Statement from MacART on World Autism Awareness Day 2020

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.

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day – a day to recognize all those individuals around the world who live on the autism spectrum. Here in Canada, 1 in 66 children are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); globally, more than 70 million people live with autism.

Usually autism-friendly events and activities would be taking place throughout the month with the goal of increasing understanding of autism and inspiring everybody to be kinder and more inclusive. Unfortunately, this year things are going to be different. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most events are being postponed and cancelled and many people are doing their part to protect public health by staying home. This is a challenging time for everybody, but especially our families living with autism. With many schools and services closed, this can mean a change to routines and a loss of support. Our message this year is to keep the spirit of Word Autism Month alive and strive to provide kindness and support whenever possible.

The McMaster Autism Research Team (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.

Over the past year MacART has made exciting progress in moving forward policy at various levels. We have been involved in the push for a National Autism Strategy – which would not only facilitate the development and implementation of the large collaborations needed to advance our understanding of autism, but would help translate research evidence into improved policies and practices for those living with autism. At the provincial level, MacART’s Training & Education lead Dr. Mohammad Zubairi served as an expert member of the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) Advisory Panel. “The recommendations put out by OAP Advisory Panel reflect many important conversations and careful consideration of feedback from families and stakeholders representing different sectors,” says Dr. Zubairi.  “It lays out a framework that lends itself to a lot of creativity and collective problem-solving to ensure children and youth and their families get the best support that they need.”

In these difficult times it is critical to ensure families receive the support they need, and we hope that our work will have that sort of widespread impact. Some of our projects and collaborations will look a bit different than usual during this time of physical distancing, but our collaborative work towards advancing autism care through meaningful research will continue.

 

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.