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Advisory Council

ACT’s Advisory Council is made up of representatives from around the province and from a variety of professional backgrounds, all of who volunteer their expertise to enable ACT to provide an effective, efficient service on a limited budget. Many of our Advisory Council members are parents who are active in communities from as far north as Dawson Creek, right down to Delta. They represent a diverse resource of experience, enabling ACT to keep in touch with the needs of the families living in very different circumstances. Our professionals play an essential role in ensuring that we continue to keep current with best practices in the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder and provide unbiased and credible information to families.

Steve Blackwell is a Technical Director and Multimedia Production Advisor living in Vancouver. He is an honours graduate from York University film school and has been active in video production, multimedia installations and presentation technologies for over 20 years. Mr. Blackwell spent several years as the Technology Coordinator at The Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University where he first began his association with ACT – Autism Community Training. He considers it his honour to serve as an advisor to a dedicated organization utilizing technology to further their goals.

Dana Brynelsen was the Provincial Advisor for the Infant Development Programs of BC from 1975 to 2010. She is the author of a number of articles on early intervention and has presented internationally Dana has worked with many communities throughout Canada in establishing and evaluating services for families who have young children with special needs. Dana has a particular interest in supporting families in their efforts to raise their children and has received many awards for her work in this area. She recently received a honourary Doctorate of Laws from UBC for her work with families with children with disabilities. Dana is hard of hearing from birth and has been involved with services and advocacy for hard of hearing children and adults..

Dr. Margaret Clark is a family physician, living in Dawson Creek, who has worked in small Canadian communities since completing her medical training. She is the mother of three children, her teenage son has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Clark has a special interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Learning Disabilities and processing disorders.

Kim Dragseth is a parent of two young boys with ASD living in the South Okanagan region. A participant in ACT’s Volunteer Parent Facilitator training in 2012, Ms. Dragseth has founded a community group, as well as a community-based, not-for-profit organization called the “Osoyoos Autism Behavioral Centre and Society”. This organization provides support and information for families affected by ASD, living in the South Okanagan region.

Dr. Vikram Dua is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has assessed and treated hundreds of children and youth with ASD in British Columbia over the past decade. He served as the primary researcher and writer for the Ministry of Health policy paper, “Standards and Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Assessment of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Dr. Dua completed his medical school training at McMaster University in Hamilton and then went on to do a residency at Harvard Medical School. He is an associate clinical professor at the University of British Columbia and is a co-investigator at the B.C. site of the national longitudinal study of young children with ASD (“ASD Pathways”). He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Blair Dwyer is a well-known Canadian tax lawyer. After career stops as a Senior Rulings Officer with Revenue Canada and as a partner in McCarthy & McCarthy (now McCarthy Tétrault) in Toronto and Vancouver and with Crease Harman & Company in Victoria, Blair established his own firm in 1995. Dwyer Tax Law is a boutique law firm that restricts its practice to tax and estate planning. He is the author of several publications on Canadian tax law and has taught Advanced Taxation at the University of Victoria. He is the father of two children on the autism spectrum.

Mary-Ann Fulks is an occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience in paediatric practice. She completed her sensory integration certification in 1990 and her Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Sciences at UBC in 1996. Ms. Fulks has worked in an early childhood mental health program where she often saw children with sensory processing issue and in an adolescent day treatment program where approximately 25% of the clientele seen there for psychiatric illness also had an ASD. She has been a clinical faculty member of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at UBC and is currently on the ACT Advisory Council and the RASP Advisory Panel.

Betty-Ann Garreck volunteers as facilitator of Autism Kamloops, and is coordinator of Autism Parent Partners (APP). She has been involved with organizing many learning opportunities on autism for parents and professionals in Kamloops. Betty-Ann is the mother of five wonderful individuals, four of whom have disabilities, including autism, ADHD, LD, and FAS: “A strong advocate for family and community…a true believer autism is treatable.

Sarah Goudal is an elementary school teacher who lives in Prince George. She has three children, one of whom has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has a keen interest in improving services to children with special needs in Northern British Columbia.

Dr Elizabeth Hartney is the parent of a child with ASD. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology and three other degrees. She is the author of two books, and has co-authored numerous other publications and international conference presentations. She is registered with the College of Alberta Psychologists, the British Psychological Society, the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada, the Canadian Register of Service Providers in Psychology, and is a Registered Europsy Psychologist. She has worked as a therapist, researcher and educator in Canada and the UK.

Janice Harvey is the mother of three young adults: a son and identical twin girls, one of whom has autism. After moving to Kelowna, Janice was coordinator of the local autism parents support group for two years and has continued to be involved in the autism community. She has graduated in pharmacy at the University of British Columbia and is now practicing on Vancouver Island .

Susan Henke facilitated a Parent Community Group for many years in the West Kootenays region, encouraging education for parents & professionals, fundraising, supporting families, and providing resources and information. Sue is an active participant on the Advisory Committees for the Infant Development Program and Supported Child Care Program.Sue and her husband had three children, one of whom had autism. Joey died of medical complications in  2013.

Valerie Ish is a Human Resources professional with more than 25 years of public and private sector experience. Valerie lives in North Vancouver and is Principal of Valerie Ish + Associates, Inc., a company that offers HR consulting services to organizations in the Lower Mainland.

Dr. Suzanne Jacobsen is a Registered Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has provided services to children with complex developmental disabilities and autism in education and health care settings for 30 years. Suzanne is a certified teacher and has taught children and adult learners. She currently is working in private practice providing assessment and diagnosis of children and behavior consultation for families of children with autism spectrum disorders. Each day she works to balance her professional roles with the joy and challenges of being a wife, mother, grandmother and daughter.

Randy James, BA, BSW is the Team Director of the Developmental Disability Mental Health Services and Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessments for the Interior Health Authority, based in Kelowna. Randy is a founding member of the BC Association for Mental Health in Developmental Disability (BC AMHiDD) established in 1999 and has been chair of the Bi-Annual conferences including “Crossing the Trestles”, “State of the HART”, and “Emerging Practices”. Randy’s vision is to achieve a high quality, lifespan mental health service for individuals with intellectual disabilities and complex mental health needs.

Dr. Gerry Kysela is the Clinical Director of the Family Centred Practices Group, which offers preschool Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention programs for children diagnosed on the ASD continuum. Gerry came to BC from Alberta where he was a Professor in Educational Psychology for 28 years specializing in the fields of Early Intervention and Child and Family Development. He moved to BC to assist the government in the start of two of the Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention programs in Delta and in the Okanagan region. He completed his education at the University of Waterloo and is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta.

Dr. Pat Mirenda is a Professor in the Dept. of Educational and Counseling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. She lectures widely and teaches UBC courses in the areas of autism, positive behavior support, augmentative communication and developmental disabilities. She has published numerous research articles and chapters related to autism, and has recently completed a 3-year evaluation of the impact of early intervention for children with autism in BC.

Shannon Muir is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked in private practices since 1997, first in Kamloops, and now in North and West Vancouver, providing direct therapy and consulting services to people with autism and their caregivers. Shannon received her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton and a BA in Applied Linguistics from University of Victoria.

Jo-Anne Seip is the Administrator for the Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders and is the chair of the Autism Council of BC, past president of the University Affiliated Programs, Council for Exceptional Children and a recipient of the CEC international award of excellence for outstanding programming in career education for the handicapped. Jo-Anne has designed and offered courses in ASD through UBC, UVIC and SFU. She has a Masters Degree in Special Education, has written and coauthored a number of articles and textbooks on educating students with autism and lectures extensively throughout North America.

Sue Wastie is a BC Registered, Canadian Certified, Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) who also holds a Masters degree in Education. Since 1996, Sue has been the Senior SLP for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and is responsible for supervising and coordinating program planning for a team of 20 SLPs providing early assessment and therapy for infants, toddlers and preschool children who live in Vancouver. Sue also has a part-time private practice serving school-age children with a variety of communication disorders including language-based learning disorders secondary to autism and deaf/hard of hearing. Recently, Sue developed a internet-based learning module to provide orientation and updates on the autism assessment and diagnostic process for healthcare employees of VCH. She is also one of the first professionals in BC trained to use the STAT (Screening Tool for Autism in Two-Year-Olds). Since 1997, Sue has been honourary Clinical Assistant Professor at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, School of Audiology and Speech Sciences. In 2004, Sue was awarded the Honours of the BC Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.

Catrin Webb is a parent living in the Sea to Sky corridor region of B.C. Ms. Webb was one of the participants in ACT’s Volunteer Parent Facilitator training in 2012. As a result of the training, she has begun a community group. The mother of two energetic boys, one of whom has ASD, Ms. Webb is currently completing her Diploma in Classroom and Community Support at Douglas College. She has a strong interest in special needs advocacy, community education and working with children and their families.

Carol Ywan started the Mandarin-speaking Parent Support Group in 1999, after her son received a diagnosis of ASD diagnosis in 1998. Currently Carol is the Manager of Program Development at Reach Child and Youth Development Society, formerly the Delta Association for Child Development. Carol worked as the Information and Referral Worker at Autism Society of BC from 2003 – 2004. She has an MA from Michigan State University.