Current Team Members
Dr. Adam McCrimmon
Dr. Adam McCrimmon is an Associate Professor in the School and Applied Child Psychology program in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. He is a Registered Psychologist with over 20 years' experience working with children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorder. His current research focuses include diagnostic experience, developmental outcome, cognitive development, and resiliency in this population. He is an Independent Trainer on both the ADOS-2 and the ADI-R and conducts trainings on these measures.
Shawna is a 2nd year doctoral student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She completed her undergraduate degree at St. Mary’s University, Calgary in 2016. For her undergraduate thesis work, she studied the impact of art therapy on university students. Shawna has carried a passion for working with children for many years and her interest in developmental disabilities has grown. She has a special interest in working with children who have ASD and their families. For her graduate school thesis, she intends to explore the impact of disclosure of an ASD diagnosis to the siblings of the child who has ASD. Shawna loves animals and horseback riding. She has trained her rescue horse to jump and is currently helping to train a 3-year-old horse. Shawna loves to hang out with her two nephews (3 and 1 years of age). She enjoys being outside and goes hiking as often as possible during the warmer months.
Rachel is a 1st year Doctoral student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. Rachel graduated from Mount Royal University in 2016, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Art History. During her year off after graduation, she worked as an Educational Assistant for Calgary Board of Education and as a speech and behavioural aide for Connecting Dots assisting children with disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders. Rachel is passionate about research and clinical practice with children and youth and has a special interest in working with families with children with ASD. Rachel’s research interests involve examining support and services to educators and students with ASD. In her spare time, she loves going on nature walks, baking, and playing with her cat.
Abdullah is a 1st year Doctoral student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. His Master’s thesis was on the lived experiences of Syrian refugee parents obtaining and navigating Albertan supports and services for their children on the autism spectrum. Abdullah has volunteered as a Crisis Counsellor with Kids Help Phone and has worked with children and adolescents with various developmental conditions for over 7 years. Abdullah is interested in continuing to investigate the experiences of individuals on the autism spectrum as well as their families through a social justice orientation. In his spare time, Abdullah enjoys board games, hiking, exercising, rock-climbing, fishing, and spending time with friends and family.
Cecilia is currently in her second year of the MSc Counselling Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She had also graduated with her BA in psychology from the same university. During her time as an Undergraduate student (and then some), she was able to explore different areas of research from Microbiology labs to Neuroscience to various psychology labs looking at cognition and emotion. Cecilia has worked with neurodiverse people for the past nine years in various places such as Autism Asperger’s Friendship Society (AAFS), FSCD, Vecova and other local clinics and non-profits. Cecilia’s research and clinical interests include critical assessment-taking and implications of diagnoses, early intervention, relational therapy, and multicultural perspectives as well how to best provide services for her clients, so they feel heard. Her thesis is currently looking at the diagnostic experience of Chinese immigrants diagnosed with autism. In her spare time, she is a passionate dog-mom who likes to stay active, read, and going out to try new restaurants, but also likes to unwind with video games on her P.C.
Keelin Mckiernan completed her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Mount Royal University in 2013 and is currently completing her Masters of Science in School and Applied Psychology at the University of Calgary. For her graduate school thesis, she intends to explore autistic’s and employer’s perspectives of work readiness. Keelin has worked with autistic individuals in group homes, community, and school settings. Currently, Keelin works teaching continuing education courses to individuals with developmental disabilities. Her research interests lie in employment and autism, specifically in improving employment outcomes for autistic individuals. Outside of school, Keelin enjoys curling, playing board games, and hanging out with her friends.
Braxtyn is a first year Masters student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Honours Psychology from the University of British Colombia in 2020. Her research interests surround working with children with autism spectrum disorder and their families. For her Masters thesis, she is planning to explore emotional regulation strategies to understand and resolve problematic or challenging behaviours in children with ASD. Braxtyn is also a recipient of the Masters Canada Graduate Scholarship through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). In her spare time she loves to get outdoors, work out, and train her cat to walk on a leash.
Bridget is a first year Master's of Science student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Carleton University and a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Criminology at the University of Ottawa. During her time at Carleton University, she researched the relations between anxiety and cognition in undergraduate students for her honours thesis. Bridget also volunteered as a Crisis Line Responder for the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region and for Child Life Services at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). She has experience with children and adolescents with exceptionalities and developed a passion for working with autistic individuals. She currently works for Statistics Canada and is a mentor for the Graduate Pan-Psychology Partnership Psychology Mentorship Program. Bridget's research interests include perception, interpretation, and prediction of social behaviour in everyday contexts. Outside of research and academics, she enjoys spending time outdoors running, cycling, swimming, and skiing.
Brittany Lorentz is currently a Master of Science student in school and child psychology at the University of Calgary. Brittany graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Studio Art and Human Services. She is passionate about research in exploring the lived experiences of autistics throughout different life events, the association of autism and mental health difficulties, and finding new ways to support and educate the community about autism. Brittany is excited to be part of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Social Skills for Preschoolers (P4P) coming up in the years to come. Prior to beginning graduate school, she worked with autistic youth in various settings, including individuals with mental health difficulties and co-occurring disorders, and hopes to continue to work clinically with this population post-graduation. She has published journal articles on evolutionary psychology and written various book chapters on topics from depression to childhood development. Outside of school and work, Brittany dedicates her energy to writing blogs and articles, staying health through outdoor activities, and spending time with friends and family.
Darcy is currently in her first year of the MSc School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. Before moving out west, she completed her B.A.(Hons) in Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Ottawa, and volunteered in the Child and Adult Relationships and Environments Lab. Throughout her undergraduate degree, she volunteered as a swimming instructor for children with disabilities and for the past 3 years has worked in respite care. Darcy is passionate about working with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum and is excited to be begin her own research with the ASERT team. Originally from the Greater Toronto Area, she is excited to finally be in Calgary and loves to spend her free time exploring the city.
Past Team Members
Taylor is a registered provisional psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists. She completed her Master's degree at the University of Calgary where she investigated the barriers to success for post-secondary students on the autism spectrum. Taylor is currently in the third year of her doctoral degree in the Counselling Psychology program where she is investigating the experience of and meaning associated with receiving an autism diagnosis later in life. Taylor is also the recipient of a Doctoral Fellowship through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Currently, Taylor works part-time at a private practice location where she offers individual counselling therapy to children and adults across a wide variety of concerns.
Justin is a 1st year master’s student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. He graduated with a B.A. (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Calgary, where he researched affective forecasting in romantic relationships and how depressive symptoms may cause forecasting errors. Justin has a large volunteer history, undertaking numerous research assistant positions, working at the Calgary Distress Centre as a crisis counsellor and coaching senior football at Aberhart High School. Further, Justin is currently employed by The Alberta Children’s Hospital working in the Mental Health Patient Care Unit and is also a behavioural coach for the Adolescent Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS). Justin’s current research is concerned with cognitive assessments in special populations like Autism Spectrum Disorder. Outside of school and work, Justin dedicates energy to his plant collection, biking, skiing and spending time with his friends.
Ashleigh Yule, PhD, R. Psych.
Ashleigh Yule (she/her) is a registered psychologist specializing in child and adolescent mental health with a focus in transgender health and neurodiversity. Ashleigh provides gender affirming counselling, assessment, and consultation services for gender diverse children, adolescents, and their families. She works in private practice in Calgary and as a visiting professional in remote and rural areas of Alberta and the North West Territories. She is also a psychological consultant with the Institute for Sexual Minority Health in Montréal, Québec. In addition to her work in transgender health, Ashleigh has a 20-year background in autism assessment, treatment, and research. She is a sessional instructor in the Educational Studies in School Psychology program at the University of Calgary and completed her PhD at the Autism Spectrum Research, Education, and Training (ASERT) laboratory there. Ashleigh’s dissertation research focused on centering the experiences and perspectives of transgender autistic individuals to ensure that medical, mental health, and research narratives amplify the voices of those with lived experience and first-person expertise.
Andrea is a registered provisional psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists. She completed her MSc degree at the University of Calgary, where her research examined the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) looking at its efficacy and relation to emotional intelligence. Currently, Andrea works a school psychologist in a specialized elementary school and is the clinical coordinator/facilitator of the PEERS program for the ASERT lab. In her spare time, Andrea loves hiking, snowshoeing, dance classes and spending time with family and friends.
Dr. Ryan Matchullis
Ryan completed his Ph.D. in School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary in 2017. After graduating from Ambrose University College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioural Science, he operated a painting business for 2 years before heading back to pursue his education. For his Master's thesis, he explored the relationship between specific executive functions (e.g., inhibition) and social skills children with high functioning autism spectrum disorder. For his PhD dissertation, Ryan ran a detailed program evaluation on the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), a manualized intervention for teens 13-18 with ASD designed to help teach strong social and peer relationship skills. His focus centered on understanding potential improvements in behavioural regulation, mental health, and the contribution of family factors (e.g., attachment, communication style) to gains made throughout the intervention. Ryan was also honoured to be supported by the Alberta Children's Hospital's Research Institute (ACHRI) for Child and Maternal Health as a trainee for the 2013-2015 period.
Dr. Alyssa Altomare
Alyssa completed her PhD in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She was a CIHR Strategic Training Fellow in Autism Research (Autism Research Training Program), and the recipient of a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Alyssa's dissertation research involved investigating peer victimization, coping strategies, and mental health in children and adolescents with ASD. Alyssa also ran a chess and board games club for adolescents and young adults with ASD, and enjoyed helping out with PEERS!
Dr. Amanda Smith-Demers
Amanda completed her PhD in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. After completing her BA in Psychology at the University of Lethbridge & Southern Cross University in Australia, she worked on a project at Mount Royal University studying the quality of life of adults with developmental disabilities and their families. She also began working at the Society for Treatment of Autism in 2008. For her Master's thesis, she explored vocational and independence training for adolescents and adults with ASD at the Child Development Center. Her dissertation research focused on the parental experiences surrounding the disclosure process of ASD. Many families struggle with decisions pertaining to when, how, and if their child or adolescent with ASD should be informed about their diagnosis. Amanda focused on the lived experience surrounding the decision making process that parents encounter when deciding if, how, and when to tell their child about their ASD diagnosis. In her spare time, Amanda also enjoys playing percussion instruments, soccer, kayaking, rollerblading and yoga!
Cameron completed his MSc in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. In 2015, he graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons.) degree in Psychology, also at the University of Calgary. He has previous experience working with toddlers who have ASD as part of the BabySibs Study. For his Honours thesis, he looked at components of infant speech development. Cameron's MSc thesis research focused on enhancing the strengths of children and youth with developmental disabilities. Outside of school, Cameron enjoys dirt-biking, hiking in the mountains, anything related to Star Wars, and playing video games.
Nicholas completed his MSc in the School & Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. In 2016, he graduated from the University of Calgary with a BA majoring in both Psychology and Linguistics. During his time as an adolescent and undergraduate student, he gained experience working with children with various developmental disabilities. Throughout his academic studies he has developed a keen interest in working with individuals with ASD. During Nicholas’ first year of his master’s program, he acted as a behavioural coach for the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS). He then went on to serve as a coordinator and facilitator for the PEERS program and conduct research on the relation between executive functioning and success within PEERS. Outside of school and work, Nicholas enjoys exercising, reading, and understanding current trends in technology.
Stephany completed her M.Sc. in the School & Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons) in Psychology at the University of Manitoba (UofM). For her undergraduate thesis, she evaluated the validity of the KADI and GADS, two third-party rating forms used to screen adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. While completing her honours project, Stephany worked at the Cognitive Development Lab, Social Cognition Lab, and St. Amant Research Centre at the UofM in various capacities. Upon graduation, Stephany volunteered at a summer camp for children with ASD, which inspired her to pursue research in the area of autism. Her Master’s thesis captured the perspectives of individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome on the changing nature of the disorder based on the diagnostic changes of the DSM-5. Stephany was the EDSA representative for the SACP, and a member of the Graduate Programs in Education Students’ Association (GPESA) committee. She also volunteered with the ADHD Strengths Lab and worked with a multidisciplinary home-based team in supporting families with autism.
Melanie completed her M.Sc. in School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at McGill University, Melanie spent four years working in multiple research and clinical settings with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. For her Master’s thesis, she examined social cognition and social abilities as risk factors for bullying in students with high functioning ASD (HFASD).
Laura Purdon (McCarthy)
Laura completed her M.Sc. in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She graduated with a B.Sc. in Psychology from the University of Toronto. Laura is passionate about working with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families and has a special interest in ASD and mental health. After graduation, she worked at the Hospital for Sick Children as a Clinical Research Assistant investigating a social skills group for children recovering from a brain tumor. She also worked at the Geneva Centre for Autism assisting children and adolescents with ASD participate in community and recreational activities. Laura conducted research on the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), looking at its efficacy.
Keely completed her M.Sc. in the School & Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. In 2014, she graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in psychology from Saint Francis Xavier University. Throughout her years as an undergrad, she volunteered regularly with the Best Buddies organization and also in the special care unit of the Bethany center. Keely also worked for the Nova Scotia Department of Education as a French language monitor helping youth develop and enhance their second language skills. More recently, through her involvement as a behavioural coach in the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), Keely quickly developed a passion for working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder and a keen interest in the area of autism research. She facilitated and conducted research on the efficacy of PEERS for teens with autism spectrum disorder.
Marian completed her M.Sc. in the School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary. She graduated with a B.Sc. in Specialization Psychology from the University of Alberta. Her thesis examined the efficacy of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills for Young Adults with ASD (PEERS-YA). She currently attends medical school at the University of Calgary.
Patricia completed her M.Sc. in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She completed her Honours BA in Psychology and French at York University. For her Undergraduate Honours thesis she worked on a project for the Interprofessional Education of Faculty of Health students where she examined Undergraduate students’ attitudes towards Developmental Disabilities. For her Master’s thesis, Patricia facilitated and examined the effectiveness of an evidence-based social skills intervention for young adults with ASD (PEERS-YA). She currently works in the community in Toronto.
Sarah completed her MSc in School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Limerick (Ireland). Her undergraduate thesis examined positivity biases associated with autobiographical memory. She is currently employed in the community providing psychological services to children and families.
Melissa completed her MSc in School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She completed her Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) degree in Psychology at the University of Manitoba. For her undergraduate thesis, she investigated whether a functional relation existed between the discrimination skills required to comply with an instructional demand and escape-maintained problem behaviours in children with autism. Melissa’s MSc thesis involved investigating the effectiveness of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), an evidence-based social skills intervention, on decreasing the social anxiety and depression symptoms of adolescents with high functioning ASD. Melissa has specific training in Applied Behaviour Analysis and, for the past eleven years, she has worked with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilitis, and pervasive behavioural disorders in several different capacities.
Katia completed her masters degree in the School and Applied Child Psychology program at the University of Calgary. She returned to UBC to complete her doctoral work, where she completed her B.Sc. in psychology. She was involved with a research team that studied the developmental trajectories of children born preterm. For her master's thesis, she is interested in learning about the relationship between repetitive behaviours and specific cognitive abilities in children with Asperger's syndrome.
Ari Heath Bent
Ari completed his B.Ed. in the faculty of education. His focus for this program is special education. He completed his first B.A. in East Asia History at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He also holds a M.Ed. in education administration from Grand Canyon University. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, he taught English in Korea for six years. During his first year at the University of Calgary, Ari was awarded the Program for Undergraduate Research Education (PURE) Award. For the PURE Award, Ari worked with the ASERT team and investigated the relation between resilience and emotional intelligence to social outcomes in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders.