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Scientific Advisory Council

ISAND’s Scientific Advisory Council is composed of experts with a special interest in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder from across Canada. The Scientific Advisory Council provides ISAND with information on current research, access to expert opinion, and access to other experts from across Canada and around the world.

The 2020/2021 Scientific Advisory Council consists of:

JESSICA BRIAN, Ph.D.Psychology (Clinical-Developmental), MA, Clinical Developmental Psychology
Psychologist and Clinician-Investigator at Autism research Centre, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital;
Associate Professor, Developmental Paediatrics, University of Toronto


Jessica Brian received her PhD in Clinical Developmental Psychology from York University in 2000. She completed a year-long internship at the Princeton Child Development Institute (PCDI) in New Jersey, with an emphasis on Applied Behaviour Analysis in autism intervention. Dr. Brian’s research interests include basic attention and inhibition in autism and related disorders, as well as early identification and intervention. She is a Clinician-Investigator at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab, and co-directed the Autism Research Unit at SickKids for over ten years. Dr. Brian has been heavily involved in a multi-site longitudinal research program examining the emergence of autism in infants and toddlers and is co-leading an early intervention project for toddlers showing the very earliest sign of ASD.

Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Science
McMaster University


Briano Di Rezze is an occupational therapist, Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation of Science and CanChild Scientist at McMaster University. His research experience has been in developing measures useful for clinical or research purposes, such as the Paediatric Rehabilitation Observational Measure of Fidelity (PROF), and the Autism Classification System of Functioning: Social Communication (ACSF:SC). Briano has worked clinically with children and youth with disabilities (and their families) for more than 10 years. Briano continues to work with families and other community members to facilitate community-based approaches to developing and evaluating programs aimed at increasing the participation of transition-aged youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities. His current community-focused research is aimed at improving employment outcomes for youth with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Briano’s areas of focus include: functioning in autism, transition to adulthood, measurement development, employment and community engagement. Briano will also serve as a mentor to our new Occupational Therapist.

Professor, Associate Dean – Child & Adolescent Development
University of Calgary


David Nicholas, PhD, RSW, is a Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, Central and Northern Alberta Region. He is the author of over 120 peer-reviewed research publications, with a focus on wellbeing and quality of life in autism and other health issues. He brings a research focus on transition and employment in autism. He has held extensive grant funding from federal and provincial sources, totaling over $40 million, and brings experience in multi-method research methodology, graduate-level teaching, and an extensive clinical and administrative background in the fields of social work and health.

ISABEL SMITH, Ph.D. Philosophy and Clinical Psychology, MSc Developmental Psychology
Professor Developmental Paediatrics
Chair, Joan and Jack Craig Autism Research
Dalhousie University


Isabel Smith, a Clinical-Developmental Psychologist, is the Joan and Jack Craig Chair in Autism Research at the IWK Health Centre and a Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychology & Neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia. She is active in many areas of ASD research, including long-term studies that follow the development of children with ASD and their families, as well as treatment research. She has been studying the effectiveness of Nova Scotia’s unique model of early behavioural intervention for preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) since the program began in 2005. Dr. Smith has promoted evidence-based practices for identification, diagnosis, and treatment of ASD for many years through research and advocacy, as well as providing professional development and consultation.

JONATHAN WEISS, Ph.D Clinical Psychology
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Clinical Psychologist
York University


Jonathan A. Weiss, Ph.D. (York University), is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, and a Clinical Psychologist. He completed a pre-doctoral internship at Surrey Place Centre (Toronto) and a post-doctoral fellowship in the Dual Diagnosis Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and was a fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

His research focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with autism spectrum disorders and/or intellectual disabilities across the lifespan. He conducts studies into how people with developmental disabilities access mental health care in Ontario, and is interested in their health service needs, their emergency service use, and their experiences of psychiatric crisis. Families play a critical role in the health of people with developmental disabilities by providing them with care and enabling their access to health services, and he is currently focused on learning about the experience of family caregivers. He is interested in program development and evaluation, and in particular on the impact of Special Olympics on the psychological well-being of participants, and of cognitive-behavioural and social skill interventions to promote resilience and improve the mental health of children and adults with developmental disabilities. Jonathan holds the CIHR Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research.

Professor and Director of Autism Research Centre, Developmental Paediatrics division
University of Alberta


Dr. Zwaigenbaum is a developmental pediatrician and site lead for Child Health at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, where he co-directs the Autism Research Centre. He holds the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Autism Research and is Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on early behavioral and biological markers, and developmental trajectories in children and youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). He also directs one of the two Canadian sites of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, which focuses on approaches to optimizing acute health care for children and youth with ASD.