Photo of umbrellas falling from the sky. It is sunny, and the umbrellas are yellow, and various shades of blue.

The Research Exchange Group on Autism is open to the public; the presentations hosted by this group will be of interest to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families/caregivers as well as to the research community. The Research Exchange Group on Autism meets regularly to discuss research, review funding opportunities and collaborate on research projects. The group also provides a forum where students, researchers, policy makers and the general public can meet to discuss issues related to autism. The Research Exchange Group on Autism was founded in partnership with the Autism Research Committee. 

See Group Activities and Presentations

Group Conveners

  • Dr. Andreae Callanan is autistic, is a writer, and attained her Ph.D. in 2023 Ph.D. in English literature at Memorial University.  Her research includes poetry and autism, lived experience of autism and autism memoir, among other areas of exploration into the world of neurodversity.
  • Rachel Hogan is a Navigator at the Autism Society Newfoundland & Labrador

 Goals & Objectives

The Research Exchange Group on Autism aims to:

  • Create trans-disciplinary research linkages
  • Identify gaps in existing research literature
  • Work towards developing greater overall capacity to conduct research on Autism Spectrum Disorder


Group Activities & Presentations

(Reverse chronological order) 

December 12, 2023 at 12:30PM NT |  Dr. Patty Douglas on Re•Storying Autism in Education, a multimedia story making project that brings together Autistic people, family members, educators, practitioners and artists to rethink education in ways that desire the difference of Autism. Autistic students often experience misunderstanding, stigma and violence at school. Our creative research explores new practices to (re)value difference and centre disability justice. | Patty Douglas | BA, BEd, MA, PhD is the Chair in Student Success and Wellness and an Associate Professor of Disability Studies in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. and is also the Director and Principal Investigator of Re•Storying Autism in Education which received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada | Insight Grant:

November 15, 2023 at 12:30PM NT | The Intersection of Neurodiversity and Employment | Andrew Dixon is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Student (Anthropology, Bioethics, Sociology, and Social Work) at the School of Graduate Studies at Memorial University.  Andrew will speak to the group about his Ph.D. research project  on the intersection of neurodiversity and employment which he is now conducting under the supervision of Dr. Robin Whitaker(Sociology/Anthropology) and Dr. Laura Pacheco (Social Work). The study aims to examine the lived experience of neurodiversity in employees and managers and consists of ethnographic field work in a variety of locations across the province and at the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. For this research study, Andrew will be speaking with two groups of individuals: Persons identifying as neurodivergent who are seeking or maintaining employment. (The term Neurodivergent includes but is not limited to autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia, mental health differences, epilepsy, developmental language differences, down syndrome, sensory processing differences, or obsessive-compulsive disorder; or Employers, managers, or supervisors who are either neurodivergent or who possess some experience leading at least one neurodivergent employee. Employers can be included in this study if they have yet to gain experience with neurodiversity but would like more inclusive hiring and management practices. Pending ethics approval, the interviews will require approximately one hour; other aspects of the fieldwork are forecasted to take approximately 12 months.

April 11, 2023 at 2:30pm Newfoundland Time | Autism and Music with Kent Godfrey. Kent Godfrey explores whether or not humans can reap the benefits associated with the concept “music” by experiencing tone, rhythm, melody, and harmony through senses in addition to sound. He has been fascinated by disability, the arts, and the senses his entire life.  Kent’s education includes a BA in acting from the University of Iowa, a Professional Diploma in dance studies from the Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, an MA in special education from Converse College, a Professional Diploma in clowning  from Ringling Bros. Clown College, and post-graduate work in interdisciplinary studies at Washington State University.  Additionally, he has performed in a Deaf theatre company, described plays to blind audience members, and developed a system for presenting performances to blind audiences.


December 1 2022 | Dr. Amy Laurent on Autism Level UP! Instead of trying to control the behaviors of individuals with autism to make them indistinguishable from the general public, Amy Laurent, PhD, OTR/L suggests a positive shift in focus that supports the development of their emotional skills. Dr. Laurent is a developmental psychologist and a registered pediatric occupational therapist specializing in the education of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities. The majority of her work involves collaborating with and supporting early intervention teams, school teams, and families. Her consultative services focus on the creation of educational programs and environments that facilitate active engagement and learning at home, in schools, and throughout their communities. Amy is an adjunct faculty member for the Department of Psychology at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI. She teaches courses focused on Developmental Psychology. Previously, she has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Communication Disorders Department at Emerson College and at the University of Rhode Island. In these roles, she developed graduate courses focused on preparing clinicians to meet the needs of children with autism, as well as the needs of their families.

 November  25 2022 | David Gray Hammond and Tanya Adkin on Autistic Identity and Addictions. David Gray-Hammond (he/him) is a consultant and advocate in the fields of Autistic mental health, well-being, and addictions in the UK.  He  works as a young person’s mentor for Gecko Community CIO, where he supports neurodivergent young people with trauma and burnout. He is also working with Gecko to set up a project to support young substance users with matters of addiction and criminal exploitation. After overcoming addiction and psychosis himself, David was diagnosed Autistic. Tanya Adkin is an Autism Specialist, trainer and consultant and has worked with vulnerable groups in varying capacities for the past 17 years. She has dedicated the past 7 years to working specifically with Autistic people and their families. Tanya offers a unique and holistic approach as a professional, an Autistic adult and a parent of Autistic children. As an Autism Specialist, Tanya’s work is varied: she works with and takes referrals from a number of professionals such as consultant psychiatrists, social workers, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups etc. Tanya works with families, professionals, children, young people and adults and is often seen as a link between Autistic people, their families and services.

October 26 2022 | Empowered Parents: Cultivating Calm, Connected Families with Lisa Pinhorn. Empowered Parents (formerly Feeding Futures) is the brainchild of Holistic Nutritionist & Social Worker Laurie Pinhorn and Holistic Family Interventionist Lisa Pinhorn. A few years ago, Lisa and Laurie completely redesigned their support/intervention programs to include parental self-care elements, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,  Polyvagal approaches, therapeutic yoga, and more neuroscience. They met with world leaders like Kristen Neff of The Centre For Self-Compassion and learned all they could from people like Russ Harris of The Happiness Trap. For the past few years, Lisa has been supporting learners from all over the world to learn about Self-Regulation through her work at The MEHRIT Centre. Each day Empowered Parents supports and teaches families in NL how holistic health impacts childhood anxiety, autism, ADHD, OCD and trauma treatments in our children. Through years of research and practice, Lisa and Laurie have created a hands-on, family-focused, child-directed, and highly motivational approach to therapies.

October 6 2022 | Dr. Gregory Wallace of George Washington U on behavioral and health-related metrics among autistic older adults. Greg Wallace, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at  George Washington University. His research focuses on neuropsychological and structural brain development in autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders across the lifespan and their impacts on real-world outcomes. Dr. Wallace has published extensively and presented his work widely on autism and related topics.

September 16 2022 | Dr. B Blair Braden from the Autism and Brain Aging Lab at Arizona State University on neuroscience, the aging brain, and autism. Dr. B. Blair Braden received her doctorate in behavioral neuroscience - psychology from ASU in 2012 and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. She is an assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences and director of the Autism and Brain Aging Laboratory.

May 6, 2022 10:00am-11:15am Newfoundland time | Autism & Employment: The Autism Spectrum Support Team at the Community Employment Collaboration | For autistic people, just as for everyone, career development spans the lifetime. It begins with our first family responsibilities, builds as we engage in our communities, and if we plan it well, translates into meaningful engagement in the workforce. If we are blessed with a long and healthy life, career development can continue with considerable community contributions following retirement. The Community Employment Collaboration connects a variety of partners interested in working across agencies and departments to build professional practice and find solutions to emerging challenges in employment. This presentation highlighted the work of the CEC’s Autism Spectrum Support Team (ASST) which consists of Career Development Practitioners (CDP) from community, government and post-secondary institutions. In partnership with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, the partners in ASST are working as a mentoring learning network to:

  • Build ASD knowledge and expertise in the career & employment sector
  • Gather and share resources between practitioners delivering frontline services delivery and mentorship
  • Provide support and mentorship to colleagues

...all in an effort to provide the highest quality supports and services to individuals on the spectrum |  Julia Bloomquist is an independent CDP supporting creative and entrepreneurial job seekers to invite more joy, clarity, and purpose in their lives. She also facilitates CEC collaborative teams. |Elayne Greeley through her work as a broker with the Community Employment Collaboration help CDPs (career development practitioners) work collaboratively across organizations, departments and sectors. Elayne shares information, connects practitioners and promotes the work of career development and employment partners.

 April 25 2022 at 12:30pm Newfoundland Time |Executive Function and the Autism Spectrum | Nicole Eddy, M.Sc. Student (Experimental Psychology) at Memorial University and Program Facilitator at the Autism Society of NL |Executive Function (EF) involves the neurological processes behind how we organize environmental information, how we plan, and how we direct behaviour. EF components have been found to be related to mathematical performance in the general population. Individuals on the autism spectrum often experience challenges with executive functioning, challenges that are often referred to as “executive dysfunction.” In terms of mathematical abilities, autistic individuals also display a very widespread pattern of mathematical achievement as measured by IQ, with both below-expected and above-expected performance. Moreover, autistic individuals are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a math-based learning disability than the general population. Nicole Eddy has undertaken a study that compared the relationship of EF and math performance in an autistic youth sample (research participants were 12-18 years old) as compared to participants in a non-autistic sample. The research hypothesized that if differences in mathematics performance exist between the two groups, such differences could largely be explained by challenges in autistic Executive Function. The results of this study may have implications for how the academic achievement of autistic individuals is viewed, and possibly inform interventions targeting EF in this population.

February 10, 2022 at 1230pm NST | How I Learned to Stop Normalling and Love Being AutisticWhat happens when we stop viewing autism as a problem to be solved, and start approaching it from a place of love, admiration, and respect? From her unique vantage point as a neurodivergent scholar, autism parent, and critical autism studies researcher in the humanities, Andreae Callanan examined the generative potential of autistic thinking, sensing, and knowing. Drawing from poetry, memoir, activism, philosophy, stand-up comedy, social media, and disability studies, and reflecting on her own life experiences, Andreae asks: what are the stories we tell about autism? Who do those stories benefit, and who do they hurt? What happens when we shift the narrative away from autistic suffering and toward autistic exuberance, wisdom, pleasure, and joy? About our presenter: Andreae Callanan is a PhD candidate at Memorial, a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholar, and a Vanier Canada scholar. Her paper, “You don’t have to be autistic to write poetry, but it helps: some thoughts on neurodiversity, subjectivity, and the poetic tradition,” was awarded Best Oral Presentation at the 2021 GSU Aldrich Interdisciplinary Conference, and her debut poetry collection The Debt (Biblioasis 2021) was hailed by the Toronto Star as “crisp, forthright, and imbued with the music in commonplace language.”  You can also read Andreae's essay on Autism and ablesim here


December 6, 2021 | 12:30pm NST | The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA) with Dr. Jonathan Lai, Executive Director. |  CASDA was founded in 2007, shortly after the Senate Committee Report “Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis” sent a clear message to the autism community: We need to work together with a unified voice.  The founding members of CASDA believed that Canada needed a National Autism Strategy. In 2019, the federal government initiated its work on this strategy and CASDA's role evolved towards working with government and mobilizing experts from across the country.  CASDA will play an active part in developing a robust National Autism Strategy that ensures that all Autistic people in Canada have full and equal access to the resources they require to achieve their full potential. CASDA envisions a National Autism Strategy that will consider the full lifespan and range of needs of Autistic people and their families.

 November 22, 2021 at 12:30pm NST | Autism, Parenting, and Critical Disability Studies with Andrew DixonIn research about autistic adults, there is work being done on sexual health, joining the workforce, and independent living. There is, however, very little research being done to address the next phase of life: parenting. Comprehensive sexual health education states that education requires more than just information about intercourse, STIs, and pregnancy - it must also include support for both unwanted and wanted pregnancy and information that supports parenting.  What literature is available about the intersection of parenting and disability typically involves child protection interventions. However, relying on foster care services, grandparents, or other extended family members to fill the gap is a poor substitute for preparedness. Based on cues from the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities (NRCPD) in the United States, Andrew Dixon is undertaking an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. project that will investigate how we support autistic parents. In the NRCPD's document "Advice and information for professionals working with parents on the autism spectrum," he is looking at the core recommendations that autistic parents would like professionals to understand. This foundational work requires unpacking: Prenatal/perinatal/post-natal medicine practices, Myths of independent parenting, Child protection services, Early parenting supports, K-12 interactions between autistic parents and teachers and other related issues.  This research  project is in the beginning phases of development.

October 25, 2021 | 12:30pm NST | ASD Research: Past, Present, and Future |Kimberly Maich is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University. She is also an Ontario Certified Teacher, Board-Certified Behaviour Analyst (Doctoral), and Registered Psychologist, who focuses her research and clinical practice related to autism—as often as possible. Dr. Maich discussed numerous research projects, including her work on Canadian perspectives on Autism, Autism and housing, ASD case studies, ASD and parents, picture books, sexuality, media representations, ASD and social skills …. and the potential to build a Research Centre on Autism for this province in the future.

September 14, 2021 | 2:00pm NST | Planning Session for the 2021-2022 academic year.

September 8, 2021 | 12:30pm NST | Tour of the 365 Greenhouse at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism/ Autism Society of NL |Together with the Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy, we kicked off the Fall 2021 Season with a guided tour (provided by the Autism Society of NL) of the 365 Greenhouse at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism at 70 Clinch Crescent in St. John’s. We met the greenhouse team and learned about how the Autism Society Newfoundland Labrador and Iron & Earth East teamed up on the first greenhouse of its kind to be built in this province, among the first net-metering projects to be connected to the provincial grid. The 365 Greenhouse Project showcases renewable energy technologies, highlights issues surrounding food sustainability and serves as a community-building and educational tool. The greenhouse operates year-round benefiting from natural light during the standard growing season and generating the heat and light required for growing during the winter using photovoltaic (PV) modules. The 365 Greenhouse also benefits people with autism spectrum disorder through the Good Roots Gardening Program and also supports the ASNL’s social enterprise, The Pantry Cafe.

March 22, 2021 | Autism Society-NL (ASNL): Programming Update & Research Potential | Julia Pender, Navigator, on behalf of  Sarah White, Manager of Programs and Services at the Autism Society of NL | This presentation provided an update on ASNL’s many programs and services, highlighting the challenges and opportunities that have unfolded as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to virtual services. We also introduced our membership to ASNL’s new Chief Executive Officer, J. Paul Walsh.  After the presentation we had a discussion about research potential and opportunities for collaboration among university faculty and student researchers, health system partners, and ASNL. | Link to Presentation | 


December 14, 2020 | ASD-Specific Housing Supports Analysis | Dr. Sharon Penney, Dr. Kimberly Maich, Robyn Cossitt | This presentation discussed the results of a needs assessment conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador that quantifies, frames, and contextualizes the processes and/or problems experienced by adults with ASD while accessing housing in NL. The study uses a sequential mixed methodology approach, applying quantitative and qualitative methods to determine the current housing situation, gaps in services, and possible solutions. After completing an initial literature review of provincial, Canadian, and international sources, the research team conducted 19 interviews with adults with ASD, caregivers/parents of adults with ASD, and service providers to determine the current needs, barriers and experiences when accessing and maintaining housing. Using data and directions collected from the interviews, the research team developed an ongoing online survey to reach a greater number of participants. Preliminary findings from participant interviews and surveys identify three significant areas of concern: life span development and developmentally appropriate practices; vulnerability and discrimination; and accessibility. Participation in this study offered community members the chance to influence the future of supportive housing for people with ASD in NL, hopefully minimizing gaps in services. 

October 6, 2020 | Briefing on the Province's New ASD Action Plan | Lisa Baker Worthman, Department of Health and Community Services | Link to Presentation |

November 4, 2020 | Healthy Relationships and Sexuality for Young Adults with ASD Program | Jennifer Spracklin, registered clinical sexologist | The presenation provided an overview of an evidence-based program offered by the Autism Society of NL. The presentation covered information about the program and related services. So far, feedback about the program has been overwhelmingly positive. | Link to Presentation | 

 February 26, 2020 | Canadian Association for Autistic Collaboration, Information Session | Trudy Goold | The presentation provided information about a new organization in which people with autism can connect with eachother, researchers, and policy makers. | Link to Presentation |


November 12, 2019 | ABA Access: Software to Aid Online Delivery of Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy | Mark Gauci | ABA Access is a St. John’s-based IT company that is developing specialized interactive software for the online delivery of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. Its goal is to offer parents of autistic children the tools to continue with therapy under the supervision of a senior therapist when their child’s regular therapist is unavailable. This interactive digital health solution allows children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to receive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy without physical interaction with a therapist and to better co-ordinate patient data between therapists. |

 October 4, 2019 | Parent Early Detection and Intervention of ASD Signs in Infants At-Risk | Dr. Maurice Feldman, Dept. of Applied Disability Studies, Brock University and Dr. Rebecca Ward, Phoenix Centre for Learning and Dept. of Applied Disability Studies, Brock University | Drs. Feldman and Ward presented three studies from their ASD lab. The first describes the validation of the Parent Observation of Early Markers Scale (POEMS), a 61-item parent report checklist that tracks the development of at-risk children from birth to 36 months. The second study focuses on the relationship between family history of medical, developmental and psychiatric conditions and POEMS scores in infants at low and high risk for ASD. The third study shows how the POEMS can be used to identify early intervention targets and the effectiveness of parent-mediated early intervention for pre-diagnosed at-risk young children. Taken together, these studies show that the POEMS is a low-cost, valid screener that can detect risk of ASD in infants and that parent mediated early intervention may remediate early ASD signs in these children. | Link to Presentation |

September 12, 2019 | The Use of Horticultural Therapy Practices in the Autism Society of NL's Transitions Program | Megan Marshall | The presentation discussed how the Transitions program taps into communicative and social skill issues that people with Autism face by using Horticultural Therapy approaches and how these approaches help teach functional employment skills. | Link to Presentation |


November 8, 2018 | Autism and Entrepreneurship |  Gregory Knott | The presentation provided an examination of the effectiveness of self-employment as a model to address the economic isolation experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorder. | Link to Presentation | 

October 4, 2018 | Autism and Sensory Processing: An Overview From Lived Experience |  Trudy Goold | Link to Presentation | 

March 14, 2018 | Managing the Wait for Autism Spectrum Disorder Services in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Grounded Theory Study | Joanne Smith Young | Link to Presentation

February 7, 2018 | Lessons Learned from Children with ASD at Sassy Tuna Studios | Julie Lewis | Link to Presentation |


October 25, 2017 | The Worktopia Project | Ann MacDougall, Coordinator, Employment Works (Worktopia) | The presentation provided an overview of a new and federally-funded program by EmploymentWorks Canada (EWC) that offers 12 weeks of employment readiness training for young adults on the spectrum who are no longer in school and are seeking opportunities to build employability. | Link to Program Information |


March 29, 2016 | "Journey to the Janeway's Autism Clinic" | Phil Murphy, MSc., Data Consultant/Analyst, Perinatal Program Newfoundland and Labrador | Link to Presentation |


October 8, 2015 | Incidence and Cohort Prevalence for Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador | Dr. Roger Chafe | Link to Presentation


February 26, 2014 | "Barriers and Facilitators to Accessing Services for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder" | Dr. Rick Audas | Link to Presentation |


November 4, 2013 | Challenges Associated with a Diagnosis of ASD | Dr. Sharon Penney | Link to Presentation | 


February 2012 | Improving the Transitioning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Adult Care. | Dr. Roger Chafe | Link to Presentation |