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The Expertise of TACC Researchers Recognized by The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

Good news for the Transforming Autism Care Consortium: Our researchers have been invited to take part in a momentous consultation aimed at producing a report that will provide data leading to the development of a national strategy for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In October of 2020, the federal government gave the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) a massive sixteen-month mandate to gather data from Canada and around the world, review scientific literature, and consult and meet with autistic people, their family caregivers and grassroots organizations. Findings will be reported to government by the end of 2022, thus allowing for the creation of a national strategy for ASD.

The CAHS is a neutral, not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to research and advocate for issues relating to the health of Canadians. At this time, they will explore all aspects of ASD. To do so, the CAHS has established an oversight panel and three working groups to address, respectively, issues of social inclusion, economic inclusion, and evidence-based interventions.

Eight researchers from our network were selected by the CAHS to join their project. They are Jacob Burack, Martin Caouette, Isabelle Courcy, Mélanie Couture, Mayada Elsabbagh, Tara Flanagan, Laurent Mottron and Keiko Shikako-Thomas (from left to right).

This testament to the confidence in our researchers confirms that research can help transform autism care and services, thus influencing decisions that lead to the development of policies and programs designed to improve the lives of autistic people and their families.

Moreover, for one of the first times in its history, the CAHS invited autistic people, their families and caregivers to participate as members of the oversight panel and working groups.

Mélanie Couture, an occupational therapist, professor and researcher at the University of Sherbrooke, is now the vice-president of the oversight panel, and is delighted to have been invited:

“This is a huge, exciting project. As the autistic community is so diverse, one can easily imagine the immense workload and data that these consultations require. As we find ourselves at the start of our mandate, we are currently developing the tools which will be used to structure our work. Notably, we are preparing to collect and review the scientific literature and existing policies around the world. We will also be launching a major national autism consultation shortly. This will be done in different stages, at the end of which, we hope, thousands of people and organizations will have contributed. It is from all of these sources of information that our report and findings for government will emerge.”

Now more than ever are issues related to autism important on all levels. When a government calls for a national consultation on the matter, it becomes clear that it intends to act. The findings of the CAHS and our researchers will therefore be at the heart of the development of this national plan for ASD. All hope that the current and following government will take the findings of the CAHS into account in developing this crucial national plan for ASD.

What matters most is that we gain a better understanding of the nature of ASD in order to develop strategies, policies and tools that will truly transform the care and services currently available to autistic people, their families, and caregivers. Research can contribute to this by accelerating the pace of discovery. The participation of our researchers in this major consultation will help answer questions about autism care and services across the country in order to succeed, we hope, in transforming them.

To learn more about this initiative, visit the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences website.