Alina is a passionate advocate and community builder from Slate River, which is situated on the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation, signatory to the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.
Alina was moved to action in 2016 when seeking diagnosis for one of her three children. Recognizing the barriers in accessing basic healthcare and services, she co-founded Northern Autism Families Matter in 2019 to amplify the voices of autism advocates in Northwestern Ontario. Alina joined the OAC in 2020 and has held multiple positions including director (Northern representative), VP Research, and now President. Alina is also a member of her local SEAC and Thunder Bay Family Network, a group advocating for people living with disabilities, and their families, across Northern Ontario.
By day Alina is a practising epidemiologist. Alina brings her professional experience to her advocacy roles, having completed her MSc in Medicine, at the University of Manitoba and the Laboratory Epidemiology Training Program at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML). In her free time, Alina enjoys painting, reading, writing, and spending time outdoors with her family.
I am privileged to be writing this on the traditional territory of Ojibwe/Chippewa, Oji-Cree, Mushkegowuk (Cree), Algonquin and Metis Peoples in Hearst, Ontario, (originally from Manitouwadge). I am a mother to 2 beautiful children, one of whom is autistic. I work as a PSW in LTC and currently, President of CUPE Local 1771. I also volunteer as an Executive Board Member of the Thunder Bay Family Network and other various groups in my region.
Upon my son’s diagnosis in 2016, I felt relief knowing that help was on its way. At the time, publicly funded services and supports were available in my community. There was no such thing as travel to access any kind of autism services but little did I know, the PCs had something else up their sleeve.
Fast forward to 2019. Lisa MacLeod cheerfully announced the dismantling of the Ontario Autism Program. As families wept, I sat back in shock, disbelief and a rage like no other. I felt the urge in my bones to do something. With my emotions on my sleeve, I started my journey in advocacy with the Thunder Bay Family Network where I met some of the most incredible women (a special shout out to Sharon Bak for her wisdom). Together, we co-founded Northern Autism Families Matter, a Northwestern Ontario political advocacy group, hoping to better the lives of autistics and to gain access to services for our families in NWO. Now, I’m fortunate to share space on the OAC board, and I’m looking forward to learning, engaging, including and working together for a common goal for all autistics in Ontario.
My name is Martin Buckingham and it is my honour to serve on the OAC Board of Directors. Since 2008, when my son was first diagnosed, I have been keenly involved in issues regarding education and parental challenges. As Board member and then President of Giant Steps Toronto, I have continued efforts to improve and enhance a school that believes in the coordinated approach of therapies, academics, and inclusion. My inspiration will always be my son and my late father, who drilled into my head at regular intervals that “can’t” means “don’t want to”. If my name slips your mind, feel free to call me Jack’s Dad, which I am more than fine with. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you!
Tracy is the proud fairy godmother to two incredible kids on the spectrum. She has spent over 25 years as a business and brand strategist and is looking forward to helping take the OAC to the next level. Her formative years were spent at BBDO, FCB and other notable agencies working on global B2B and B2C brands. This was followed by years of strategy and research work for businesses like Microsoft Xbox, start-ups in neuroscience wearable tech, and non-profits. She then ventured into brand valuation to quantify the financial value of businesses beyond bricks and mortar. She co-developed the Brand Economics™ approach, identifying the organizational brand drivers and customer experience interactions with the greatest financial upside and/or risk for crisis management. She has contributed to new financial brand measurement standards working with MASB, LES and Forbes CMO Practice. She has two neuro-science patents, is obsessed with dogs, and has a lifelong passion for helping the most vulnerable minorities.
I’m an autistic self-advocate and a stay-at-home parent of 2 kids, ages 5 & 7, who are also on the autism spectrum. My advocacy began, with my husband Dave, in early 2019, just after our eldest had been diagnosed. Just a few weeks later, Lisa MacLeod announced Childhood Budgets. That program was not going to support our son’s needs and we didn’t know what to do. We had paid privately for diagnosis, assessment, parent training, behavioural services, speech & occupational therapy. The cost and the waitlists for these services were incredibly distressing.
I watched as the veterans of the community rallied, and it was inspiring. I had to join in the efforts in order to give our son a voice in all of this. I’ve attended marches, and protests, I’ve been to Queens Park, I’ve made phone calls, sent emails and attended meetings with my MPP’s office. I saw that our collective effort actually forced the government to change policies—advocacy works.
Our family relocated to the Brockville area and on the OAC’s Day of Action in May 2022, I organized a local protest and received a lot of support from my new community. Once people hear about us and our cause, they care. Since my eldest has started school, I have witnessed the lack of supports for children with autism, and I’m committed to changing polices there as well.
I am inspired by people who speak up in the face of opposition, and I do my best to be that kind of person. Having tough conversations moves society forward, and I want to help keep the momentum going. I tell people that I am autistic with intention and purpose. I want to focus on creating awareness and shattering stereotypes with each and every interaction. I am eager to be part of this team and to work closely with this incredible community.
I am the proud mother of two wonderful children. My eldest is an 8-year-old named Owen, who was diagnosed with autism in 2020. Following my son’s diagnosis, I sought an assessment for myself and discovered that I am also autistic. This shared journey has fuelled my passion for advocacy.
Upon his diagnosis, I stumbled upon the OAC. For months, I observed and absorbed information. It became evident that there was a lack of support for children like my son. In 2020, fuelled by frustration, I decided to actively participate. Since then, I’ve consistently advocated for my child and others, stepping out of my comfort zone.
I reached out to my MPP, secured a meeting, and engaged with local media, sharing our story. I’ve been to Queens Park, both inside and outside, boldly confronting the government. Recently, I shared my personal story in a Toronto Star article and halted a Santa Claus parade to implore an MPP to address the waitlist issue. I’m proud of these actions. They motivate me to continue fighting for our children. I believe actions speak louder than words.
Being autistic myself and a mother of an autistic child, I bring outside-the-box thinking and a fearless approach to pushing boundaries. I am committed to holding policymakers and politicians accountable and am honoured to do so as a board member with the Ontario Autism Coalition.
Vice-President—Community Outreach—Education Co-Chair
Kate is the busy mom to two amazing kids, both on the autism spectrum. Now based in Ottawa but originally from Toronto, Kate dedicates her free time to activism. In 2016, her daughter had only started IBI therapy the month before after waiting over 2.5 years, when the provincial government announced that kids over 5 would no longer be eligible. Her daughter was already seeing progress in her speech, regulation and self-help skills, so this was a devastating blow. It was the catalyst for Kate joining the OAC and thousands of parents across the province to advocate against the senseless age cut off. Her activism around the #AutismDoesntEndAt5 campaign gave her the resolve to then fight the gutting of the OAP in 2019.
Kate has volunteered significant time meeting with MPP’s, organizing protests, town halls and other actions, to ensure that all children with ASD can get the therapy and supports they need. Along with fellow Board Member Kerry Monaghan, she runs the local group, ASD Ottawa Unite. Kate works with unions, politicians and other social justice organizations, and advocates for other causes such as education, healthcare and climate change. She views her role on the OAC’s Board of Directors as an opportunity to deepen her advocacy work towards ensuring equity for all autistics in Ontario.
Sonja is the busy mom of two boys, one of whom is on the spectrum. When her youngest son was diagnosed in 2019, it was right after services were frozen and the age based Ontario Autism Program was announced. Learning how to navigate the many challenges within the system, has created a fierce advocate in her and she is devoted to helping families learn the system, affect change and help have their voices heard.
Before becoming a director, Sonja has been an active volunteer with the Ontario Autism Coalition, organizing the Ottawa chapter of the Spin Today for Youth Tomorrow Fundraiser in April of 2022, taking part in rallies and protests and contributing to the Political Action Committee, Education Working Group, OAP Working Group and co-chairs the Volunteer Committee. Sonja regularly engages with MPPs and members of the MCCSS advocating for the autistic community and communicates key program and policy information within several online forums for families.
Advocacy takes up much of Sonja’s spare time, but when there is downtime, she enjoys spending time with her kids, practicing yoga and catching up with friends.
Bio to come.
Sara is mom to two boys, one of whom is autistic. Her advocacy journey began in 2016 when she tried to obtain a diagnosis for her son; an endeavour that would have her facing years-long waitlists. Her advocacy endeavours greatly increased in 2019 following the changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Sara has organized protests and town halls, and often engages MPPs and Ministers, helping to elevate the voices of northern, rural, remote, francophone, and indigenous communities. As the Chair of the Northern Capacity Building Advisory Committee through Child & Community Resources (CCR), Sara works with other northern parents, advocates, and service providers to develop ways to build capacity for autism services in Northern Ontario.
Sara is also the creator and organizer of Autism Friendly Sports Night (AFSN), a not-for-profit program that provides an opportunity for autistic children and youth, as well as their neurotypical siblings to interact in an inclusive and non-judgmental environment. Autistic children in the program practice social skills, meet new friends and learn different athletic skills. AFSN also offers peer mentoring opportunities between some of its teen participants and autistic adult volunteers. Sara has collaborated with the City of Greater Sudbury and spearheaded the creation of an age and ability inclusive park in Coniston. The park focuses on accommodating the physical, emotional, cognitive, sensory, safety and social learning needs of that diverse community.
Leah is a mother to three young children, with one on the spectrum. Her advocacy journey started in 2019, shortly after her oldest child was diagnosed with Autism. It was after realizing the years long wait for intensive supports that now faced her son that Leah joined the OAC.
Leah has volunteered with the OAC since 2019; from the picket lines to policy meetings. Leah sits on the Autism Program Working Group, the Political Action Committee, and has recently joined the Research Working Group. She has organized protests in the Hamilton, Norfolk, and Brant areas, and has made many trips to the GTA and Belleville to join other dedicated coalitioners.
Recently, Leah has successfully petitioned her local municipal government to introduce a Missing Vulnerable Persons Alert. She hopes to further her advocacy skill with a focus on relationships between First Responders and those on the Autism Spectrum.
She has dedicated herself to advocating for not only her son, but all autistic individuals and their families across the province.
Jay Lerner CMA, CPA is a Director—Indirect Tax with BDO Canada. During his 30 years of experience he has consulted for many non-profit organizations on various tax issues. Jay resides in Thornhill with his wife Kathy and adult aged children Carly and Philip. They have watched their son Philip go through ABA therapy as young child, and experienced firsthand the many deficiencies in government autism services, support structures, and funding.
Jay has been a friend of the OAC for 13 years. He has watched this dynamic and tireless group evolve into the “go to” experts on Autism Services, and be the voice for people with ASD who were robbed of services and funding that they were promised.
Jay has joined the OAC because he “has been standing on the sidelines too long watching others fight the battle,” and now feels that it is now his turn to give back. He brings his passion, experience and business acumen to our board.
Director (Founding President)—Technology Co-Chair
Bruce McIntosh has been an activist for people with disabilities for as long as he can remember. Both of his parents were victims of polio, and so Bruce learned about advocacy quite literally at his father’s knee. In an odd twist of fate, Bruce’s son was named for his father, Cliff. When the family learned that Cliff has autism, Bruce began focusing on autism service improvement, and has continued to do so for 18 years.
Bruce’s portfolio career has honed a range of skills that he has brought to bear in his advocacy work. He has worked in the fields of communication & desktop publishing, information technology, and has served as Chief of Staff for an Ontario cabinet minister. Bruce has spent his all of his adult life involved in politics, usually as a volunteer, occasionally as staff, and frequently as a campaign manager.
Bruce describes his level of commitment to the current campaign as being “stronger that it has ever been, when [he] didn’t think that was possible.” His goal is nothing short of getting clinically appropriate, sustainably funded services in place for people with autism of all ages. And he won’t stop until that goal is achieved.
Vice-President—Community Engagement—OAP Working Group Chair
Kerry is from Ottawa, at-home mum to Jack, 6 and Charlotte, 4, who are both on the autism spectrum. Her advocacy journey began after her son’s diagnosis in 2016. Kerry created ASD Ottawa Unite!; a group that brings together like-minded advocates, and organizes protests, rallies, community events, and updates members about OAP policy changes. Kerry co-organized the 2019 Next Step Autism March which brought together more than 600 parents, allies, and advocates from across the province in a non-partisan rally for a National Autism Strategy. The walk covered 22km across Ottawa from the then-Minister of Children, Community and Social Services’ Constituency Office to the steps of Parliament Hill.
Kerry organizes social groups for autistic children and their families. and her program recently merged with Polaris, a local charity. Kerry serves as Community Director of Polaris PLAY. Kerry organizes two annual fundraisers. In the spring it’s Jack & Charlotte’s Walk Around the Block in support of Spectrum Intervention Group, a non-profit ABA centre, and in fall it’s a 12-hour Christmas Crafting event, sale and auction for QuickStart Early Intervention for Autism.
Kerry is a writer, a diplomat, and an organizer. She works with her husband and advocacy partner, Patrick. Kerry is incredibly proud of what her group has accomplished for the local autism community, and looks forward to sharing her particular brand of advocacy with the Ontario Autism Coalition.
Raya’s exposure to Autism started in late 2019, when his son was diagnosed at the age of 2.5 yrs. It has been a frustrating and challenging ordeal to understand and navigate the complicated world of mental health, government funding, special services, and needs-based therapy. Raya is proud to join the OAC and looks forward to advocating for those who need support.
Raya is a seasoned Chartered Professional Accountant with 20+ years of Blue Chip, Big 4 firm, and regulatory compliance experience, having serviced small, medium, and large-scale enterprises to reduce audit and business risks. Raya is also past Board Chair for a Toronto-based health centre, where the mission was to provide assistance to marginalized residents of Toronto. Having served on the Board for 9 years, Raya oversaw all governance related matters, executive financial decisions, and policy development, while leading a team of 10 Directors to ensure the CEO implemented and achieved the Centre’s strategic plan.
In the evenings and week-ends, Raya and his wife have their hands full raising three young children; but lately, when he has a few minutes, Raya is often found trying to improve his personal best time on his Rubik’s cube!
Bio to come.
Bio to come.
Vice-President—Operations—Political Action Committee (PAC) Chair
Tony Stravato, aka The Beard, is the proud father of twin boys both diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. He is co-founder of the Durham Crew and since the disastrous Childhood Budget announcement in 2019, has spent his time advocating with fellow members for Needs Based Therapy. Tony has vowed not to shave until the Ontario Autism Program delivers Needs-Based Therapy.
Tony’s hobbies include hockey, working on cars and protesting. For the past 15 years Tony has worked at Gerdau in Oshawa where he currently holds the position of Yard Operator. He’s a member of the Steelworkers Local 2784, and from 2008 – 2019 he was the Joint Health and Safety Co Chair. Since 2011 Tony has been elected Union Plant Chairperson.