness program helps young children, their families, and their educators, smoothly transition into school. “We know that development in kindergarten is a powerful predictor of children’s later social behaviour, academic achievement, and even health,” says Dr. Janus, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. “This is a unique opportunity to assess how such school readiness programs can help provide a successful transition to school.”

MacART is proud to be supported by our partners:

  • McMaster Children’s Hospital & McMaster Children's Hospital Research Collaborative
  • Hamilton Health Sciences & Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation
  • McMaster University

​Click here to download a copy of this statement.

MacART member awarded CIHR Health Impact Systems Fellowship

MacART is excited to announce that one of our members, Dr. Mackenzie Salt, has been awarded a Health System Impact Fellowship from CIHR. The HSI Fellowship supports innovative research that aims to address critical challenges within health systems. 

The fellowship project is a partnership with the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA) and co-funded with the Azrieli Foundation and Mitacs. It will involve the creation of a model for evaluating health services for autistic adults that could be applied across Canada. This framework will be informed by experts, clinicians, parents, autistic adults, and policymakers, and will be based on the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health framework, which focuses on functional abilities rather than diagnostic labels.

Recently in Canada, an estimated 1 in 66 children are diagnosed with Autism, making this research even more important to help inform health services for the emerging generation of autistic adults. As CASDA is a non-profit coalition of organizations and individuals guiding the federal government's development of a comprehensive National Autism Strategy, it is well-positioned to support this work. A streamlined, cohesive model for evaluating health services for autistic adults can help build capacity for knowledge sharing of lessons learned and work to implement effective and acceptable service processes and outcomes for autistic adults across the country. 

We are pleased to support this research program, which is an exemplar of the continued partnership between MacART and CASDA and the mission to advance autism care through meaningful research.

Statement from MacART on World Autism Awareness Day 2021

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day – a day to continue raising awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and to promote acceptance and inclusion for the 70 million individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorder around the globe. In Canada, 1 in 66 children are diagnosed with Autism, highlighting the importance of creating a more inclusive world for our next generation.

The McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART; www.macautism.ca) is excited 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 Autism. MacART is designed to foster collaboration among the families, researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers whose lives and work are touched by Autism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives in different ways, including having serious consequences for employment. It can be difficult for people with Autism to find regular, supportive employment, and these challenges are likely exacerbated by the pandemic. With the theme of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day focusing on the importance of workplace inclusivity and inclusive employment programmes, particularly in light of the pandemic, we want to recognize the MacART members who are contributing to such research efforts. Research led by MacART trainee Irene O’Connor and supported by MacART members Drs. Briano Di Rezze and Geoff Hall, and their teams, are building evidence on the importance of specialized support roles, such as job coaches; their work has outlined key characteristics that job coaches provide in supporting youth and adults with Autism in the workplace.

“This pandemic has challenged us to keep progressing our Autism research in ways that adapt to our new environment,” says Dr. Di Rezze, Associate Professor in McMaster University’s School of Rehabilitation Science, whose research focuses on examining the impact of interventions on participation in everyday life –  including employment. “Keeping our research focus on employment and Autism has been important because finding and maintaining jobs in this pandemic has been especially challenging for people with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.”

MacART is continually forming and strengthening collaborations with our partners to help build frameworks that can better support families and promote an inclusive world for those on the spectrum. These efforts build toward our goal of advancing Autism care through meaningful research.

 

MacART is proud to be supported by our partners:

  • McMaster Children’s Hospital & McMaster Children's Hospital Research Collaborative
  • Hamilton Health Sciences & Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation
  • McMaster University

 

Click here to download a copy of this statement.

Announcing the launch of the Pediatric Autism Research Cohort (PARC) study

We are pleased to announce the launch of the multisite Pediatric Autism Research Cohort (PARC) study, which aims to examine the diverse and changing trajectories of children with autism and their families. Read more here.

MacART co-director named inaugural chairholder of new McMaster Children’s Hospital Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopment

We would like to send congratulations to MacART co-director, Dr. Stelios Georgiades, on being appointed as the inaugural chairholder of the new McMaster Children’s Hospital Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopment. 

This prestigious new position has been established through the support of Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, as well as with the support of our community collaborators – the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance, Autism Ontario, Autism Speaks Canada, and the Sinneave Family Foundation.

As Chair, Dr. Georgiades will continue and expand much of the work already underway including research into different facets of the course and presentation of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), building partnerships and networks with community organizations who are working in this area, supporting individuals and their families living with ASD, and advocating at a provincial and national level for much needed changes that will benefit these populations.

“There are so many inequalities across Canada for children with autism and neurodevelopmental conditions, and what is available often depends on where you live and how much money you have to supplement public funds for intervention,” says Dr. Georgiades. “We are working collaboratively with families and stakeholders to change this, building regional, provincial, and national networks that integrate research, training, practice and policy.”

This is a well-deserved achievement for our colleague and an exciting opportunity for exponentially advancing autism research and collaboration!

An official statement can be found HERE

The announcement event was also recorded, and can be found here:

Supporting the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ Autism Assessment

The federal government has committed to work with provinces, territories, self-advocates, families and stakeholders toward the creation of a National Autism Strategy. The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) has been selected by the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct an autism assessment that will inform the government ahead of the creation of this national strategy.  This process will involve significant engagement and participation from autistic individuals, families, stakeholders and key national, local and grassroots organizations to support consultation on a wide range of issues including economic inclusion (in particular employment and housing), social inclusion, and evidence-based intervention and therapies.

An Oversight Panel and three Working Groups have been developed to provide leadership for this assessment, and are made up of autistic adults, parents, clinicians, and researchers. The Oversight Panel’s work will be supported by the Working Groups that will focus on:

MacART Co-Director Stelios Georgiades has been named Vice Chair to the Evidence-Based Interventions Working Group, and is also an Oversight Panel member. Congratulations to Stelios on his appointment to the panel – we look forward to seeing the feedback gathered from this important work! 

 

Results from the Pandemic Canadian Autism Needs Assessment now available!

The McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART) is pleased to announce the release of results from the Pandemic Canadian Autism Needs Assessment. We were proud to partner with Autism Speaks Canada and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA) to develop, implement, and analyze the Pandemic Canadian Autism Needs Assessment – a survey where respondents shared their experiences to help inform on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the first survey of the COVID-19 pandemic capturing the unique impact on the autism community in Canada. With over 1000 respondents taking part (21% on the spectrum), some key results show that: 

  • Over 75% of respondents reported feeling stressed, worried, and anxious

  • Over 50% of respondents said maintaining personal routines/children’s routines as well as keeping a healthy lifestyle (including sleep and exercise) were difficult

  • Respondents identified services and supports that they needed but were not receiving such as, recreational programing, financial supports, and access to health professionals.

 

We are grateful to participants for their input during these unprecedented times, and to our partners for this collaboration. The information shared by respondents will be used to inform organizations of what services and supports are most needed and helpful for autistic people and families during this time and to inform government of the need for increased supports for the autism community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergency situations.

 

To access the report results, please visit https://www.autismspeaks.ca/pandemicsurvey/ 

MacART at the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit 2020

On October 5th and 6th, 2020, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) held its 6th Canadian Autism Leadership Summit. The Summit’s theme this year was “Connect. Inform. Act. Sustain.” – focusing on deepening the conversation on how to link policy, practice and data around the development of a National Autism Strategy.

MacART was once again well represented at the Summit, with our members sharing our research findings, exchanging ideas, and collaborating with other members of the national autism community. This year, MacART members contributed to 6 poster presentations and participated in 2 panels. Our Founder and Co-Director Stelios Georgiades led the summit’s Keynote presentation.

“Our McMaster team has answered the call by Canada’s autism community” says Dr. Georgiades. “Our experts are working on several initiatives related to the creation of a National Autism Strategy. The knowledge generated through our research projects is advancing the autism field. Our collaborative efforts with CASDA to connect research with policy and practice are now more important than ever. I am optimistic that we are on the right track toward a national strategy that will address the needs of all autistic Canadians.”

Our members took part in the following:

Keynote session, Day 1: Pathways in ASD Team  on “Developmental Pathways of Canadian Children on the Autism Spectrum”

  • This presentation provided an update on the "Pathways in ASD" study, the largest autism follow-up study in the world. The "Pathways in ASD" research team, led by MacART Co-Director Dr. Stelios Georgiades, discussed evidence on the individual, family, community, and services factors that influence the developmental pathways in autistic children/youth from across 5 Canadian provinces.

 

Poster Presentations:

  • The Family Check-Up: Engaging Families in Child Mental Health Prevention and CareDr. Teresa Bennett
  • Association Between Neighbourhood Socioeconomic Status and Development of Children with Autism Spectrum DisorderDr. Ayesha Siddiqua
    • A video recording of this presentation can be viewed here.
  • Peer Mentorship Programs for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A qualitative reviewLinda Nguyen
    • A video recording of this presentation can be viewed here.
  • Presenting the Results of Autism Speaks Canada COVID-19 Pandemic Needs Assessment SurveyDr. Mackenzie Salt and Peter Soliman
    • A video recording of this presentation can be viewed here.
  • Evaluation of Autism Ontario’s Service Navigation Program – Irene O’Connor, Dr. Jean-Eric Tarride & Dr. Stelios Georgiades
  • Clarifying the Word “Information” in Autism PolicyDr. Stephen Gentles
    • A video recording of this presentation can be viewed here.

 

Panel Discussions:

  • IGNITE Speakers Equity panel – Addressing Disparities in a National Autism Strategy: an Equity Lens – discussant Dr. Mackenzie Salt
  • Policy Group Consultations  – discussant Dr. Stephen Gentles

 

As CASDA continues to facilitate the work toward a National Autism Strategy, MacART is proud to support this important goal. From implementing our research studies, to supporting the development of policy briefs, to collaborating on projects with our community partners, the hope is that the evidence generated can be used to inform the creation of a strategy that will support Canada’s autism community in a meaningful way.

MacART members presenting at the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit 2020. From top left to right: Irene O’Connor, Jean-Eric Tarride, Stelios Georgiades, Terry Bennett, Mackenzie Salt. From bottom left to right: Ayesha Siddiqua, Eric Duku, Peter Szatmari, Linda Nguyen, Steve Gentles.

MacART members presenting at the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit 2020. From top left to right: Irene O’Connor,
Jean-Eric Tarride, Stelios Georgiades, Terry Bennett, Mackenzie Salt. From bottom left to right: Ayesha Siddiqua,
Eric Duku, Peter Szatmari, Linda Nguyen, Steve Gentles.