Board of Directors

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.

  • Headshot of Rebekah Kintzinger

    Rebekah Kintzinger

    Co-Chair

    Autistic Advocate & founding Board Member, Canadian Journal of Autism Equity

    LinkedIn

    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

    Co-Chair

    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, UBC

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Maddy Dever

    Maddy Dever

    Co-Vice Chair

    Autistic Advocate and President, Autistic Bridge Inc.

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Shino Nakane

    Shino Nakane

    Co-Vice Chair

    Current Member, Provincial Director for Autism Society Alberta, Autism Society Alberta

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Kimberley Ward, PhD

    Kimberley Ward, PhD

    Board Secretary

    Executive Director, Society for Autism Support and Services

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Gail Francis

    Gail Francis

    Director

    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

    Director

    President , The Sinneave Family Foundation

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Anne Kresta

    Anne Kresta

    Director

    President and CEO, Level IT Up

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Priscilla Burnham Riosa, PhD

    Priscilla Burnham Riosa, PhD

    Director

    Associate Professor, Brock University

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of Corey Walker

    Corey Walker

    Director

    Autistic Self-Advocate

    LinkedIn

    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.

  • Headshot of David Nicholas, PhD, RSW

    David Nicholas, PhD, RSW

    Director

    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.

  • Stacy Herperger

    Director

    Director of Advocacy, Development and Support Living Programs, Autism Resource Centre (Arc)

    LinkedIn

    Stacey has worked in the non-profit and disability sector for almost 20 years. She has been working at the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) in Regina since 2013 and has enjoyed taking on a variety of different roles within the organization. ARC empowers autistic people in realizing their potential and participating in their communities through the pillars of inclusion, collaboration and education. Currently Stacey is the Director of Advocacy, Development and Support Living Programs. She enjoys working with ARC members, community partners, and the local community to advocate for a high quality of life for the autistic community. Stacey has a passion for learning and is dedicated to staying relevant through professional development. In 2023 she finished a certificate program in Nonprofit Sector Leadership and Innovation through the University of Regina to add to her Bachelors Degree in Sociology from the University of Regina, and her Diploma in Recreation and Leisure Services from Algonquin College in Ottawa as well as many other certifications.

  • Cyndi is a settler on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people. Specifically, the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and the səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, also known as North Vancouver in British Columbia, where she currently resides with her husband and three grown children, two of whom are diagnosed autistic.

    Cyndi has been a lifelong advocate since 1974, when her sister first started school, and she saw how her sister was treated. In 2001, Cyndi helped create a grassroots movement to advocate against cuts to services for children and adults with disabilities. With a strong desire to see change within the education system, Cyndi ran and was elected in 2011 to the North Vancouver School District Board of Education. Cyndi believes that change must come through policy; and to do that, one must have a seat at the table. Cyndi believes in giving back to organizations that hold the same values as she does, and in 2017, she was elected as a Board Director of Inclusion BC. Cyndi was appointed to a municipal committee, the North Shore Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, in 2023 and was recently elected Chair. Cyndi believes the entire continuum of the autism spectrum must be represented and wishes for a world that accepts people for who they are. Cyndi was diagnosed in 2020 at the age of 57 with Autism and believes in breaking down the stigma and the barriers faced every day by Autistic Canadians. Cyndi is humbled to work with like-minded Autistics, staff, and allies on the Autism Alliance of Canada’s Board of Directors to continue to support the vision of a National Autism Strategy in Canada.

  • Debbie Irish

    Treasurer

    Chief Operating Officer, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work

    LinkedIn

    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.

Join us

As a member of Autism Alliance of Canada, you will contribute to enhancing our impact through a strong, unified, collaborative voice.