Autism Alliance of Canada’s Board of Directors brings depth of lived experience in Autistic advocacy, parenting and caregiving, as well as professional expertise to the table, from coast to coast.
Rebekah, diagnosed Autistic in 2012, is a prominent Autistic advocate from Kelowna, British Columbia (BC), Canada. Since her diagnosis, her advocacy has included writing extensively about autism in the context of health and policy, which has led her to be featured in a multitude of mediums including magazines, news articles, webinars, the radio, and she has been quoted at the Senate of Canada.
In addition to presenting her work at conferences, Rebekah is also a Director at Autism Alliance of Canada, where she has published documents on language and autism. She spoke at the United Nations Conference Side Event on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and is a founding member of the Canadian Journal of Autism Equity where she continues her advocacy in championing the voices of Autistic Canadians. Rebekah is also an Okanagan Advisor for the Pacific Family Autism Network’s Voices of Autism program
Rebekah is very creative. Aside from loving to draw and write, she also appreciates cooking for her two boys, acting out scenes from Monty Python with them and singing karaoke together.
Karen D. Bopp, PhD
Executive Advisor for Children and Youth with Disabilities at the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth of BC; Adjunct Professor at The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism, UBCLinkedIn
Karen has worked extensively in the disability sector in British Columbia for over 28 years. She started her career as a Speech-Language Pathologist and a Program Director at a Child Development Centre. She then went on the complete a PhD in Special Education and then an interdisciplinary post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of BC (UBC)
Karen is currently the Executive Advisor for children and youth with disabilities for the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth of BC and an Adjunct Professor at The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism (CIRCA), UBC.
Before this, Karen worked for the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) in Children and Youth with Support Needs (CYSN) Policy for 10 years before becoming the Director of Autism Information Services BC in 2017. From March 2018 to January 2023, Karen was then seconded from MCFD to UBC as the Director of Provincial Outreach at CIRCA where she created four continuing professional development programs for service providers in the fields of medicine; dentistry; employment; and childcare to improve access to effective, evidence-based services and promote accessibility, acceptance and inclusion for all neurodivergent individuals and their families.
Maddy Dever (they/them) is a non-binary, wheelchair user with a spinal cord injury and an Autistic adult and parent of five children with four who are also Autistic living in Carleton Place. They advocate at both provincial and federal governments for inclusion and acceptance of Autistic individuals and other people with disabilities and for people with disabilities to have their own voice in policy decisions. Maddy is a former member of the Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel and Ontario Autism Program Implementation Working Group, and a current member of the Children’s Mental Health Ontario ASD Working Group.
Maddy is the founder of Autistic Bridge Inc., and a leader in the National Disability Strategy movement to build a nationwide coalition of disability organizations advocating for a barrier-free Canada that meets all needs of all disabilities at all ages. They are on the Board of Directors of ConnectWell Community Health. They are a member of ECHO Ontario Autism where they are part of the Expert Hub, which works to educate and inform health professionals on issues related to autism.
Maddy has also led workshops, panels and is a featured speaker on topics surrounding Autism, education, gender identity intersections and disability rights. They have spoken at many businesses, organizations and institutions as well as at national and international conferences and the UN Human Rights Commission.
Maddy writes and shares their speaking engagements at autisticrambler.com.
Shino has a passion for helping non-profit groups that strive to meet the unique needs of families like hers. She is currently the Provincial Director for Autism Society Alberta. She has volunteered on a variety of boards and committees over the past decade like the Alberta Children’s Hospital Ethics Committee. Currently, she is a member of the External Advisory Committee on Regulatory Competitiveness for the Treasury Board of Canada. She is a Current Member, Past Vice Chair for the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, an advisory body for the Government of Alberta. Shino is the mother of a young adult who is on the autism spectrum who communicates uniquely without words to the people he loves and the world around him. She enjoys walking and listening to music with her son. Shino continually strives to spearhead efforts so that all people are able to live in accessible and inclusive communities.
Kimberley Ward completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 at the University of Calgary. One of the requirements associated with her doctoral program was the completion of a one-year clinical internship at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. During her years in graduate school, her research focused specifically on the social-cognitive differences associated with autism. Kimberley became a Registered Psychologist in 1996 and joined the clinical team at Society for Autism Support and Services. After serving as the Clinical Director for nine years, she transitioned to the role of Executive Director in 2018. Society for Autism Support and Services provides an array of services to enhance lives across the Spectrum, including early intervention, out-of-home placements for complex youth, community consultation and life skills and employment supports for adolescents and adults. She has also worked with the Government of Alberta to develop a resource manual for teachers and draft recommendations for service delivery (i.e., A System of Care for Children with Autism: Expert Panel Report). Finally, as a Sessional Instructor Kimberley developed and taught a course that focused on “ASD across the Life Span” at the University of Calgary as part of Graduate Certificate program.
Indigenous Early Learning Child Care Coordinator with the three largest First Nation communities in New Brunswick & Author, Moonbeam
I was born and raised in Neqotkok (Tobique First Nation) in New Brunswick. My formal education consists of a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a double Masters in Education (Adult Education & Curriculum Design). Since 2010 I have worked in the Autism field. I have been trained in ABA, developing plans, implementing plans and assessments. I was an Autism Consultant for the three largest First Nation communities for a couple of years. I was also a Resource Teacher in a Band Operated School for 20 years where I worked with autistic children the last ten years I was there.
I joined the Board of Autism Resource Miramichi in 2018. I was subsequently elected president in 2019 which is the position I still occupy. Admittedly, my Board and non-profit experience is not extensive, however I enjoy it immensely.
In my current employment, I am an Indigenous Early Learning Child Care Coordinator. I work with the three largest First Nation communities in New Brunswick. As an IELCC coordinator, my focus is on the early years from 0-6 years old, utilizing the IELCC Framework, which encompasses 15 priorities. I work with the communities through engagement, networking, and coordinating to provide support for staff and children for each of the Early Years Centers.
I am also an award-winning children’s author. My book, Moonbeam, is culturally based. This book explores the tradition of naming children. I am presently in the process of self-publishing my second book in the Moonbeam series.
Tanya McLeod is President of The Sinneave Family Foundation in Calgary, Alberta; an organization committed to coordinating and investing in a portfolio of purposeful initiatives and projects aimed at removing barriers and enhancing opportunities for autistic youth and adults to live, learn, work and thrive in their communities and realize their desired futures.
Tanya is committed to contributing to the alliance’s collaborative work, and brings decades of experience working with the federal government as well as skills and experience in governance, teamwork, strategy, risk management and stakeholder engagement.
Pascale Castonguay, M.A. ÉD did her undergraduate studies at the Université du Québec à Rimouski in special education (2001-2005) and continued her studies at the graduate level. She finally obtained a master’s degree in education in 2011. She taught for nearly ten years, mainly at the secondary level in Montreal, with deaf students, students with intellectual disabilities and autistic students. From 2015 to 2021, she worked for the Special Education Department of the Quebec Ministry of Education as the person in charge of issues related to intellectual disabilities, autism and deafness. In this capacity, she was able to participate in the development and follow-up of the implementation of the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services’ Action Plan on Autism between 2016 and 2021.
She is the coordinator of the Réseau national d’expertise en trouble du spectre de l’autisme (stands for National Network of Expertise on Autism) since August 2021. She has been a member of Autism Alliance of Canada since September 2021 and a member of the CALS2022 organizing committee since November 2021. Prior to serving on the Autism Alliance of Canada Board of Directors, Pascale has been a member of two other boards. She still is president of a non-profit organization in Quebec City. In the past years, she has organized training sessions on the governance of non-profit organizations to support the development of the organization and to ensure sound management practices. She believes these different experiences will make her a good member of Autism Alliance of Canada’s Board of Directors.
Anne Kresta, MSc., is President/CEO of Level IT Up, a board member of Asperger Manitoba Inc., and Chair of Neurowrx (www.neurowrx.org), an international alliance of organizations and businesses dedicated to increasing the employment of Autistic persons in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Anne has worked for many years at the local, provincial, national, and international levels to develop and advance inclusive and diverse communities. This has included work in inclusive childcare, inclusive K-12 and post-secondary education and training opportunities, and workplace diversity. In her outreach work Anne highlights both the autism advantage and the many straightforward accommodations and strategies that can be implemented to create welcoming and empowering environments. In her spare time, Anne enjoys gardening, travelling, reading, and drawing inspiration from time spent with her amazing family.
Priscilla Burnham Riosa is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Disability Studies at Brock University. She earned her PhD in Human Development at the University of Guelph and MSc at Western University in Developmental Psychology.
She subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Jonathan Weiss at York University, where Priscilla conducted clinical research in mental health and autism. Priscilla is a Doctoral-level Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and has worked in the disability field for approximately 19 years.
Corey Walker is an autistic self-advocate from Prince George, BC. Diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2001, while in his early 20’s, Corey’s life mission is to empower autistics to live the best life possible, and to educate others about what makes autistics such wonderful, unique people with proper supports.
Corey bas worked for several autism organizations in the past. His most recent position was with the Pacific Autism Family Network as a Program Facilitator for their EmploymentWorks program. Corey formerly served as the Project Lead for Sinneave Family Foundation on the Success in the Workplace: Strategies from Autistic Employees toolkit project. He also worked for the Canucks Autism Network as a Hub and Spoke Coordinator, where he led some panel discussions on innovative strategies to support employment agencies during COVID-19.
Corey is also an engaging and dynamic public speaker/trainer who is available to hire.
Sue VanDeVelde-Coke is the President & CEO of Kerry’s Place Autism Services, the largest provider of congregate living and community support for autistic children and adults in Canada. Dr. Coke served as Executive VP &Chief Professions/Nursing Executive, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; VP, VON National Canada; Senior VP, Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre; Executive Director of CARE, Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses. She practices as a health care consultant focusing on Professional Practice reorganization, senior leadership team building, organizational reviews of organizations, HR planning, staffing and budget realignment.
She has served on numerous federal, provincial and local task forces/committees, investigating health care restructuring, human resource management and more effective ways to manage health care resources. Her research includes the National Nursing Quality Report, a set of structure, process, outcome nurse-sensitive quality indicators; as well, “The Effectiveness and Efficiency of providing Home Care Visits in Nursing Clinics versus the Traditional Home Setting” focused on home care delivery methods, providing the empirical evidence to support the change in home care regulations to permit community nursing clinics.
She has served on Boards of the Canadian Nurses Association, the Academy of Canadian Executive Nurses, the VON National, and is currently a Director on the Habitat for Humanity, GTA, the Canadian Nurses Foundation Board, Autism Alliance Canada, and the Ontario Association of Developmental Disabilities.
Dr. Coke earned an MA from the University of Washington, MBA from McGill University and PhD from McMaster University. She has served on the faculties of the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto; University of Manitoba; Ottawa University, and Rush University (Chicago, Illinois) She is a Certified Health Executive and a Director of Institute of Corporate Directors.
David Nicholas, PhD, RSW
Professor and Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships, Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary
David Nicholas is a family advocate, researcher and social worker. He has been involved in the autism community for many years. He is Professor and Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships at the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.
Dr. Nicholas’ research addresses quality of life, transitions to adulthood, and greater access to employment, with a focus on autism and neurodiversity. He has offered presentations nationally and internationally in the area of autism. and has worked in community to achieve greater equity and inclusion.
Debbie is an accomplished not-for-profit leader with over 30 years experience in autism as well as developmental disabilities. She possesses advanced skills in the areas of community capacity building, partnership development, program expansion, staff engagement and financial/marketing leadership.
Professionally, Debbie is currently employed as the Chief Operating Officer at the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW). In this role, Debbie has responsibility for all programs, HR and operations. Previously, Debbie worked at Geneva Centre for Autism for over 15 years in a number of progressive positions ending in the CEO role. Debbie has led system change programs, training and consultation programs and played an instrumental role in the development of a coordinated, collaborative service delivery system in Toronto, specifically in the area developmental disabilities and autism.
Personally, Debbie values family above all else, having launched 3 fine young men into adulthood and now enjoying an empty nest with her husband, Glen and grandparenthood.