In the News

Autism Care

Research
Education
Community
Policy

Research

“Future research needs to focus not only on the biological markers of autism 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 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, autism experts from these organizations are coming together to integrate autism 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 autism 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 Autistic individuals, along with their families.

MacART’s founder, Stelios Georgiades, serves on both federal and provincial advisory committees about autism supports/service funding. Along with the wide-ranging expertise of its many autism 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 autism diagnosis, services, 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 Applications - Graduate Award for Innovative Projects in Intellectual Disability and/or Autism Research

MacART is pleased to announce that 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 competition is designed for candidates who demonstrate excellence in their research and are interested in or are pursuing graduate/post-doctoral work related to autism and/or intellectual disability in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Graduate student and post-doctoral fellow awards will be awarded on the recommendation of a selection committee. Funded through the generosity of the estate of Vincent Wager, a variable number of awards will be available each year at a value of $5,000 for Master’s-level students, $10,000 for PhD-level students, and $20,000 for post-doctoral fellows.

Further information on eligibility and how to apply can be found HERE. The deadline for 2023 is Friday July 28th, 2023.

 

MacART at the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Annual Meeting - 2023

The International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) recently gathered in Stockholm, Sweden for the 2023 meeting. From May 3rd – 6th, scientists, researchers, clinicians, policy-makers, and self-advocates came together to share and learn about the latest scientific developments in autism research. This event – which included over 2,100 abstract submissions across 22 topic areas with authors from over 50 countries – exemplifies the international importance of advancement in autism care.

MacART was once again well represented at the 2023 INSAR meeting, giving members an excellent opportunity to share our research findings, exchange ideas and collaborate with other members of the global autism community. This year MacART members contributed to 26 posters, 2 oral presentations, and 2 panel sessions.

The following presentations include those with MacART members as contributors (links to abstracts will be added once available):

 

POSTER PRESENTATIONS:

  • A Scoping Review of Evidence-Based Supports on College and University Campuses for Autistic Post-Secondary Students
    • Including B. Di Rezze
  • Evaluation of a Province-Wide ASD Family Service Navigation Program
    • Including I. O'Connor, J. E. Tarride, & S. Georgiades
  • Altered Signal Complexity in Children and Adolescents with ASD
    • Including J. Frei
  • A Preliminary Investigation of E-I Balance As a Potential Marker of Adaptive Functioning in ASD
    • Including J. Frei
  • Investigating Differences in Resting State Functional Connectivity across Sensory Phenotypes in Autism
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Dataset-Specific Developmental Trajectories of Brain Structure and Function in Neurodevelopmental Conditions: Implications for Replicability
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Frequency-Specific Differences in Rich-Club Organization in Neurodevelopmental Conditions
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Linkage of Whole Genome Sequencing and Administrative Health Data in Autism: A Proof of Concept Study
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Sex Differences in Predictors of Mental Health Symptoms Level and Growth across Childhood in Autism
    • Including E. Duku, T. Bennett, & S. Georgiades
  • Testing the Stability of Co-Occurring Mental Health Difficulties in a Longitudinal Cohort Study of Autistic Youth
    • Including E. Duku, S. Georgiades, P. Szatmari, & T. Bennett
  • Correlates and Turning Points of Adaptive Functioning Trajectories and Longitudinal Associations with Autism Symptoms from Early Childhood to Adolescence
    • Including Y. J. Chen, E. Duku, P. Szatmari, & T. Bennett
  • Investigation of Shifts in the Phenotypic Measures and Sociodemographics of Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Daily Activity Participation across Settings in Autistic Youth: Individual Variability and Temporal Stability
    • Including Y. J. Chen, E. Duku, P. Szatmari, T. Bennett, & S. Georgiades
  • Promoting Meaningful Collaboration between Autism Researchers and the Autistic Community: An Example from the Campus Belonging Network
    • Including B. Di Rezze
  • Ready2Work: A User-Informed Employment Website for Autistic Job Seekers
    • Including B. Di Rezze
  • Anxiety Symptoms in Autistic Children and Adolescents: A Network Perspective
    • Including T. Bennett, E. Duku, S. Georgiades, & P. Szatmari
  • Exploring the Association between Social Skills and Social Communication Impairments and Depression in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Efficacy of the First Years Inventory (FYIv3.1) Infant Screener in Predicting Autism Risk Status at 3 Years of Age
    • Including Y. J. Chen
  • Trajectories of Attention Problems in Children with ASD
    • Including P. Szatmari, T. Bennett, E. Duku, & S. Georgiades
  • The Validity of the Narrative Scoring Scheme in School-Aged Children on the Autism Spectrum
    • Including T. Bennett, E. Duku, S. Georgiades, & P. Szatmari
  • Participation in Standardized Academic Assessments and Academic Achievement of Children with Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Ontario, Canada
    • Including M. Janus, R. Jezrawi
  • Using Endocrine Profile to Identify Subgroups Among Transdiagnostic Neurodivergent Children and Adolescents
    • Including J. A. Foster, P. Szatmari, & S. Georgiades
  • Benefits of an Online Small Group Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Program for Autistic Children during the Pandemic: Evidence from a Community-Based Implementation Study
    • Including V. Lee
  • Screening for Mental Health Concerns Related to COVID-19 Stressors in Caregivers of Autistic Children Using the CoFaSS
    • Including V. Lee
  • Parent Outcomes Following Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Autistic Children in a Community Setting
    • Including V. Lee
  • Well-Being Among Autistic and Non-Autistic People with Intellectual Disability during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    • Including V. Lee

 

 

ORAL PRESENTATIONS:

  • Examining the Replicability of Brain Structure Similarly Networks across Data from the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders Network (POND) and the Healthy Brain Network (HBN)
    • Including S. Georgiades
  • Linking Mouse and Human Brains to Identify Biologically Significant Clusters in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Including S. Georgiades

 

 

PANEL PRESENTATIONS:

  • A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Arbaclofen Vs. Placebo in the Treatment of Children and Adolescents with ASD. The “Arba Study”
    • Including J. Frei
  • The Developmental Impacts of Sensory Features on School-Age Functional Outcomes in Autistic and Non-Autistic Children
    • Including Y. J. Chen

 

Yun-Ju (Claire) Chen presenting her panel presentation titled, "The Developmental Impacts of Sensory Features on School-Age Functional Outcomes in Autistic and Non-Autistic Children".

Dr. Yun-Ju Claire Chen at a podium, presenting a slide about the North Carolina Child Development Survey, a prospective birth cohort study.

Dr. Mackenzie Salt Receiving Funding for a National Needs Assessment for Canadian Autistic Adults

We are excited to share the incredible news that at the 2023 Canadian Autism Leadership Summit the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health announced $214,883 in funding for a project to create and distribute a national needs assessment survey for Autistic adults!

This research project is led by MacART member Dr. Mackenzie Salt in collaboration with the Autism Alliance of Canada, and in partnership with the Sinneave Family Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Azrieli Foundation, as well as MacART and the Canadian Journal of Autism Equity.

With this funding, the Autism Alliance of Canada will develop a survey that will include questions about factors affecting quality of life such as employment, social relationships, health, and daily living. The survey findings will be used to inform a National Autism Strategy. The survey data will also be made publicly available for other researchers, service organizations, and policymakers to use to assist with the development of policies, services, and research projects that directly address identified needs of Autistic adults in Canada.

Dr. Salt, an Autistic adult himself, codesigned the survey with 10 other Autistic adults, making this a project by Autistics for Autistics. Dr. Salt said, "This is a perfect opportunity for Autistic adults to be able to inform the development of policy that will affect us, and for our experiences and perspectives to be heard by the federal government.”   

For more information, please see the Public Health Agency of Canada’s official news release

Dr. Mackenzie Salt and Dr. Jonathan Lai speaking with the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health

Dr. Mackenzie Salt (pictured: right) and Dr. Jonathan Lai (pictured: middle) speaking with

the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health (pictured: left)

 

Towards a Brighter Path for Every Child in Hamilton - Improving Child Health Research Collaboration Across Hamilton

We would like to share the fantastic new funding news and send congratulations to some of our team members and collaborators on their involvement with the Towards a Brighter Path for Every Child in Hamilton project, supported by $1.175 million in funding from the Juravinski Research Institute!

The Brighter Path group is creating a collaborative network across research centres and academic departments at Hamilton Health Sciences/McMaster Children’s Hospital, McMaster University, and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, along with family and community partners. Their aim is to improve collaboration for child health research across Hamilton.

Among our MacART members, Dr. Stelios Georgiades and Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo are involved as co-principal investigators in this exciting initiative!

Please see the Faculty of Health Sciences’ news article to learn more.

Statement from MacART on World Autism Acceptance Day 2023

April 2nd is World Autism Acceptance Day – a day to encourage autism acceptance beyond just awareness and continue to promote inclusion for the over 75 million Autistic individuals across the world. In Canada, 1 in 50 children and youth aged 1 to 17 are Autistic (PHAC, 2022), necessitating the creation of an inclusive world.

The McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART; www.macautism.ca) is thrilled to recognize World Autism Acceptance Day and the beginning of 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 individuals, families, researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers whose lives and work are touched by autism.

The theme of this year’s World Autism Acceptance Day is Transformation: Toward a Neuro-Inclusive World for All, which highlights the need to move away from the objective of ‘curing’ or conforming to a neurotypical way of thinking and being, and instead move toward accepting, including, and supporting Autistic individuals, as well as joining them in advocating for their rights. This is known as the neurodiversity paradigm, a term coined by sociologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s and based on the notion of respecting the importance of heterogeneity in nature and humanity. When we shift the perspective toward autism acceptance, it is possible to focus more attention on how Autistic people contribute positively to the world.

MacART member and Autistic self-advocate Dr. Mackenzie Salt has been collaborating with several researchers on various projects related to the needs and experiences of Autistic adults. Dr. Salt is co-investigator on a SSHRC-funded research project being led by Dr. Stephanie Ehret, a researcher at Trent University, about experiences of Autistic adults in their interactions with the criminal justice system. This is an area in which there is little information, and the project could help inform a national autism strategy. This project involves a national survey, planned to open in April, asking about experiences Autistic adults have had with, as well as their perceptions of, the criminal justice system. Afterwards, Dr. Salt will facilitate focus groups with Autistic adults to discuss individual experiences in more detail and to further qualify the survey responses. “We don’t know what we don’t know so this is an opportunity to listen and to learn,” he says.

Dr. Salt also spoke recently at the CIHR Health System Impact Fellowship National Cohort Retreat on the topic of Equity and Social Justice in Health Research. He spoke passionately about the situation of Autistic adults in Canada saying, “Autistic adults need to be involved in informing and designing the policy that is meant to support us and will affect us. Since a national autism strategy is being developed, now is the time for increased inclusion of Autistics in these policy and research discussions.”

MacART is committed to furthering the transformation in the narrative around neurodiversity to improve the lives of Autistic people, all in the spirit of advancing autism services and supports through meaningful research.

MacART is proud to be supported by our partners:

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

Click here to download a copy of this statement.

Congratulations to Dr. Claire (Yun-Ju) Chen, recipient of the Society for Research in Childhood Development 2023 Early Career Interdisciplinary Scholars Fellowship Program

The McMaster Autism Research Team would like to congratulate our trainee Dr. Claire (Yun-Ju) Chen for being a recipient of the Society for Research in Childhood Development (SRSD) Early Career Interdisciplinary Scholars Fellowship Program!

The fellowship program is established and organized by SRCD’s Interdisciplinary Committee and aims to connect interdisciplinary and psychology/human development scholars, providing a forum in which scientists of various disciplines can share research and interdisciplinary scientific methods. This year’s cohort includes outstanding scholars whose research is related to a diverse range of fields such as early childhood education policy, environmental toxicology and epidemiology, and criminal justice.

Through participating in this fellowship program, Claire is most excited about connecting with and learning from various scholars in the field of developmental psychology to refine her conceptual and methodological lens.

Please see Claire’s full fellowship bio at this link.

We are excited to see Claire’s continued work in advancing autism care through meaningful research.