Speakers & Presentations

Location & Schedule

Exhibitor Pavilion




speakers & presentations

Wendy Edwards, B.Sc., M.D., F.R.C.P

Dr. Edwards is a Consulting Pediatrician working in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. She completed her pediatric residency in Toronto, at the Hospital for Sick Children, where she was chosen to act as chief resident in her final year. Dr. Edwards also has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and before attending medical school, worked as an oncology nurse at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Dr. Edwards' own son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. He is now fully verbal, with a wonderful sense of humour and lots of friends. He has never required an Educational Assistant or modifications to the school curriculum and achieves excellent grades.

Dr. Edwards now has a large autism practice seeing children with autism from all across Ontario and Canada. She currently sits on the board of the Autism Canada Foundation and the Option Institute of America, where the Son-Rise program for autism was developed.

Presentation Title:

Risk factors for autism. Can we prevent it from ever happening?


Autism is a complicated medical disorder affecting various body systems. There are many reasons why a child might develop autism and therefore no two cases of autism are alike. Recent research now suggests that a mother’s health before and during her pregnancy intimately affects the developing baby’s environment. This in turn plays a large role in whether or not that baby grows to have developmental/learning problems or even autism after birth. In this talk Dr. Edwards will discuss the current research and lay out some considerations for women who want to become pregnant and avoid possible developmental disorders in their offspring.

Steven Gutstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven Gutstein is an internationally renowned pioneer in the field of developmental disabilities. As the developer and director of RDIconnect, he has brought over twenty years of experience in treatment planning, program development, clinical expertise and education to his innovative approaches for treating at-risk children, adolescents and adults. Over the course of his career he has trained thousands of dedicated professionals, supporting them as they work with families around the world. It is Dr. Gutstein’s belief that every individual with developmental disabilities merits a second chance to realize success in a world where their choices and decisions are entirely their own.

Presentation Title:

RDI™ Bridging the Gulf Between ASD Research and Practice


All individuals with autism, even those with language and academic abilities, have serious deficits that impact their functional quality of life. In order to live independently, maintain relationships, and gain meaningful employment, important "dynamic" abilities are required. Although it was previously thought impossible for people with autism to gain these abilities, the latest findings from neuroscience and psychology tell us otherwise.

In contrast to other areas of medical science, there has been a deep divide between what researchers are learning about ASD and what clinicians, educators and parents are doing in their day-to-day lives and practices. The RDI™ program bridges the gulf between research and therapy converting what is known about brain plasticity into useable strategies for parents and those who work with individuals with autism. The RDI™ curriculum provides a roadmap to help children and young adults develop the dynamic abilities necessary for a high quality of life.

After briefly summarizing the research, Dr. Gutstein will look at the typical development of ASD and how it is possible to change its trajectory. He will provide some clear recommendations on how parents, educators, and clinicians can use practical strategies to impact children's neurology and get typical development back on track.

Raun K. Kaufman

Raun K. Kaufman is the Director of Global Education and former CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America®. In his work as an international speaker, writer and teacher to families, children, and professionals around the world, Mr. Kaufman brings a distinctive qualification to the realm of Autism treatment—his own personal history. As a young boy, Raun was diagnosed as severely and incurably autistic. His parents developed a unique methodology now known as The Son-Rise Program®, which enabled Raun to recover completely from his autism. He holds a degree in Biomedical Ethics from the Ivy League’s Brown University and continues to lecture at conferences and symposia worldwide. He was awarded “Best Presenter” at the AutismOne National Conference. His new book Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method that has Helped Families All Over the World is an autism best-seller on Amazon.

Presentation Title:

Practical Strategies for Working with Children


Raun K. Kaufman will provide concrete, outside-the-box strategies you can implement now for your child’s immediate gain. With humor and inspiration, Raun will recount his own story of recovery and outline some crucial yet often-overlooked aspects of autism and its treatment from his new book, Autism Breakthrough. The lecture focuses on some innovative techniques you can use today to help your child: move beyond stimming (without you stopping or discouraging your child’s behavior), learn new skills (without you having to push or pressure), and, most especially, to form meaningful, caring relationships with others.

Dana Laake, RDH, MS, LDN

Dana Godbout Laake is a Licensed Nutritionist providing preventive and therapeutic medical nutrition services through Dana Laake Nutrition located in Kensington, Maryland. Her practice encompasses complex medical nutrition issues affecting adults, and children with special needs. An honors graduate and outstanding alumnus honoree from Temple University, she received her master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Maryland. In addition to media presentations, writing, radio talk show hosting and providing professional continuing education courses, Dana Laake has been a Maryland Legislative Assistant on health issues and has served four gubernatorial appointments on two state health care regulatory boards (Dentistry and Dietetic Practice). She is co-author of “The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook, The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet” (2009) and “The ADHD and Autism Nutritional Supplement Handbook” (2013).

Presentation Title:

The Autism Evaluation: Clinical Signs and Symptoms, Laboratory Testing and Clinical Application


The Autism Evaluation: Clinical Signs and Symptoms, Laboratory Testing and Clinical Application. The most effective individualized treatment for those with autism depends upon identifying the underlying metabolic, nutritional, digestive, immune, neurochemical, and gene variant findings. This presentation explores the important clinical clues known as “reading the patient” and a relevant discussion of the most applicable laboratory testing.

Alvin Loh, MD, FRCP

Dr. Alvin Loh is the developmental pediatrician at Surrey Place Centre, a centre for intellectual disability and autism, throughout the lifespan. He is one of the lead investigators in the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) – Toronto site, which is one of 17 sites in North America. The ATN aims to improve the standard of medical care for children with autism, through research and the creation and sharing of clinical toolkits, and algorithms. He has current research interests in toddlers with autism and regression. He is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Toronto.

Presentation Title:

Regression and Autism in Toddlers: Screening for treatable disorders, and comparing immune activation and oxidative stress


Regression is reported in 1/3 of children with ASD between 18-24 months of age. There are some rare but treatable medical disorders that present with regression, but even after these have been assessed for, there may be many more contributors to regression. . Increased levels of several immune cytokines have been reported in the subgroup of regressive autism, but no studies have examined the role of oxidative stress in this process. This presentation will focus research findings in the area of medical disorders, oxidative stress markers, and immune cytokines, in children 18-42 months old with ASD and regression (ASD-R) compared with a group of similar children with ASD and no regression (ASD-NR).

Thomas Luxemburger

Thomas Luxemburger currently works at Kerry’s Place in the Foundations program. He is able to help people on a daily basis and no two days are ever the same. Last summer, Thomas was the instructor in the SSASS program which provided him with the opportunity to merge two of his passions: teaching and working with people with ASD. Until recently, Thomas has been a perpetual student and traveller. He pursued many interests academically, and has seen beautiful countries and experienced amazing cultures. Most recently, Thomas was in New Zealand attaining his teaching degree.

Presentation Title:

The Road to Employment


This session will identify keys to successfully choosing a suitable job and soft skills for the workplace that can be practiced as preparation for success in the workplace. Parents and professionals can assist people with ASD to determine interests and identify jobs from a realistic perspective, identify skills and steps to a career goal. People with ASD need to understand what is meant by soft skills and hard skills on the job, communication skills for the workplace and how employers judge an employees decision making and problem solving skills, attitude, teamwork and professionalism. Effective tools and strategies will be shared.

Heather MacKenzie, Ph.D.

Heather MacKenzie, Ph.D., is a Canadian speech-language pathologist and educator who has spent a large part of her career developing and implementing approaches for enhancing learning in children with special needs. She has a special interest in understanding autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A major focus of her work with children has been on understanding them and how they approach learning and then using this knowledge to optimize their development. She has developed the Learning Preferences and Strengths (LPS) model and a program to teach behavioural, cognitive and emotional self-regulation to children with special needs. Heather has published three books Reaching and Teaching the Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, One Story at a Time and The Autistic Child’s Guide to How to Behave.

Presentation Title:

Self-regulation – A Road to Greater Autonomy and Fulfillment


Self-regulation is the ability to consciously control your body, thinking and emotions in healthy and situationally-appropriate ways. Self-regulation establishes a foundation for learning (Kloo & Perner, 2008) such that children can more readily translate their thinking, ideas and intentions into actions and demonstrations of learning.

Autism includes delays as well as significant dysregulation of behavior, thinking and emotions. Social behavior and communication skills require self-regulation to ensure the necessary flexibility and finesse. The child with autism does not easily adjust to different people and situations. He becomes over-focused or stuck on some words, phrases, movements, routines and objects or topics and cannot readily move on. He has difficulty stopping himself from doing and thinking about some things and in planning and organizing different ways of dealing with the world and people around him. He has difficulty inhibiting some thoughts or actions, monitoring changes and then adjusting according to those changes. Few children and adults with autism develop high levels of independence and self-regulation for learning and functioning in day to day life (MacDuff, Krantz & McClannahan, 1993; Stahmer & Screibman, 1992; Dunlap & Johnson, 1985).

Well-developed self-regulation skills can have a positive impact on academic performance (Martin, Mithaug, et al., 2003) and participation in school (Gilberts, Agram, et al., 2001). Children with disabilities who develop stronger self-regulation also become more independent (Sowers & Powers, 1995), exhibit more goal-oriented behavior (Wehmeyer, Palmer, et al., 2000) and greater self-confidence (Eisenman, Chamberlin, et al., 2005). They transition more successfully after graduating from school (Test, Fowler, et al., 2005), are more likely to complete post-secondary education (Field, Sarver & Shaw, 2003) and hold onto a job more easily (Wehmeyer & Palmer, 2003).

In this presentation, I will define self-regulation and describe five main executive functions: planning and organization, inhibitory control, working memory, self-monitoring and cognitive flexibility. Participants will learn an interactive process that is critical to encouraging greater autonomy, how to structure a program for developing self-regulation, as well as practical strategies for integrating it into therapy sessions, classroom activities and daily life. The approach described in this session incorporates philosophy and methods from positive psychology, mindfulness, current neurological research, and autistic strengths and preferences. Results of research using this approach will be reported.

Claudia Morris, MD

Dr. Claudia R. Morris, MD, FAAP is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. She has a successful track record of independent funding and publications outside areas of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and has led several single and multi-center trials in sickle cell disease, thalassemia, pulmonary hypertension and asthma. Her research interests involve mechanisms of oxidative stress, and development of clinical trials utilizing targeted nutritional interventions.

Her commitment to autism research is motivated by personal experiences after the recovery of her own son from an apraxic condition that she was the first to characterize in a 2009 publication. Her ability to translate her expertise from previous research in asthma and sickle cell disease using metabolic profiling to identify mechanisms of inflammation and oxidative stress to the study of autism may provide significant insight into the pathophysiology of ASD. Dr. Morris is very motivated to help families struggling with apraxia and ASD, as she believes this is a treatable metabolic condition at least in a subgroup that requires the attention and cooperation of scientists & clinicians in multiple disciplines beyond neuro-developmental pediatrics and genetics to sort out this complex puzzle.

Presentation Title:

Apraxia: Autism Co-morbidity or Symptom of a Distinct Clinical Phenotype?


This presentation will improve awareness of apraxia and dyspraxia, common but often overlooked co-morbidities found in children with ASD. Children with an apraxia phenotype likely have different mechanisms contributing to their disorder than children without a motor planning disorder, and may represent a distinct clinical sub-group of ASD. Apraxia and dyspraxia will be defined, and symptoms and metabolic anomalies of a subset of children with verbal apraxia will be characterized. Dr. Morris was the first to identify a common clinical phenotype of male predominance, autism, sensory issues, low muscle tone, coordination difficulties, food allergy/intolerance, gastrointestinal symptoms and a cluster of nutritional deficiencies in a cohort of children diagnosed with verbal apraxia that may represent a previously unrecognized syndrome of allergy, apraxia/autism and malabsorption (SAAM). Recommended laboratory analyses based on the data presented will be discussed as well as nutritional interventions that may be of value. Future direction for apraxia research will also be emphasized.

Women's Panel:
Jackie McMillan, Kaitrin Beechey, Sara Sobey facilitated by Dori Zener, M.S.W., R.S.W.

Presentation Title:

Inspirational Women with Autism Inspiring Others


Dori Zener, M.S.W., R.S.W. will facilitate a panel discussion with three inspirational women on the autism spectrum. Dori is an Individual, Couple and Family Therapist at The Redpath Centre in Toronto. She specializes in adolescents (13+ years) and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and has a particular interest working with girls and women on the spectrum. She has been working with families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities for over ten years. To learn more about Dori visit her website at

The panel of women will be made up of Jackie McMillan, Kaitrin Beechey and Sara Sobey. Each of these women is talented and successful in their own right. They will share their gifts and talk about their aspirations. They will share experiences and give advice that is sure to empower and inspire other women on the spectrum and those who care for them. These women will enlighten and help others make informed decisions.