CASDA – Canadian Autism Leadership Summit 2017

By: Robin Brennan, Director of Autism Services, and Ola Kusnierz, Program Manager – ABA Services and Supports

CASDA is the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to developing a comprehensive National Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Framework. Woodview has been a voting member of CASDA for four years.

CASDA hosts a Leadership Summit each year to engage service providers, researchers, self-advocates, families, and policy makers in discussions to share information about provincial diversity, national initiatives, community based services, and research in the ASD field.

This year’s Summit was held in Ottawa from April 3rd to 5th and included presentations by Senator Jim Munson and MP Mike Lake, as well as a reception on Parliament Hill.

The Summit began with a select group of registrants tackling key areas of employment for youth and adults with autism. Discussion groups brainstormed the core skills job coaches require, possible accreditation of job coaches, development and assessment of key skills for job readiness, as well as reviewing the current national employment initiatives. The opportunity for participation in national working groups was also presented.

Woodview’s Job Train Program, in collaboration with MacART and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), garnered much interest from across the country. The Job Train Program teaches 15 to 17 year olds with ASD work readiness skills through a 12 week Job Club, while providing 8 weeks of paid job coach supported summer employment at McMaster University.

Dr. Jonathan Weiss was the highlight of day two. He presented his work to date as the Chair in ASD Treatment and Care Research. Dr.Weiss’ research focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with ASD, including cognitive-behavioural and social skill interventions to promote resilience and improve the mental health of children and adults with ASD.

The Secret Agent Society, an evidence based intervention for 8-12 year olds developed by Dr. Renae Beaumont at the University of Queensland in Australia, was featured as having excellent outcomes for children with ASD experiencing difficulties with anger, sadness / depression, and /or anxiety .

My Mind, mindfulness training for adolescents with ASD and their parents, was another intervention presented by Dr. Weiss that is having positive results.

The Summit ended with a day filled with break-out groups discussing promising practices under four themes: Employment Readiness and Transition; Family Supports and Navigation; Building Community Capacity; and Community Engagement and Quality of Life.

The Summit was a wonderful opportunity to learn, share, and connect with people from across Canada while representing Woodview and promoting our ASD programs.

CASDA Robin

Robin Brennan, Director of Autism Services with Dr Stelios Georgiades and Dr Briano DeRiezzi from MacART
at the CASDA leadership summit in Ottawa, presenting the Job Train Program poster.

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