Next Steps: Transitioning to Independence, a 2-day ASD conference featuring Temple Grandin

This presentation is hosted by Leading Edge Seminars and Autism Ontario. MC by Michael McCreary

Participating presenters include Temple Grandin, PhD; Rosemary Condillac, PhD, C. Psych; Tara Connolly, MA, BEd; Alan Kriss; Yona Lunsky, PhD; Daniel Roth; Alana Sheilds-Barker; Jonathan Weiss, PhD

Independence, self-reliance, self-determination and being on one’s own are some of the hallmarks of adulthood. Temple Grandin and Canadian ASD experts will offer their expertise and success stories to create a toolkit of resources you can use to support the transition of your clients to post-secondary education and to independent living.

You will learn about employment options that recognize and value different ways of thinking and brain strengths alongside programs and strategies for negotiating complete health care access, as well as financial planning. You will also learn about how to nurture confident independent individuals through extracurricular activities and programs.

Many transitions are encountered on the path to becoming an adult and these include transitions to higher education, into the workforce, towards financial responsibilities, new social and peer relationships and living outside the family home or in supportive living for the first time.

These changes are challenging for everyone but for individuals on the Autism Spectrum, even more so. However, with the right support, these rites of passage can be not only successful but fulfilling and self-empowering. This conference is designed to provide you with research and experienced-based tools, strategies and resources to empower individuals on the Spectrum to take the next step.

Fees and Registration

Thursday, May 3 and Friday, May 4, 2018
Jane Mallett Theatre (27 Front St E, Toronto)
9:00 am to 4:40 pm

Earlybird Rate
(Up to April 5, 2018)
Regular Rate
(After April 5, 2018)
$440 + HST $465 + HST

You will learn —

  • How to create supports for transitioning to post-secondary education
  • How to find or create programs that will teach social skills
  • How to implement physical exercise options to support physical and mental health.
  • How to understand and support financial planning and money management for individuals with ASD
  • Options for employment opportunity for people with ASD categorized by memory strength, thinking style and non-verbal skills.
  • Options for independent living with case studies and examples

This workshop may be eligible for Continuing Education Credits/Units (CECs/CEUs) by professional organizations in Canada/Ontario serving mental health professionals. Please click here for more information.

For out of town participants- We have accommodations arranged with the Novotel – Toronto Centre. Please reserve before April 2, 2018 to take advantage of our special rate.

Schedule Day 1:


9:00am-12:15pm – Temple Grandin
Preparing to Launch

Newly inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in the United States this year, Temple Grandin likely needs no introduction. She has long been a spokesperson and advocate for the ASD community. Having experienced first hand what it is like to have signs of severe autism from birth and to overcome delayed speech development, social ostracization and the challenges of having an unique brain, Dr. Grandin has inspired thousands to go beyond the definitions and stereotypes of Asperger’s, Autism and special needs to live life fully.

In this presentation, Dr. Grandin will discuss key elements in successfully transitioning from adolescence to adulthood for individuals on the spectrum.

You will learn:

  • The necessity of going beyond one’s comfort zone in order for individuals to develop
  • How and when to start acclimatizing to schedules and time frames in order to ready one’s self for work and life outside the home and school
  • How to stage the entrance into paid work before high school graduation
  • About the importance of maintaining social contact and not indulging in the strong compulsion to become a recluse by providing choices of activites

1:30pm-2:50 pm – Yona Lunsky, Ph.D. and Jonathan Weiss, Ph.D.
Accessing health care for transition age autistic youth and young adults: The gap, the cliff, and the drawbridge

Transition age youth and young adults on the spectrum are known to face many challenges when needing to access health care. This presentation will review results from Ontario-based research that identifies the health care needs and service patterns of adolescents and adults in the province. After identifying the kinds of needs that transition age youth and adults experience and the barriers to health care service they face, the presenters will then present on promising practices to enhance successful transition and review examples of existing tools. You will learn about practical strategies to support primary care, mental health care, and emergency health care.

You Will Learn:
• About the patterns of how adolescents and adults on the spectrum use health services
• Tools and strategies to help navigate the health care system

3:05pm – 4:15pm – Alan Kriss – Developing the Employment Market for People with Autism

Alan Kriss is the CEO of Specialisterne Canada, an organization focused on growing the employment market for people on the autism spectrum or those facing similar challenges. In this workshop, he will explain how Specialisterne Canada helps employers value and employ neurodivergent thinking and problem-solving. You will learn about some the businesses currently working with Specialisterne Canada, how to navigate the recruitment process at Specialisterne Canada and how to develop a path to employment.

You will Learn:

  • About Specialisterne Canada and what it does
  • How employers can be recruited to hire people on the autism spectrum
  • How to navigate the recruitment process at Specialisterne Canada
  • How to develop a path to employment

4:15pm – 4:40pm – Susan VanDeVelde-Coke – Independent Living Strategy 

Description coming soon….

Schedule Day 2:


9:00am-10:30am – Alana Shields Barker and Daniel Roth

Social as a Second Language
Led by Alan Shields Barker

This interactive, engaging presentation introduces the theory and practice of Social Improv©.

Based on the work of Viola Spolin and social skills teachers and therapists such as Michelle Garcia Winner (Social Thinking Clinic) and Dr. Peter Vermeullen (Context Blindness), Social Improv© was developed to address the needs of teens with social learning differences.

You Will Learn:
• How to identify and address social communication gaps
• How to decode non-verbal signals
• The difference between social fluency and social skills
• About the CARE model

Making Exercise a Part of Your Life
Led by Daniel Roth

Daniel will discuss the challenges that individuals on the spectrum face in terms of health risks and the barriers to accessing and participating in exercise, fitness programs, and sporting activities. He will also explore how to overcome these challenges and the therapeutic benefits of exercise while showcasing some of the successes he has experienced in introducing exercise to individuals with special needs and exceptionalities.

You Will Learn:

  • How to make exercise safe – simple modifications can mitigate almost all risk to exercise participants
  • How to make it enjoyable – motivation must be built in to achieve success
  • How to get moving – focus will be given to selecting exercise modes that require little upfront teaching and that can later be scaled in difficulty.

10:50am-12:15pm – Rosemary Condillac, C.Psych., BCBA-D and Tara Connolly, MA, RP
The Post-Secondary Journey: Tips for planning successful transitions and learning opportunities in Higher Education

Selecting, planning, and successfully transitioning to College or University can be challenging for many high-school students. This process can be even more daunting for students with ASD and their families. This presentation will provide tips for selecting post-secondary programs that match individuals’ interests and learning styles, processes for planning effective transitions, and strategies for success in navigating the higher education system. The current state of the evidence relating to post-secondary training for individuals with ASD will be highlighted.

You will Learn:
• How to identify and assess an individual’s interest and learning style
• Tips for a successful transition
• How to find resources and negotiate in the post-secondary setting
• Strategies to navigate the higher education system

1:30pm-2:50pm – Stephanie Moeser, MSW, RSW and Wes Ryan, advocate
Healthy Intimate Relationships for People with Autism

In this workshop we will discuss healthy boundaries and consent in relationships and when dating.

The focus will be on how to support the understanding of healthy, safe, and mutually satisfying intimate relationships (emotional and/or physical) for autistic people and their partners. The specific nuances and social communication styles of autism will guide the discussion. The workshop will be presented from a trauma informed perspective.

You Will Learn:
• How autistic individuals may participate in both intimate and emotional relationships
• How to discuss strategies that enhance the understanding of boundaries
• How social, communication and sensory aspects of autism may impact intimate relationships
• Strategies to enhance psychological and personal safety and sexual enjoyment

3:05pm – 4:40pm – Panel moderated by Marg Spoelstra with guests
Many Paths to Successful Living


Heidi Penning, MA

So, you think your loved one with autism is ready to move out, but inadequate housing options and long waiting lists make you want to throw up your hands and give up. Don’t despair! This session will provide you with strategies to navigate the current housing system with imagination, vision, and determination. The path to appropriate and independent living options begins with building your community.

You will learn
• How not to be afraid to ask for help: it really does take a village!
• The philosophical differences between a house and what makes a home
• About the benefits of using a person-centered planning approach
• How to define ‘A Life Worth Living’
• How not to be afraid to ask for what is a fundamental right

J. Dale Munro, MSW, RSW, FAAIDD

Psychotherapy: An Often Essential Transitioning Tool!

Teens & young adults often experience considerable distress as they transition into adult roles & responsibilities. Psychotherapy can provide these individuals the emotional support and coping strategies necessary for survival and psychological growth, when facing the change.

Joe McDonald

Creating (and Funding) a Purpose-Driven Life

We often forget that individuals on the spectrum want nothing more or less than individuals not on the spectrum – purpose, meaning, and a sense of belonging in their lives. Recognizing what it takes to provide a life that speaks to these needs can be easy, but implementing measures to get there can be hard, and costly. With the right tactics, the realization of better independent living is possible. I want to share my experience in getting part of the way there.

You will learn:
• how to think about a purpose-driven life;
• how to jump-start a sluggish system.

Doug McCreary – description coming soon

Sarah Drew Saucier – Transition and Success: Shifting from Digital Consumer to Digital Creator

Every1Games provides specialized programs supporting neurodivergent youth transitioning into life after high school. In this presentation, Founder and CEO Sarah Saucier will share keys to success in helping autistic youth meet their academic and career goals with confidence as they transition from digital consumer to digital creator.

You Will Learn:

  • About issues surrounding what it means to be independent while receiving support
  • How students can gain the confidence to succeed
  • How to support creative careers based on passion and unique skills

Sarah Southey – description coming soon


RW Photo Temple with Cow

Temple Grandin, PhD, is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a pioneer in improving the handling and welfare of farm animals. Honoured in 2010 by Times magazine as one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World” and having overcome severe autism from birth, Dr. Grandin is also a world-renown spokesperson and advocate for the ASD community. She lectures to parents, teachers and health care providers throughout North America on her experiences with autism. Articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, People, Time, National Public Radio, 20/20, The View, and the BBC. HBO has premiered a critically-acclaimed movie about Temple’s early life and career with the livestock industry and 2016, Temple was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Jonathan Weiss, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at York University and a Clinical Psychologist, who leads the Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health lab. His research focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with autism or intellectual disabilities. He studies the impact of stressors, such as bullying or transitions, and how cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness-based therapies, and recreation and leisure can help people with developmental disabilities gain and maintain good mental health. Dr. Weiss conducts studies of the changing service needs and barriers to service use for individuals with autism and their families across the lifespan and is passionate about community engaged research and knowledge mobilization.

Alan kriss

Alan Kriss is the CEO of Specialisterne Canada, an organization focused on growing the employment market for people on the autism spectrum or those facing similar challenges. He has over 20 years of business experience developing and commercializing new products and services in Canada and abroad, in senior management positions with organizations large and small. Working in the financial, healthcare and consumer services as well as the infrastructure, sports and entertainment sectors, Alan’s focus has been on finding new ways to leverage technology in order to solve problems and to explore new opportunities. Specialisterne started in Denmark in 2004 as a social enterprise focused on building an active and sustainable labour market for people with autism and is focused on enabling one million jobs globally. Alan sees great opportunity for Canadian businesses to leverage this labour pool, with its unique talents and perspective can bring real benefits to the workplace and yet remains dramatically under-utilized in our economy. Canada is particularly well positioned to lead other countries in engaging these people toward our commercial and collective benefit.

Alana Shields Barker

Alana Shields Barker has trained an worked as an actor, improv teacher, writer and roleplay coach for over the last 30 years. In 2008, she created Social Improv© classes for pre-teens and teens. Alana is a certified PEERS training (UCLA, Semel Institute) and Autism Intervener (Geneva Centre for Autism, Toronto). She is director of The Social Learning Project which is dedicated to providing social communication training to those with learning exceptionalities. Her website is

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Tara Connolly  MA, RP, is a Registered Psychotherapist (Ontario) and consultant who has worked with adults and youth on the spectrum for over 17 years, supporting them to thrive on their own terms and co-create meaningful, individualized transitions into and throughout adulthood.  She has supported a variety of organizations to recognize and effectively incorporate the inherent strengths of neurodiverse thinkers into their settings and to increase the accessibility of their services. Tara is currently the Coordinator of the Transition Support Centre for students with ASD at Algonquin College, an innovative service that supports transitions and empowers students to leverage the tools they need for success at post-secondary.

Profile Picture - J.McDonald

Joe McDonald has been involved with Autism Ontario for six years as a volunteer board member and has a younger, adult brother on the autism spectrum. Professionally, I have worked as an analyst in the federal and provincial public service – both in Ottawa and Toronto. I am a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, and am currently completing my articles at an international, corporate law firm.

Yona Lunsky, Ph.D., is Director of the Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health, Senior Scientist in Adult Neurodevelopmental Services and Director of the Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD) Program at CAMH. She is Professor and Developmental Disabilities Lead in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Adjunct Scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). She has focused her research on the mental health needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families. She studies psychosocial risk factors for psychiatric disorders and health service utilization patterns in this population. Dr. Lunsky is also involved in many projects focused on improving primary, emergency and mental health care.

Susan VanDeVelde-Coke – Description coming soon…

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Daniel Roth, NSCA-CSCS, ACE-CPT, B.Sc., BST, is a behaviour therapist who has been working with adults and youth with special needs and developmental disabilities for the past 10 years. He is also a personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist as well as the owner and director of Level Up Fitness Academy which specializes in creating accessible fitness programs for individuals with special needs. Level Up Fitness Academy trains clients in both one on one and small group formats as well as hosting groups and programs in collaboration with local developmental services agencies and community partners.

Rosemary Condillac, C. Psych., BCBA-D, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Disability Studies at Brock University. She has a keen research interest in designing learning strategies to promote student success in post-secondary programs. She has worked with individuals with ASD across the lifespan for the past 30 years. She is both a registered psychologist (Ontario) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (Doctoral), and brings a wealth of practical experience across clinical and educational settings.

Doug McCreary – description coming soon

Sarah Southey – description coming soon

Sarah Drew Saucier has worked with autistic youth for fifteen years. She has held a variety of business development roles in the video game and interactive digital media industry since 2009. In 2013, she founded Every1Games. Sarah currently chairs the Advisory Board for Humber College’s Game Programming program and is an active consultant advising on employment and management strategies. Her work focuses on the convergence between neurodivergent youth, education, employment and digital media.

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