Turning the COVID-19 Crisis into Opportunity: Rethinking family supports to build resilience

Registration for this training is now closed.

Free event

Focus on Research I

April 16, 2021

10:00 a.m.to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time

Web Streaming Only

Presented by Professor Grace Iarocci & Vanessa Fong, PhD Candidate, Simon Fraser University

Moderated by Professor Anthony Bailey, Chair of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, University of British Columbia

Parent Panel: Lori Gauthier, Carey Henry, Bo Sang Lee & Deborah Pugh

This presentation will feature a detailed analysis of a survey conducted by researchers at Simon Fraser University on the effect of the pandemic on BC families of children with autism, looking at quality of life, mental health, and service delivery.


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Event Details

Watch from anywhere in the world with live web streaming

About the Event

Join us for this important Focus on Research presentation where SFU researchers will examine the impact of COVID-19 on the quality of life and mental health of autistic children and their families, based on a survey of over 200 families. The presentation will include an assessment of the effectiveness of government supports during the initial lockdown period.

A discussion involving a panel of parents on the experiences of families will provide their recommendations for building capacity and enhancing resilience. To view the preliminary research results see: The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health, Quality of Life, and Service and Support Needs in Families of Children with ASD.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the impact of COVID-19 on the quality of life and mental health of autistic children and their families.
  • Assess the effectiveness of government services and supports implemented during the lockdown period.
  • Identify strategies that parents can use to build resilience during this time.
  • Generate potential solutions and recommendations for government.


Grace Iarocci, PhD, Professor of Psychology, SFU

Grace Iarocci, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University, and the Director of the Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab. A registered psychologist, Dr. Iarocci works closely with government and community agencies in BC to disseminate research information on ASD and influence policy on ASD and other developmental disabilities. Grace has a particular interest in researching quality of life issues among families living with ASD. A previous presentation by Dr. Iarocci on this topic can be viewed on ACT’s website.

Vanessa Fong, PhD Candidate, SFU

Vanessa Fong is a PhD student in the Developmental Psychology program at SFU. Her research focuses on examining quality of life in culturally diverse families raising autistic children from a patient-oriented framework. Throughout her graduate studies she has become deeply committed to advancing community engaged research in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities. She hopes that bridging the gap between the scientific and autism community through engagement and collaboration will help prioritize research that is meaningful to those who are affected. The title of her PhD thesis is: A community engaged approach to examining quality of life and service navigation in Korean families raising autistic children.


Professor Anthony Bailey, BSc, MBBS, DCH, MRCPsych, FRCPC

Professor Anthony Bailey is Institute of Mental Health Chair and Professor and Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. Dr. Bailey’s clinical work focuses on teenagers and able adults with ASD and he is recognized across Canada for his depth of understanding of how public policy effects the lives of those with neuro-developmental conditions.

Parent Panel

Building Capacity and Enhancing Resilience

12:30pm - 1:30pm


Lori Gauthier is an indigenous mother of four sons with autism. Two years ago, she returned with her children to their unceded ancestral territory, (Nak’azdli Whut’en), near the village of Fort St James in Northern BC. Currently she works as a Maternal Child Health Worker and Advocate, providing health and social support to young indigenous families in Fort St James and surrounding First Nations. For the past 20 years Lori has worked throughout the province with young children and their families in both rural and urban communities. Her personal and professional experience supporting marginalized families and youth with special needs has given her a unique outlook on various issues and barriers facing families in rural areas.

Carey Henry lives in Cranbrook in the Interior of BC. She has two neurodiverse boys – the eldest is on the autism spectrum. Carey grew up in South Africa and moved to Canada as a young adult. She is a champion for neurodiverse children and their families. She is aware of the supports and resources required to make an autism family thrive. She is so grateful for the resources available and is passionate about advocacy and education to make life better for her family, and other neurodiverse children and their families.

Bosang LeeBo Sang Lee has been Executive Director of Here and Now Community Society since 2014, It is a non-profit society helping individuals with disabilities and their families that he and other families founded in 2012 to help Korean-speaking families. Bo Sang has two children, one of whom has autism and lives in the Lower Mainland. He has served as a board member of PLAN and the Family Support Institute.

blankDeborah Pugh founded ACT – Autism Community Training to provide evidence-based information and training to families across the province. Her experience of having returned to Canada in 1994 with her three-year old son, later diagnosed with autism, was the catalyst for 25 years of thinking about how communities and government could effectively support families across developmental disabilities, regardless of their cultural or linguistic background or where they live in BC.


ACT’s free events are supported by donations. If you’ve benefited from one of ACT’s free events and would like to make a contribution that allows ACT to continue providing free web streams, please consider making a donation.



Registration closes Monday, April 12th at 4pm Pacific time. You can also register by calling us.

blankACT gratefully acknowledges the support of the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation for this presentation.


This research project was supported by Kids Brain Health Network and Mitacs.




Level Introductory

For Parents and Caregivers, Community Professionals, Researchers, Policy Makers

Approach Community-based Research

Autism-Specific? No

Event Schedule

All times are Pacific Time Zone.
10:00 am - 10:50 am Session 1: Background & context of the study; COVID-19 impact on the child and caregiver; impact on family quality of life.
10:50 am - 11:00 am Break
11:00 am - 12:00 pm Session 2: Services and supports prioritized by families; schooling and educational needs for their child; online supports families find helpful.
12:00 pm - 12:30 pm Lunch
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm Session 3: Parent panel and question period