Ryan Bowes (he/him/his) is a 23-year-old autism self-advocate in his second year at Osgoode Hall Law School. Ryan is currently completing a Disability Law Intensive at ARCH Disability Law Centre as part of his degree. Ryan spent his undergraduate studying Criminal Justice and Public Policy at the University of Guelph, where he sat as college representative on the Central Students Association Board of Directors during his final two years. At Osgoode, he is Vice-President, Treasurer of Access 2 Osgoode, a disability advocacy group on campus, and has organized initiatives such as alternative lecture recordings for 1L students and free drop-in ASL classes. He is also Vice-President, Social and Planning of OUTLaws, Osgoode’s on-campus LGBTQA+ student group. Ryan is excited to bring a creative and informed voice to the Ontario Autism Coalition, especially in regards to education accessibility and human rights issues concerning autistic adults in the province.
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!
Elisha Chesler is the owner and director of Sunshine Learning Centre. The centre is an ABA provider, serving families in Durham Region. Elisha and Sunshine are proud recipients of a Durham Region Accessibility Award, in recognition of their efforts to increase community access and participation for individuals with additional needs. Elisha is currently pursuing additional credentials towards a Masters degree and her BCBA certification.
Elisha began her advocacy work with the OAC in 2016 and has remained actively involved with efforts since. She has also been involved in activist efforts, including campaigns related to violence against women, racism, war actions, and poverty and homelessness. Elisha also volunteers with organizations working to address homelessness, poverty, and mental health/addiction issues within the city of Toronto.
Elisha is eager to use her advocacy experience, as well as her experience in the field of autism, to support the OAC’s efforts in ensuring fair and equitable support for children, youth, and adults on the spectrum.
My name is Rob Davis. I have been an ally of the Autism community for a long while. As a former city councillor in Toronto for a ten-year period I understand how difficult it is to navigate through the halls of government. Additionally, I understand how difficult it can be to cut through the clutter of public opinion. I run a political consulting company. I have run many political campaigns and raised funds for several causes. More recently I conceived and ran the “WANTED” campaign for the OAC during the #AutismDoesntEndAt5 campaign. I hope to assist in raising much needed funds for the organization so that we can achieve our stated mission.
Hey all -I’m Elsbeth. I am Autistic. I was diagnosed at 14, however the first time the word Autism came up for me was age 6. I live with my mom and dad and 2 cats in London Ontario. I work at a comic shop in town. I love to draw and write. My current special interest is comics. I love cats and dogs. Areas where I need support include executive function and some social situations (what’s appropriate to say vs. whats not). I started doing talks and presentations on Autism when I was 18. I met Bruce and Laura and their 2 awesome kids when I was working with the Ontario Child Advocate’s office and have been working with the OAC ever since.
Hey guys! My name is Philip Lerner, and I am 19 years old. I am so excited to be one of the new autism self-advocates on the Board of Directors!
I was diagnosed with autism at age 2. At that time, my parents put me on a waitlist for government-funded IBI therapy. However, it was taking a long time to get services, so they decided to go with private ABA therapy instead. The results were extremely positive, I learned how to adapt and conduct myself in the outside world.
Most of my life, I concealed the fact that I was autistic. I was in a community class in elementary school, but most of my integrated classmates did not know why. I told only those that I trusted, and usually in a 1 to 1 setting.
All that changed in 2016. When I found out that the age cap for the ABA waitlist was being reintroduced at the younger age of five, I decided that I couldn’t sit around and watch while tons of kids like me were being robbed of the services that changed my life. That is when I was slowly introduced to autism advocates who inspired me to go completely public about my diagnosis. Since then, I have really turned the corner. I was interviewed by both CTV and Toronto Star on autism issues and got involved in more OAC events. I am even starting a research project with Dr. Janet Mclaughlin on Ontario’s autism services and policies.
Outside of the autism world, I am in my second year at the University of Waterloo, currently studying statistics. My career aspiration is to become a data analyst or go into business intelligence. While on campus I am also involved with several Jewish organizations. Last but not least, I am a huge Toronto sports fan and a massive foodie!
I am so excited to get to know all of you at social events and rallies. Let’s work together to finally get Ontario to hear our message!
Tracie is a dually credentialed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA) with experience working within school settings and private practice. Her main areas of interest are developmental disabilities, severe problem behaviour, ASD, complex communication needs, AAC, and dual diagnosis. She is the Clinical Director (Ontario & Eastern Canada) of Monarch House, a network of 11 interdisciplinary private healthcare centres, serving individuals with developmental disabilities and other related disorders. She is a guest lecturer in the SLP departments at U of T and McMaster, and gives workshops and training sessions to school boards, agencies, and organizations throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe, on a variety of topics related to SLP, ABA, ASD, AAC, Interprofessional Education (IPE), and Interprofessional Practice (IPP).
Tracie is also a research investigator on a number of projects in the fields of ABA and SLP for individuals with developmental disabilities, ASD, and Acquired Brain Injury. She has authored/co-authored three book chapters. Tracie serves as co-chair for the Speech Pathology and ABA Special Interest Group (SPABA), affiliated with the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), the scientific advisory board for ASAT (Association for Science in Autism Treatment), and the Executive Board of First Bridge, an ABA centre in London, UK.
Janet MacDougall is the Executive Director of Yes I Can Nursery School in Toronto. Yes I Can Nursery school is a not for profit registered charity and serves preschoolers in integrated and specialized classes and offers a robust summer camp. Many of the children who attend Yes I Can have autism.
Janet has served the community in a variety of capacities which included: Past chair of City KIDS, Consultant to the City of Toronto on development of childcare criteria for best practices, past member of the inaugural board of Georgian Bay General Hospital, and Past President of Simcoe County Children’s Aid Society. She has received a number of awards, including the Prime Minister’s Award for Early Childhood Education, the Members of Parliament SequiCentennial Citizenship Award for fostering a strong sense of belong to those in the community, the Maria de Witt Award presented by the City of Toronto for outstanding work in the community, and Best Local Hero – North Toronto Post.
Janet looks forward to serving in her new position as a board member for the Ontario Autism Coalition.
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 cgroup 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. Due to COVID, the march took a one-year hiatus in 2020, but will be an annual tradition in support of the federal government’s commitment to a National Strategy.
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 the 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.
Gideon Sheps has been on the OAC board since 2016. He is a parent of a young adult on the spectrum, and has been active, in some form or another, in advocacy since going to talk twith his MPP about the “the lawsuit and the letter” at the start of the McGuinty era. Gideon joined the Holland Bloorview Family Advisory in 2005, and continues to serve on it. At HB he has served on a wide range of committees and projects. In 2013 he was invited to become the founding chair of the Bloorview Research Institutes Family Engagement Committee. The model created by the committee for family engagement has been published and presented internationally. In 2016 Gideon was honoured with the Dr John Whittaker Memorial Award for service to the hospital. In 2015 he was selected as one of the inaugural members of Health Quality Ontario’s Patient, Family & Public Advisor’s Council, on which I still serve. Professionally Gideon is in the IT field, currently working as a Project Manager for IBM.
Bonjour, Aanii & hello. I’m Sean Staddon from Sudbury in gorgeous Northern Ontario. Proud father of two beautiful autistic children; June (Born 2015 and Diagnosed 2017) and Chaz (Born 2017 and Diagnosed 2019). You may also know my best friend, wife and advocating partner Julia.
Our journey started three years ago when June was diagnosed. Access to services in Northern Ontario was and remains underfunded. No funding model has prioritized considerations for our diverse geography, or for our Francophone and Indigenous populations. Our family made a conscience decision to provide a voice for residents of Northern Ontario and to push for equal therapy access. We’ve met with numerous politicians and policy makers, held townhalls and rallies, and helped highlight the unique needs in the North.
Outside of Autism Advocacy, I am an industrial electrician by trade and a labour union activist. I chair the Political Action Committee (PAC) for the United Steelworkers local 6500, I sit on a Mining Legislation Review subcommittee at the Ministry of Labour, and I’m a shop steward. If I can find free time I’m an avid outdoorsman. Fishing, hunting and camping with my family are my happy places. I am very much looking forward to working with the Ontario Autism Coalition and grateful for this opportunity.
Thank you, Merci & Miigwech!
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.
Michau Van Speyk
Michau is an outspoken autism self advocate. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Michau came to Canada with his family at the turn of the millennium. Michau’s experiences in school were both good and bad. He has memories of teacheers who did not understand him or his autism, but cherishes the memory of others who were supportive and kind. Michau has been involved with the OAC since 2016, and this is his second term on the Board of Directors. He has participated in just about every event, and only misses them when he can’t be in two places at once, no matter how hard he tries. Michau is a well-known visitor at Queen’s Park, and nearly every MPP knows him by name.
Michau loves social events, and views protests as just as much a gathering of friends as they are political action. He loves sports as a player and as a fan, cheering espcially hard for his beloved Toronto Raptors. Michau collects DVD’s of all of my favourite movies and tv shows, and his secret superpower is the ability to drink an amazing amount of Dr. Pepper.