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Members of the Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel


Members of the Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel

The province's 20-member autism expert panel includes parents of children with autism, clinicians, autism self-advocates, service providers, former public servants and others who are familiar with the autism file. Below are brief bios on each member.


Dr. Marie Bountrogianni (co-chair) is the former dean of the Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University and former Chief Psychologist of the Hamilton District School Board.

Margaret Spoelstra (co-chair) has been the executive director of Autism Ontario — the province's leading source of information on autism — since 2001. Prior to joining Autism Ontario, Spoelstra worked in clinical and resources services for the Geneva Centre for Autism. She has worked for almost four decades with individuals with a variety of learning needs, particularly individuals with autism. Spoelstra was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011.


Christie Brenchley is executive director of the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists (OSOT). In her role over the past 25 years, Christie has worked with government and other stakeholders on issues that cross the healthcare continuum, the broad determinants of health and a variety of ministries with a solutions-focused approach to assure access to services of occupational therapists for Ontarians who need them. Herself an occupational therapist, Christie has worked with children, youth and adults with special needs.

Jeanne-Maria “Gina” Brennan is a self-employed Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapist since 2011. She works under the ongoing supervision of a BCBA and a clinical psychologist as she transitions to a senior therapist role. Gina recently fulfilled the requirements for completion of the Masters program in Applied Disability Studies (ABA emphasis) at Brock University and is studying to take the board certification exam for behavioural analysts.

Dr. Jessica Brian is a psychologist and clinician-investigator at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Paediatrics.

Dr. Robert Cushman is currently the Acting Medical Officer of Health in Renfrew County. He has previously served as the director general of the Biologics and Genetic Therapies Directorate, in the Health Products and Food Branch at Health Canada and has served as CEO of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network. Dr. Cushman has also been the medical officer of health for the City of Ottawa and has worked as a primary care physician in a variety of health care settings, including the emergency room of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Matthew Jason Dever is an autistic adult with three children on the autism spectrum. He advocates for inclusion and acceptance of autistic individuals and for autistic people to have their own voice. Matthew is an active member of Autistics for Autistics (A4A), Ontario's autistic self-advocacy group. A4A is a collective of approximately 300 autistic adults advocating for reform to Ontario's approach to autism funding and services.

Alex Echakowitz is an autistic social service work student who specializes in disability justice and youth mental health. They are a member of CAMH's Youth Advisory Group, as well as a volunteer with the York Federation of Students Access Centre. They are also a co-founder and former board member of Ontario's first province-wide self-advocacy organization, Autistics for Autistics (A4A).

Cindy Harrison is a speech language pathologist and the parent of a young adult with autism. Cindy is senior faculty at Profectum, an international multidisciplinary facility that teaches and trains professionals to assess and intervene with children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum. She is also the co-founder and CEO of CommuniCare Therapy and ACT Learning Centre, both in Ottawa. Cindy holds a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology and she has been working in the field of autism for more than 21 years.

Anne Huot is the vice-president of Child Development and Community Services at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). A professionally trained social worker, Huot's portfolio includes autism, development and rehabilitation services, mental health, patient experience and complex care. She was the executive director of the Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre when it amalgamated with CHEO in 2016 and led the integration of programs and services for children and youth.

Sheri Ketchabaw has a Bachelor of Science in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Guelph and a Business Accounting diploma from Mohawk College. She is also a parent of two children on the autism spectrum.

Laura Kirby-McIntosh is president of the Ontario Autism Coalition and is also a teacher for the Peel District School Board. She is a parent of two teenagers on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Julie Koudys is a clinical psychologist and a board-certified behaviour analyst at the doctoral level. She is an assistant professor at Brock University in the Department of Applied Disability Studies where she teaches Applied Behaviour Analysis. She conducts research with children and youth with autism related to long-term outcomes following intensive behavioural intervention, the use of augmentative and alternative communications systems, and intensive parent training. She has provided clinical supervision in ABA and IBI for nearly 20 years. She is an active member of the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA) and is the current chair of the Ethics and Jurisprudence Committee and the Ontario Scientific Expert Committee for the Treatment of ASD.

Marie Lemaire is a member of Autism Ontario's French Services Committee. She has a child on the autism spectrum.

Christine Levesque is co-chair of Autism Advocacy Ontario. She is a parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Janet McLaughlin is an associate professor of Health Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University and is co-founder and co-director of the Laurier Autism Research Consortium (LARC). She recently led a major study of autism policy and family well-being in Ontario. She is a parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

Anne O'Brien is Director of Education at the Durham Catholic School Board. Anne is also the past president of the Canadian Association of School System Administrators. She has been a Superintendent of Special Education and taught special education additional qualifications to teachers for many years.

Wendy Prieur is an executive director of North Bay Recovery Home and represents the Mental Health and Addiction sector. She was in municipal politics for 13 years, six of which were as the mayor of the Township of Nipissing. Prieur has a Bachelor of Social Work from Laurentian University.

Sherri Taylor is a parent of four children who are neurodiverse. She has an extensive history of working with individuals with diversabilities in various settings such as the York Region District School Board as an educational assistant and behaviour itinerant, Community Living and Christian Horizons. Currently she works as the family care coordinator at Back to Life Rehabilitation and Sensory Integration Facility with many neurodiverse children and their caregivers. Sherri is proud to be the Director of Education on the board of Autism Advocacy Ontario as well as a board member of the Ontario Disability Coalition fighting for all individuals regardless of age and diagnosis.

Dr. Mohammad Zubairi is a developmental pediatrician at Ron Joyce Children's Health Centre at McMaster University. He is a member of the McMaster Autism Research Team. He is on the steering committee for the Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA) network and on the board of directors for the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre. He is a section executive with the Canadian Pediatric Society.

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