Category Archives: Research

$2.85 million Parent Coaching Project Awarded to UBC

ACT is very pleased to announce that a decision has been made to award funding for a three year $2.85 million project focused on researching parent coaching in diverse communities in British Columbia. The project will be led by Dr. Pat Mirenda and Dr. Anthony Bailey, of the University of British Columbia, both well known to B.C.’s autism community for their knowledge of autism and commitment to the need for families to receive quality intervention services that support the best outcomes for children.

“This will be one of the largest-ever studies of parent coaching,” said Dr. Bailey, the Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the UBC Institute of Mental Health. “It also breaks new ground in its inclusion of rural and disadvantaged families in the parent coaching model, and in the degree of choice that will be given to parents as to where coaching is delivered, including via the internet.”

For more details on the project please see the  UBC press release here.

ACT has been holding the project funding, which was provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and will continue to play a role in receiving reports from the project until it completes in three years’ time. ACT would like to thank all members of the Steering Committee who have contributed to this innovative project.  In particular, we recognize the important role of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research in convening an international panel of expert researchers who evaluated the applications and made the selection.

New Video: Essentials of Advocacy: A Parent’s Guide to Advocating for their Child with Special Needs

Presented by Deborah Pugh, Executive Director, ACT – Autism Community Training

Many parents find the most stressful part of parenting a child with special needs is the constant need to advocate for their child’s unique needs to be met. This free online ACT video provides practical, positive guidance on how to navigate various government systems and provides insights to understanding the systems that control access to services for children with special needs. Many of the examples are from British Columbia’s education system, but the basic principles of effective advocacy apply to most jurisdictions and are helpful to families who want to understand how to protect their child’s rights by better understanding the roles and responsibilities of both service providers and the family. The video has been edited down into short chunks to help busy families. No password is required.

Deborah Pugh has been an active advocate on behalf of children and adults with special needs for over 20 years, following a journalism career in which she first learned the importance of advocating for others. For details of Deborah’s experience see the ACT Staff page.

Please click on link below to access Part 2 of the ‘Essentials of Advocacy’. You may also access the handout for the workshop here as well as the full Table of Contents for the workshop here:

Online Mental Health and Autism Project – Free Webinars Now Available

About the OMHAP Initiative:

This is a free online resource (links below) that has been developed for community professionals to alert them to the mental health needs of children and youth with autism spectrum disorder.

Children and youth with ASD are often affected by psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and attention disorders.

It can be challenging for front-line health, education, and social services professionals to recognize these co-existing disorders, especially in children and youth with ASD who have difficulty communicating social or emotional cues.

This first phase of the OMHAP initiative provides two recorded webinars, by leading B.C. professionals, that highlight best practices in recognizing, identifying and treating the most common mental-health issues, in children and youth with ASD and related disorders.

Visit the Online Mental Health and Autism Project page for more information:

Co-Sponsored by:

Division of Continuing Professional Development, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, advised on the development of the webinars and provided Continuing Educational Credits for registrants.


British Columbia’s Ministry of Children and Family Development has provided funding for OMHAP.

Part 1: Recognizing Mental Health Disorders in Children and Youth with ASD

Webinar 1 focuses on heightening awareness of the high prevalence of autism across the age span which can mask mental health concerns that require treatment from mental health professionals. Total time: 75 minutes.

Outline and speakers:

  1. Introduction – Deborah Pugh
  2. Background to ASD and Mental Health – Karen Bopp, PhD, RSLP
  3. Why are Psychiatric Comorbidities Important? – Anthony Bailey, FRCPsych
  4. Role of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Richard Stock, PhD, BCBA-D
  5. Reflections from the Panel – Balbinder Gill, PhD & Grace Iarocci, PhD, RPsych
  6. Question Period

View Webinar 1 videos and resources here:

Part 2: Treating Anxiety, Depression and OCD in Children and Youth with ASD

Webinar 2 focuses on specific mental health conditions that affect children with ASD and their treatment. It also includes discussion on screening, assessment and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Total time: 77 minutes.

Webinar 2 outline and speakers:

  1. Introduction – Deborah Pugh
  2. Anxiety – Melanie McConnell, PhD, RPsych
  3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – David Worling, PhD, RPsych
  4. Depression – Anthony Bailey, FRCPsych
  5. Panelist – Georgina Robinson, PhD
  6. Panelist – David Batstone, PhD, RPsych
  7. Questions and Answers

View Webinar 2 videos and resources here:

OMHAP Advisory Committee

Content and structure for OMHAP is determined by an expert advisory committee. Please see for more information about the Advisory Committee and the OMHAP initiative.

November News Round-Up


31f73a8a-ae33-400c-966b-9acf51f90a77 New AVA Videos for the Autism Community – Support ACT this Giving Tuesday

Four new videos are now available at Autism Videos @ ACT. These training opportunities are free, online, available on your computer or phone – at your convenience.

Sponsors and donors from ACT’s 2016 Seymour Triple G fundraiser funded the recording and editing of most of these videos. A special thank you to them and to our presenters who have generously donated their expertise so that parents and professionals all over B.C. and beyond can benefit.

ACT has several other videos awaiting editing. Today is Giving Tuesday; if you would like to support AVA’s development, donate via cheque, Canada Helps, the United Way, or Employer Charitable funds. Your donations help ACT produce professional, evidence-based programming. See our 2016 donors and information on donating:

  1. Positive Behavior Support: What Parents Need to Know!
    Dr. Brenda Fossett, BCBA-D, does a masterful job in introducing families and community professionals to the benefits of using PBS techniques to help children with special needs develop key functional skills. These range from toileting skills to community outings without tantrums. When parents understand that challenging behaviors are not a permanent feature of autism, or any other special need, and that they can be part of addressing them, the quality of family life and the child’s ability to be included in school and community activities can improve significantly.
  2. Taking Control of the Future –Planning for Families with Special Needs
    Lawyers Blair Dwyer and Layli Antinuk tackle an issue that is a primary source of stress for families who have children with special needs – securing their future. This video will help families better understand planning options to secure the financial future of their
  3. Thriving in Youth with ASD – What Does It Take?
    Dr. Jonathan Weiss, CIHR Chair ASD Treatment and Care Research, looks at how to promote positive outcomes in youth with ASD, including those with intellectual disability, by focusing on indicators such as happiness, satisfaction and resilience. This video includes a fascinating panel presentation with Dr. Anthony Bailey, UBC; Patrick Dwyer, student and self-advocate; Dr. Stephanie Jull, Canucks Autism Network; Dr. Rashmeen Nirmal, Sunny Hill Health Centre and Dr. David Worling, Westcoast Child Development Group.
  4. Looking Beyond Autism: Recognising Mental Health Disordersin Children and Youth with ASD
    This is the first of two events which were webcasted recently as part of the Online Mental Health and Autism Project. Funded by MCFD, these presentations were developed in collaboration with UBC Continuing Professional Development, to increase awareness among community professionals of the high prevalence of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression, among children and youth with ASD. Webinar 2 will be available shortly.

ACT hosts nearly 20 professionally filmed and edited talks from experts in their field. Browse for popular topics such as toilet training, recreation, puberty and early intervention: Many of these presentations are relevant across a variety of special needs.

New YVR Autism Access Sticker

The Vancouver International Airport, with Canucks Autism Network, has developed an Autism Access Sticker. This sticker was developed as part of the I CAN Fly program that provides air travel resources to support individuals and families living with autism. For more information or to get yours for holiday travel: New YVR Autism Access Sticker Gives Expedited Airport Processing .

Have Your Say: Federal Accessibility Legislation

The Federal Government is consulting with Canadians on new accessibility legislation. See below for opportunities to participate online. Some of the questions they will be asking are:

  • What are the main barriers to accessibility that Canadians with disabilities face?
  • What would it take to fix those barriers?
  • How can we change attitudes in Canada to better include and respect people with disabilities?

For details:


New Live Event – Evaluating Intervention Programs and Peer Mediated PRT

Presented by Isabel Smith, PhD and Ainsley Boudreau, PhD
January 14th, 2017, Vancouver

Across Canada there are very different approaches to autism intervention in both the pre-school and school-age context. Join ACT for a fascinating day to discover more about the experience in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and what we should consider when evaluating and refining the BC approach. The morning will look at a study of two intervention programs in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The afternoon will examine a variation of the parent delivery model of Pivotal Response Treatment, in which typically developing peers are taught to play with their classmates with ASD.
Evaluating Intervention Programs and Peer Mediated Pivotal Response Treatment for Children with ASD

RASP Updates: 9 New RASP Professionals


Nine RASP professionals have been added or had their status updated between October 26th and November 29th. As of November 29th, there are now 661 professionals on the Registry for Autism Service Providers.

Behavior Consultants (Category A – Non-Supervised)

  • Kate Chase – Serves: Vancouver
  • Sylvia Hunter – Serves: North Vancouver, Pemberton, Squamish, Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver, Whistler
  • Danielle Pessah – Serves: Langford, Saanich, Sidney, Sooke, Victoria

Behavior Consultants (Category B – Supervised)

  • Andrea Schneider – Serves: Vancouver

Speech-Language Pathologists (Non-Supervised)

  • Amy Makaroff – Serves: Victoria

Speech-Language Pathologists (Supervised)

  • Hannah Tan – Serves: Richmond
  • Alysha Virani – Serves: Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Surrey

Occupational Therapists

  • Anjelee Khosla – Serves: Delta, Ladner, Maple Ridge, Richmond, Surrey
  • Ashley Reina – Serves: Coldstream, Enderby, Kelowna, Lake Country, Penticton, Summerland, Vernon

Professionals no longer listed on the RASP

RASP service providers may leave the RASP due to retirement or moving to a different job or province. Since October 26th, listings for Levina Chin and Nicholas Watkins have been removed from the RASP.

RASP providers are urged to keep their contact information up to date either online or by contacting the ACT office. If you are a parent who is not receiving a response from a RASP Professional, please update ACT.

ACT updates the RASP list weekly. See who is new in your community at

Special Needs Community Events


ACT welcomes submissions on events from organizations from across B. C. providing services to children and adults with special needs and their families. Browse current events, or post your own at

Upcoming events in December include:

  • December 3rd. Celebrate Diversity – family WORKs. North Vancouver.
  • December 3rd. Project Everybody: International Day of Persons with Disabilities Celebration – Inclusion BC. Vancouver.
  • December 3rd. Family Holiday Skate – Canucks Autism Network. Kamloops.
  • December 8th. Wills, Trusts and Estates: For Families and Individuals with Disabilities – Inclusion BC. Vancouver.
  • December 8th. Parents as Advocates Workshop – North Shore Disabilities Resource Centre and Inclusion BC. North Vancouver.
  • December 10th. Sensory Friendly Movie: Moana. Cineplex – Langford, Richmond or Langley Cinemas.
  • December 11th. Sensory Friendly Santa – Autism Society of B.C. Park Royal Shopping Mall, West Vancouver.
  • December 18th. Family Holiday Skate – Canucks Autism Network. Kelowna.
  • December 22nd. A Night to Remember – a Sensory Friendly Winter Formal Dinner Dance – Mayday Club. Abbotsford.

Submit your community events for inclusion in this provincial resource listing.

Food and Eating: Resources from the Autism Information Database


Restricted eating habits are common among individuals with ASD. The Autism Information Database (AID) provides curated resources on this topic and more:

  • Exploring Feeding Behavior in Autism – A Parent’s Guide.From the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network. This article offers guidance on how to address feeding issues and the need for combined effort from the team and family.
  • Addressing Problematic Feeding Behaviours Using a Behavioural Approach. This online video by Lauren Binnendyck outlines behavioral approaches to dealing with problematic feeding behaviors.
  • Just Take a Bite – Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges! This book by Lori Ernsperger provides information and strategies on how to deal with food aversions and eating challenges.
  • Pica – A Guide for Parents. From the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network. This guide describes pica (the eating of non-food items) and its challenges.

Search the AID for resources on advocacy, IEPs, toilet training, service providers and community programs:“It’s like Google, but better!”
Submit a community or information resource to the AID:

ABA at Capilano University


The Applied Behaviour Analysis – Autism Department at Capilano University will be accepting applications for the Bachelor’s and Post-Bac Diploma programs starting January 2017. On-line study is available. For more information, contact Dr. Richard Stock, BCBA-D, for more information:

MCFD Sponsored Online Autism Training


This educational program, with openings for Winter 2017, is open to any BI or family member in B.C. who is working with a child/youth who has an ASD diagnosis and a behaviour plan of support written by a professional, in community, school or centres. For more information: contact

Applications are open for Douglas College’s other ASD related programs: Behaviour Intervention, Classroom and Community Support, Disability and ABA, and Employment Supports Specialty. All programs are for academic credit and some ladder into the next level, as you move forward in your career.

Autism in the News

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Staff News – new job posting

ACT is pleased to announce that Andrea Tai has joined ACT as our Administrative Assistant.

Job Posting – Full time Information Officer
ACT Information Officers provide information, support and referral services to families raising children with ASD. The ideal candidate will be knowledgeable about autism and related services with strong communication skills. A second language is an asset.

This position, based in our Burnaby office, is a full time (35 hours per week) family leave contract starting mid to late January 2017 for one year. For a full job description or if you have any questions please contact To apply, send your resume and cover letter to with “ACT Information Officer” in the subject line. We will be reviewing applications upon receipt and scheduling interviews for early January.

ACT’s E.D. Receives Award Recognizing Contributions to Developmental Disabilities


Recently, ACT’s Executive Director, Deborah Pugh, received a ‘Health and Wellbeing in Developmental Disabilities Outstanding Contribution Award’, at the annual conference. The award was presented by Dr. Elena Lopez, conference co-chair. For more about the conference, visit the committee website.

Apply to Present before Jan 18 for ACT’s 12th Annual Focus on Research

Apply to present – see details and download application.
Deadline to apply to present is January 18, 2016.

Conference Focus: Autism & Family Quality of Life – Developing Culturally Responsive Research and Intervention Programming

ACT’s 12th Annual Focus on Research Conference will provide a forum for researchers, community organizations, educators and parents to consider the realities facing marginalized families who have children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Intellectual Disabilities.

Apply to present – see details and download applicationDeadline to apply to present is January 18, 2016.

Apply to Present at ACT’s 12th Annual Focus on Research

Apply to present – see details and download application.
Deadline to apply to present is January 18, 2016.

Conference Focus: Autism & Family Quality of Life – Developing Culturally Responsive Research and Intervention Programming

ACT’s 12th Annual Focus on Research Conference will provide a forum for researchers, community organizations, educators and parents to consider the realities facing marginalized families who have children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Intellectual Disabilities.

Apply to present – see details and download applicationDeadline to apply to present is January 18, 2016.

News Release: Parent Coaching Intervention Research Project Announced






News Release – December 7, 2015

ACT welcomes Parent Coaching Intervention Research Project

ACT – Autism Community Training (ACT) is delighted to be chairing the Parent Coaching Steering Committee that will put in place an innovative research project targeting the needs of B.C. families who suspect that their very young child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The $3.1 million dollar project has the potential to answer many research questions about the value of parent coaching in changing the developmental path of children who develop autism. It is being funded by the Government of British Columbia and is the only project of its kind in Canada targeting children under three years of age focusing on researching parent coaching. For the Government of B.C.’s news release see: Autism research project to help B.C. parents of young children.

“Each year ACT receives dozens of calls from families who are very worried about their toddler’s development.  Often it is difficult to make a definitive diagnosis for a child under two, but there is no reason not to engage parents regardless”, explains Deborah Pugh, ACT’s Executive Director, adding, “The international research into parent coaching is very robust, it points the way to empowering parents with techniques that they can use to engage their children before their communication and behavior deteriorate. These techniques are play-based and will help parents concerned about their child’s development to provide them with an enriched home environment with the support of highly trained professionals, whether or not the child turns out to have autism or another developmental challenge.”

ACT welcomes the opportunity to partner in this project with the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and with the Pacific Autism Family Centre, as well as the Ministry of Children and Family Development.   One of ACT’s interests will be to see whether this research can help pinpoint ways of supporting families from chronically under-served groups within the autism community, including aboriginal families, recent immigrants, refugees and those living in rural and remote communities.

“Autism intervention in B.C. does a good job of supporting mainstream families”, explains Deborah Pugh, “this project will help us identify how we can do a better job of identifying and supporting marginalized families when their children are as young as possible, so that we can show the value of parent coaching across cultural and geographical environments.”

ACT looks forward to working with the many professionals and agencies across B.C. who will welcome the opportunity to support parent coaching. Collaboration with community health nurses and speech-language pathologists based in public health units, organizations such as the Infant Development Program (IDP) and Aboriginal IDP, professionals who specialize in autism, as well as organizations supporting immigrants, all will be key to reaching vulnerable families and their children.


Media Contact: Deborah Pugh, Executive Director, ACT – Autism Community Training

phone: 604-205-5467 or


Research Summaries from York University

The ASD Mental Health website is sponsored by Jonathan Weiss, Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research at York University (who will be speaking for ACT on October 23, 2015. The site goal is to share research regarding mental health and autism. It has research summaries of studies published by a range of journals. These summaries are one to two pages long, and make the science more accessible to a wider audience. Access this site via the ACT Information Database.

Free Report on Autism Interventions

The U.S. National Autism Center has released the results of the largest systematic review to date of interventions for ASD. The report identifies effective, research-based interventions for individuals across the lifespan. The findings identify 14 “Established Interventions” for children and adolescents that have the most research support, produce beneficial outcomes, and are known to be effective. Find the report in the ACT Information Database.

Research Study on Sleep and Autism Seeks Participants

PARENTS Research Study – Sleep and autism: Treatment barriers and facilitators

Did you know that between 50-70% of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have behavioural sleep problems?

Researchers from the University of Dalhousie are doing an online study to learn about parents’ experiences seeking and using treatment for insomnia in their children with ASD. This study will involve completing online questionnaires and participating in online, regional focus groups. Participation should take no more than 2 hours of your time. The study is being conducted through the IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

If you are a parent of a child aged 4 – 12 who has ASD and behavioural sleep problems (currently or in past), you can help us identify ways to increase families’ access to and uptake of treatment for behavioural sleep problems in children with ASD.

Focus groups will take place on the following dates for parent participants from each region:

*     Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) – Mon. May 25th, 2015, 7 – 8:30 p.m. M.D.T.
*     Ontario – Tues. May 26th, 2015, 7 – 8:30 p.m. E.D.T.
*     Quebec – Wed. May 27th, 2015, 7 – 8:30 p.m. E.D.T.
*     Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) – Thurs. May 28th, 2015, 7 – 8:30 p.m. A.D.T.
*     Northern Canada (Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, Nunavut) – Fri. May 29th, 2015, 7 – 8:30 p.m. C.D.T.

Eligible participants will be entered into a draw to win a $50 gift card for They will also receive resources on treating sleep problems in kids with ASD, including a video presentation by the research team.

Find out whether you are eligible to participate! They ask that interested parents complete a brief online screening questionnaire. To find out more and to complete the questionnaire, please follow the link directly to the study: 

This study is being conducted by Kim Tan-MacNeill (Dalhousie University) as part of her PhD dissertation research, supervised by Dr. Penny Corkum (Dalhousie University LABS), and Dr. Isabel Smith (IWK Autism Research Centre). If you would like more information, please contact Kim Tan-MacNeill by email at