- Heather Brown, PhD, MEd - Assistant Professor, University of Alberta
Dr. Heather Brown is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Education Psychology in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. She is also an autistic professional who studies autism. Her research focuses on examining what it means to “thrive” for individuals on the spectrum. She aims to create reasonable expectations around what it means to function adaptively with autism and to highlight all the ways in which people with autism are already thriving. By doing so, her research is poised to empower individuals with autism to be more self-confident in their neurodiversity and to develop a better understanding of the factors that most support their well-being.
- Patrick Dwyer, MA - PhD Candidate, UC Davis
Patrick is an autistic graduate student in developmental psychology. His main research interest is using various methods (including electrophysiology, questionnaires, psychophysics, etc.) to explore sensory processing and attention in autism, as well as heterogeneity in sensory processing. Patrick also has strong side-interests in topics such as education, behaviour intervention, and neurodiversity theory; broadly, Patrick is interested in anything relevant to the well-being of autistic people. Along with TC, Patrick is a co-founder and co-chair of the Autistic Researchers Committee at the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and is also part of the online postsecondary training author board at the Sinneave Family Foundation. At a local level, Patrick facilitates peer-support communities for autistic students. He maintains a blog, autisticscholar.com.
- Dena Gassner, MSW - Adjunct Professor, Towson University
Dena is a PhD candidate at Adelphi University and serves is an inaugural member to the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Autistic Researcher Committee and has published many book chapters and journal articles in her career. In close partnership, she developed and honed leadership skills first with regional leadership (Tennessee Autism Task Force; Tennessee Post-secondary Task Force; Partners in Policy Making; Board Member for the Autism Society of Tennessee) and later with testimonies to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the Government Accountability Offices (GAO), the Department of Defense (DOD) and in 1999 was awarded the Cathy Pratt Professional of the Year Award from Autism Society of America. Since coming to the Arc Board of Directors, she has served on the Policy Committee for 6 years and as the Chair of the National Council of Self-Advocates for 4 years. Her contribution to the Arc’s policies included the inclusion of LGBTQAI intersectionality and maternal wellness for mothers with IDD. She was appointed to the IACC’s Mental Health Subcommittee of the Healthcare Disparities Workgroup and presented “A Woman’s Voice: Understanding Autistic Needs” for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC). Her international advocacy has included multiple presentations around the world and specifically, three statements at the United Nations in New York and one in Geneva (autism and women; aging and autism). Her most recent UN invitation came from the countries of Malta and Australia and focused on autistic motherhood.
- Jackie Ryan, MA, CPA, CMA - PhD Candidate, University of Alberta
Jackie is a PhD candidate in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Alberta. She holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership from Royal Roads University where her research on leadership to promote self-determination of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder won the University Founders’ Award. Her current research is on understanding autonomy and autonomy-support from the perspective of autistic adults with intellectual disabilities using a community-based participatory research approach. She will be utilizing novel methods to understand the perspectives of autistic adults who are unable to reliably report their inner thoughts and ideas including Photovoice and Deep Assessment which includes Startle Reflex Modulation Measurement. Jackie works for a large multi-disciplinary, not-for-profit service provider in Edmonton, the Centre for Autism Services Alberta, where she created Quest for Independence, a post-secondary transition program for young adults with ASD focused on teaching skills for independence. Jackie is autistic and mom to an autistic young adult son. She is passionate about the inclusion of autistic people in all that affects them including research, policy-setting, and service provision. Jackie views autism with a neurodiversity lens and is interested in recent research that calls into question the assumption that autistic individuals struggle with social communication and that perhaps it is a two-way problem.
- TC Waisman, EdD, MA - University of Calgary
Dr. TC Waisman was diagnosed at 48-years-old which resulted in changes to her career path. Pre-diagnosis, TC’s career focused on executive leadership coaching and leadership training. Certified as a coach in 1998, she has trained and coached leaders in healthcare, government, and education. Since her diagnosis, TC attained her doctoral degree in leadership, policy, and governance at the University of Calgary with a research focused on how higher education leaders, faculty members, and staff can enhance services and outcomes for autistic students in higher education. She is also co-leading a cross-institutional collaborative study evaluating autism and Universal Design (UD) training for faculty with Dr. Kristen Gillespie-Lynch. TC is the co-founder of the Autistic Researchers Committee at the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), an editorial board member of the Autism in Adulthood journal, and an advisory board member of the Sinneave Family Foundation’s Autism College Prep program for Autistic individuals transitioning into post-secondary education.TC has developed a series of online asynchronous micro-trainings for educators, healthcare professionals, and governmental employees to learn about autism and UD applications that can benefit all stakeholders. She is a speaker, trainer, and consultant who triages higher education policies and practices that affect Autistic students. TC is an Indigenous South Pacific Islander and Nepalese non-binary woman living in Canada with her partner Dean and their adult daughter Sunshine. TC is proud to serve the Autistic community on the Autistic Researchers Review Board at AIR-P.
- Zack Williams, BS - MD/PhD Candidate, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Zack Williams is an MD/PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University. He is also an affiliate of the Vanderbilt University Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. His research focuses on the phenomenon of decreased sound tolerance in autistic people, which he hopes to better understand using a combination of self-report questionnaires, psychoacoustic tasks, and electrophysiologic measures. Additional areas of interest include the assessment and treatment of co-occurring mental health problems and psychosomatic symptoms in autistic adults and the development of novel questionnaires to assess core and associated features of the autism phenotype. In addition to serving on the AIR-P review board, Zack is a member of the INSAR Autistic Researchers Committee, the Autism Treatment Network Family Advisory Committee, and the Autism Sensory Research Consortium.
- Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, MA - Rice University
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, MA (she/they) is a global advocate, educator, and autistic person of color in a neurodiverse, multicultural, serodifferent family. A prolific writer, consultant, and social scientist/activist whose work focuses on meaningful community involvement, human rights, intersectional justice, and inclusion, Morénike is a Humanities Scholar at Rice University’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Co-Chair of the Women’s HIV Research Collaborative, a doctoral candidate, and a member of several executive boards.
Morénike has been an invited speaker at the United Nations, the White House, and numerous peer-reviewed international conferences and has led and/or contributed to many initiatives and publications. Current/recent projects include the 2021 edited collection Sincerely, Your Autistic Child: What People on the Autism Spectrum Wish Their Parents Knew About Growing Up, Acceptance, and Identity and the forthcoming Neurodiversity en Noir: A Collection of Black Neurodiverse Voices.
For more information: https://MorenikeGO.com (URL); @MorenikeGO (social media)
- Steven Kapp, PhD - Lecturer, University of Portsmouth
Dr. Steven Kapp is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. He completed a postdoctoral research fellowship on the Wellcome Trust-funded project Exploring Diagnosis: Autism and Neurodiversity at the University of Exeter, U.K. He edited the book Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline, featuring analysis of first-hand accounts by leading autistic and allied activists, published by Palgrave Macmillan. His studies examine how conceptions of autism, neurodiversity, and support associate with identity, lived experiences, and quality of life. As a self-advocate he has supported systems change work for inclusive employment and influenced the DSM-5 autism diagnosis.