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

Registration for this event is now closed. Please contact the ACT office at 604-205-5467 or 866-939-5188 for more information.

Speakers for Supporting Indigenous Families Affected by Autism through Engagement and Research

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Web-stream live to your home, school, or office!

SFU Wosk Centre for Dialogue

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

You can also register by calling us.

Level Introductory/Intermediate
For Families, Service Providers, Researchers
Focus Indigenous Families Affected by Autism
Autism-specific? Yes
Co-sponsored by

Aboriginal Infant Development Program, Aboriginal Supported Child Development, Simon Fraser University, and Dwyer Tax Law

Aboriginal Infant Development Program

Aboriginal Supported Child Development

Simon Fraser University

Page Index

About the Event

In this one-day informal gathering, we will discuss how indigenous communities can be better served by research into the needs of their children affected by developmental disabilities.  We will look at several research projects that have been developed in partnership with indigenous communities. The leadership of these projects will discuss the benefits of collaborative partnerships, in the context of chronically under-resourced indigenous programs, as a necessary step in the process of genuine reconciliation. Key findings of their research will be presented.

This is an opportunity for indigenous families, their service providers and researchers to share and discuss ways to respectfully engage in meaningful research that translates to improve circumstances for indigenous children and adults with developmental disabilities in their communities.

Only 50 in-person seats are available; 25 are being held for indigenous participants until November 14, 2019.

Those who cannot be accommodated in person can join via web streaming.

More information about the presentations will be available soon.

Share this event at your organization, school, or community space with our print-ready poster. Download the poster (PDF)

About the Presenters

Researching Together: Creating Relationships and Safety with Indigenous Peoples

This session will highlight a research relationship built from the need to generate and share knowledge about how Aboriginal Infant Development Programs (AIDPs) support the health and wellbeing of Indigenous families and young children in BC. Research by “outsiders” in First Nations communities has long been a concern. Our AIDP research journey and partnership with a non-indigenous colleague emerged through a shared understanding of the importance of relationship building and cultural safety in the research process and outcomes. This highlights the need for relationships with non-indigenous researchers and Indigenous People working together. There are benefits to a two-eye seeing approach that brings together the best of both worlds and also holds non-Indigenous researchers responsible for working in a good way.

Diana Elliott is Coast Salish from Cowichan Tribes and Nuu Chah Nulth from Hupacasath First Nation.  She values the teachings of our Elders and incorporates these into her daily work as the Provincial Advisor for the Aboriginal Infant Development Programs  which now has 52 sites across B.C. Working from the philosophy that each child is a gift from the Creator, Diana appreciates the importance of enriching early and lifelong learning for children and support for parents and families.

Alison GerlachDr. Alison Gerlach is an Assistant Professor in the School of Child & Youth Care at the University of Victoria. Alison’s research aims to explore and inform how the organization and provision of pediatric and early years programs and services can be equity-oriented; that is how disability/CYSN services for children can be inclusive of and responsive to families whose lived experiences including marginalization, racialization and discrimination. Her research draws on 25 years of providing occupational therapy with differently-abled children in diverse community and family contexts, and in partnership with Indigenous colleagues, organizations and First Nations in British Columbia. Alison is committed to community-based participatory research that engages with communities, organizations, families, and children as research partners.

Bridging the Cultural Gap Through Collaborative Dialogue

Nzen’man’ Child and Family Development Centre and Simon Fraser University conducted a research project called ‘Bridging the Cultural Gap Through Collaborative Dialogue’.  The intent was explore the inequalities and barriers faced by Indigenous families in the Nlaka'pamux Nation when accessing diagnostic and support services for their child/youth with autism.  The Project Team heard from families and service providers about their experiences in supporting a child/youth with autism, what their hopes and dreams are for their children and how we can work together as a community to better support children and youth with autism.  As part of the project we organized training on early identification and intervention in ASD and sought input from Nzen'man' service providers on the cultural sensitivity and potential adaptation of these tools.

Romona Baxter is the Executive Director of the Nzen'man' Child and Family Development Centre in Lytton, BC.  This Nlaka'pamux organization provides a wide range of early years services for children and their families, including those living with Autism.  Romona is from the Nation and has served in this role for past 23 years to help create early learning spaces that honour Nlaka'pamux children as the heart of their communities.

Dr. Grace Iarocci is professor of psychology and the Director of the Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab at Simon Fraser University. She is a practicing psychologist and works to disseminate and implement high quality evidence-based practices for individuals with autism in BC. She has partnered with the Nzen'man' Child and Family Development Centre in Lytton, BC to conduct research to improve the early diagnosis and intervention for children at risk for ASD in the Nlha’kapmx Nation.

Rona Sterling-Collins is from the Nlha’kapmx Nation. She has a Master's Degree in Social Work and has owned and operated Rona Sterling Consulting for the past 23 years.  She is an ally and advocate for Indigenous people with special needs and has firsthand experience in raising a son with autism.  She believes in a wholistic approach to empowering Indigenous families and communities.

Building Respectful Relationships in Research with Indigenous People

The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) strives to engage in First Nations, Métis and Inuit research, data collection, and reporting in a culturally-responsive and safe manner that acknowledges the history, language and culture of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and their families.  Through their own learning and to support building respectful relations, HELP established an Aboriginal Steering Committee (ASC) in 2003.  This presentation will cover some of the history of this important relationship between the ASC and HELP faculty, staff and partners. We will share lessons learned and the incredible value this relationship brings to HELP’s work.

As one of the ASC’s founding members, Diana Elliott will share how she learned about HELP in her own community in May 1998. She will highlight her own interest in HELP and how research partnerships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and organizations are important, especially as we support and encourage Indigenous people to conduct research.  Diana’s presentation will explore how we support Indigenous people to see research as a useful and positive thing.

Shannon Piedt is the Operations Director for the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), an organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children through interdisciplinary research and mobilizing knowledge. HELP recognizes the importance of conducting research that is guided by First Nations, Métis and Inuit ways of knowing, and has had an Aboriginal Steering Committee since 2003 to support this approach. HELP is based out of the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.

Workshop Schedule

8:45 - 9:30 Check-In (Coffee Served)
9:30 - 11:00 Session 1 - Traditional Welcome; Introductions and presentations
11:00 - 11:30 Morning Break; Refreshments Served
11:30 - 1:00 Session 2
1:00 - 2:00 Lunch Break (Lunch included for in-person participants)
2:00 - 3:30 Session 3 (including closing remarks)


$50 early-bird rate ends November 13, 2019. Late rate registration of $75 per person begins November 14, 2019. Parents may use their autism funding to pay for this training.


ACT fundraises to provide bursaries for low-income participants and/or those travelling from outside their home regions to an event. These are also available for those who are supporting children with any special need. ACT only provides bursaries prior to registration.  You are welcome to call or email ACT's office ( for more information. ACT provided over $23,000 in bursaries in 2018 and gratefully accepts donations to our bursary fund to allow us to provide a greater level of support. Donate to our bursary fund.
Learn more about how to register using the ACT event bursary program.