Category Archives: Research

Implementing the Family Connections Centres in British Columbia: Perspectives of Professionals on the Registry of Autism Service Providers

Therapy Centres without Therapists?  

Clinicians expected to staff the newly announced Family Connection Centres (FCCs) across the province are concerned about its effectiveness, a survey carried out by researchers at Simon Fraser University reports. 

Implementing the Family Connection Centres in British Columbia: Perspectives of Professionals on the Registry of Autism Service Providers’ (RASP), is based on a survey of 1,000 clinicians listed on the RASP. It received 485 responses – an unusually high response rate. The results are unambiguous:  

  • Only 9% of respondents “agreed/strongly agreed” that the new Family Connections model will be effective in addressing the needs of all children requiring support.
  • 37% of RASP professionals reported that they were unlikely/very unlikely to work for an FCC.
  • 42% responded that they did not have enough information to decide.  
  • 75% of respondents agreed/strongly agreed that quality of care will be compromised within the proposed FCC model.  
  • 82% agreed/strongly agreed that this new model will lead to cumbersome bureaucracy.  
  • Qualitative analysis of open-ended responses revealed major concerns (e.g., two-tiered system, poorer quality of services, long waitlists).  

In October 2021, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) announced over 40 Family Connection Centres as a more equitable system for children with disabilities requiring therapeutic and support services. The FCCs were announced as a response to criticism of MCFD’s long standing policy of limiting support to services for children with disabilities unless they have a diagnosis of autism. 

The announcement has been met with intense criticism from diverse organizations, especially those representing children with autism, because it entails the ending of individualized funding and expands the number of children who will be served, by at least a third, without making a commitment of significant new funding. This has raised the fears that the centres will be beset with long waiting lists as they will not be able to serve the number of children who require services given the province-wide shortage of clinicians. 

Clinicians on the RASP include Behavior Analysts, Occupational Therapists, Speech-Language Pathologist and Physical Therapists who provide therapy to children with a wide-range of disabilities, in addition to autism. This makes the survey relevant to the issue of how these new centres will attract staff given wide-spread shortages of these professionals in both the private and public sectors and the higher wages in the private sector. 

Dr. Grace Iarocci, Professor of Psychology at SFU and Director of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Lab who led the research explains:

“The current system does need extensive reform as all disabled children need skilled support but creating physical centres does not address the human resource shortage that has been created because of lack of public funding to train and pay clinicians – especially Indigenous clinicians whose communities are particularly underserved.” 

Deborah Pugh, Executive Director, ACT – Autism Community Training highlights the fears among families:

“The concern is that these centres will warehouse all children with disabilities together, regardless of their individual needs, negating decades of developing individualizing supports in communities allowing families to make choices that fit their child. Indigenous leaders have highlighted this concern which is particularly difficult for families who have experienced the legacy of residential schools, but it is shared widely by families who have experienced rejection from government systems – especially public schools.” 

To speak with Dr. Grace Iarocci and for more information on this report, contact Vanessa Fong at 

For more information on ACT – Autism Community Training, contact Deborah Pugh, at 

ACT’s News Round-Up: September 2019 Edition

New ACT Guides for Schools and on Mental Health

ACT has prepared a new set of guides to our free online resources, including Autism Videos @ ACT. These guides are organized to help educators, mental health professionals, and families to discover the many resources that ACT offers.

Visit the ACT Print Materials page to download these guides. ACT can mail copies to your school or organization upon request.

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Special Needs Community Events

ACT’s Community Events listing highlights training and events provided by organizations across B.C. Below are a few of the upcoming events.

You are welcomed to submit your organization’s events.

September & October Events

Community Outreach Event at WE PLAY KIDS GYM
Saturday, September 21 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm , Surrey

Intuitive/Expressive Arts for Kids
Saturday, September 21 – Saturday, November 30 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm , Surrey

Mindfulness for Autistic Adults
Thursday, September 26 – Thursday, October 31, Online Workshop

TAGteach Workshop for Parents and Professionals
Saturday, September 28 – Sunday, September 29, North Vancouver

Sunday, September 29, Surrey

CONNECT with PEERS for Teens
Tuesday, October 1 – Tuesday, December 17 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm , Burnaby

Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) Course – 8 Week Training & Silent Retreat
Tuesday, October 15 – Tuesday, December 10 6:15 pm – 8:45 pm , Vancouver

View more

Upcoming ACT Events


Starts next week! Web-streaming spots are still available. Details here.

Volunteers are needed for this event!
Volunteers receive complementary in-person registration and a certificate of attendance. Please email to apply.

POPARD’s District Training Model - Friday, October 25th, 2019 - Alexandra Voroshina, MA, BCBA & Georgina Robinson, PhD

In this one-day presentation, Alexandra Voroshina will present an overview of POPARD’s Student Cooperation Training (SCT) Model. Details here.

Save the date: Upcoming ACT Events

November 15, 2019
Introduction to Navigating BC’s School System
A POPARD Presentation

November 22, 2019
Supporting Indigenous Families Affected by Autism through Engagement and Research
ACT’s 2019 Focus on Research Gathering

November 29, 2019
Behaviors and Mental Health – an Introduction for Families of Children with Special Needs
A POPARD Presentation

Participate in Autism Research

ACT believes that encouraging research is crucial to building knowledge of evidence-informed approaches to help individuals with autism and other conditions. We devote a page on ACT’s website to informing autistic adults and parents of children with ASD about university-affiliated projects which may be of interest.

Visit the Participate in Autism Research page to see all current research projects and project contact information.

Here are few projects which are recruiting volunteers:

  • Virtual Mindfulness for Autistic Adults
  • “Autism in Practice”: Establishing, Maintaining, and Understanding Friendship Among Adults Diagnosed with Autism in British Columbia
  • How People with ASD Experience and Understand Online Gaming as a Communication Learning Platform: A Phenomenological Approach

Submit Your Research Project

Use our online form to submit your university-affiliated research projects related to the field of autism and special needs. It may take up to one week to post.

Autism in the News

ACT carefully sources insightful stories, ranging from research and government policy, to the world of entertainment, culture, and lifestyle.

Join ACT’s Facebook page for all the latest updates.

Summary of Engagement and Research FindingsThe Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is developing a service framework to guide how it provides and funds Children and Youth with Special Needs programs and services for implementation in Spring 2020.

Read the Summary of Engagement and Research Findings (PDF)

Details of the framework timeline are available on the MCFD’s website here.

Children with disabilities were excluded from B.C. schools more than 3,600 times last year: report – Global News

There’s no evidence caesarean sections cause autism or ADHD – The Conversation

Greta Thunberg is right: Autism is her superpower. Those who mock her should learn from her – Salon

Lawyer with autism finds her voice – ABA Journal

Artist with autism writes book to help others ‘get the help they need’ – BBC News

Father fuming, board investigating after autistic child sent home on bus with broken ankle – The Standard

“You’re Just Kooky”: Why Women With Autism Aren’t Taken Seriously – Yahoo News

Teen with autism upset after being transferred to a new school — without her knowledge – CBC News

Language expert teaches autistic child to communicate through pictures during long-haul flight – Independent

Autistic Vancouver boy gets to meet his Idol – Vancouver Sun

‘It can cause trauma’: Autism services group concerned after education minister lifts seclusion room ban – Edmonton Journal

Alberta lifts ban on seclusion rooms in schools – The Globe and Mail

A boy with autism wouldn’t sit still on a United Airlines flight. So crew and passengers stepped in to help. – CNN

After mother’s plea, kindergartner will go to school 5 days a week – CBC News

Autism Wristband That Predicts Aggressive Outbursts in Children With 84 Percent Accuracy Created by Scientists – Newsweek

Autism was tough on this B.C. pair. This is how they’re making it easier for others – CBC News

ACT’s News Round-Up: November 2018 Edition


This week:

Understanding Mental Health Problems and ASD – Evidence-Based Case Conceptualization to Inform Treatment Planning

Jonathan Weiss, PhD, CPsychblank

This presentation is part of a free training series developed for mental health clinicians experienced in CBT with an interest in adaptations relevant to neurodevelopmental disabilities (e.g., autism, ADHD, learning disability).

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize common emotional and behavioual problems associated with ASD
  • Differentiate mental health problems from ASD symptoms
  • Conceptualize common case frameworks that can inform CBT planning
  • Consider ethical issues in working with individuals with ASD using a CBT framework – including a panel discussion

As part of ACT’s Online Mental Health and Autism Project, we are launching a dozen new online videos this Fall/Winter season at Autism Videos @ ACT.

Watch video

Dr. Weiss holds the Canadian Institute of Health Research Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto.

Dr. Weiss’ research focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with ASD and/or intellectual disabilities across the lifespan. He is interested in their health service needs, their emergency service use, and their experiences of psychiatric crisis. Among other research areas, Dr. Weiss is interested in cognitive-behavioural and social skill interventions to promote resilience and improve the mental health of children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Watch Dr. Weiss speak on Thriving in Youth in ASD: What Does it Take? from October 2015.

Next week’s video: A panel discussion on the perspectives of Adults with ASD.

Diagnosing & Managing ASD in Adults

The University of British Columbia is responding to the chronic shortage of mental health professionals trained to work with adults with ASD with a two-day course from an international expert in autism, Dr. Anthony Bailey, MBBS, DCH, MRCPsych, FRCPC. Professor and Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, UBC.

Registration has now opened for Diagnosing & Managing Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults
Feb 1-2 (Fri-Sat), 0900–1630
UBC Robson Square ,Vancouver – also available via web streaming.

Target audience: psychiatrists, family physicians, other mental health care professionals
Up to 10.5 Mainpro+/MOC Section 1
View course content details
Register here

ACT recently launched a 30 minute presentation by Dr. Bailey as part of the Online Mental Health and Autism Project on the Role of Medications in the Management of ASD

Pilot Project to Identify Best Treatments for Autismblank

The Laurel Foundation is requesting the help of the autism community in completing a short five-question Pilot Survey. The objective is to create a metadata analysis project with individualized web based therapy programs for children with ASD. The project will involve thousands of families anonymously inputting information about their child’s treatment and its effectiveness to find the most efficient strategies for her/his specific challenges. At this stage they are determining if families would like such a program to be set up and are willing to provide the data to form the information pool.

As a first step, they are asking five simple questions to shape the project with the goal of empowering families to identify and access the best treatments available.

Complete the survey here.

Autism in the News

Get the latest on ACT’s Facebook page

Vancouver teacher is schooling educators on the value of inclusive classrooms – The Globe and Mail

How history forgot the woman who defined autism – Spectrum News

Kelowna mom goes extra mile to help special needs son adjust to school life – Global News

Sensory issues in autism may have sex-specific roots – Spectrum News

Theatre class helping people with autism break out of their shells – CTV News

Dos and Don’ts of Classroom Decorations – Edutopia

Neighbor builds shelter for boy with autism to wait for school bus – Lincoln Journal Star

Dads open up about autism in new film – Community Care Review

Expecting autistic people to ‘fit in’ is cruel and unproductive; value us for our strengths – The Conversation

Small town unites to prevent autistic neighbor from becoming homeless – Yahoo

NDP government ‘open’ to alternative pay options for special needs educators – Global News

$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

blankMany 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: