An Oversight Panel and three Working Groups (Social Inclusion, Economic Inclusion, and Interventions) provide leadership for this assessment.

Economic inclusion involves topics such as employment, education and training, housing, transportation, and financial stability.

For more information on the selection process click here.

Meet the Members:

Dr. David Nicholas, Ph.D., RSW
Chair, Economic Inclusion

Dr. David Nicholas is a Professor and Associate Dean Research and Partnerships in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary. His work has focused on inclusive employment and engagement in community and societal spaces. He is the author of over 160 peer-reviewed publications, focusing on wellbeing in areas of disability and chronic health issues including autism. Other areas of focus include employment access, as well as quality of life and supports for individuals and families. Dr. Nicholas leads the Vocational Abilities Innovation Lab at the University of Calgary, which advances capacity in autism and employment.
Mr. John “Jackie” Barrett
Vice Chair, Economic Inclusion

Mr. John “Jackie” Barrett is an autistic adult and accomplished Canadian Special Olympics athlete. Mr. Barrett was diagnosed as autistic, as well as with a speech impairment and a learning disability at age six. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Saint Mary’s University and a Programmer Analyst and Internet Solutions Developer Diploma from CDI College. Mr. Barrett joined the Special Olympics at age 13, competing as an athlete from 1987 to 2015. He represented Canada as a Powerlifter at the 1999, 2007, 2011, and 2015 Special Olympics World Games. Earlier this year, as a thirteen-time Special Olympics World Games Gold Medallist, he was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. He understands what it is like to be autistic and is eager to support by providing his perspective on the creation of policies relating to autistic people.
Dr. Karen Bopp, Ph.D.

Dr. Bopp has worked with autistic individuals and their families for over 25 years. Having started her career as a Speech-Language Pathologist she later co-founded an autism early intervention program before joining the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). At MCFD, she led the Cross-Ministry Autism Services and Supports Review; developed provincial autism policies and programs; and consulted with intergovernmental relations. Dr. Bopp is currently on secondment as the Director of Provincial Outreach, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism (CIRCA) at the University of British Columbia. At CIRCA she is leading the creation of on-line professional development modules to promote acceptance and inclusion of autistic individuals and their families.
Dr. Jacob Burack, Ph.D.

Dr. Jacob A. (Jake) Burack is a Professor of School/Applied Child Psychology and Human Development in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University. He is the founder and director of the McGill Youth Study Team (MYST) and a founding co-investigator of the Autism Research Training and National Aboriginal Mental Health Research networks, both of which were funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Jake and his students work within the MYST motto of “a commitment to excellence in the study and education of all children.”
Dr. Martin Caouette, Ph.D.

Dr Martin Caouette is a psychoeducator and professor at the Department of psychoeducation at the University of Québec in Trois-Rivières. He holds the self-determination and disability Chair. He is interested in three research axes, namely: 1) housing 2) socio-professional and community activities and 3) academic environment. His work highlights the self-determination of people with disabilities, in particular those with intellectual disabilities or ASD, as well as the practices of the stakeholders who support them. Present in Québec and in France, the Chair offers training and support activities targeting various audiences (e.g., practice setting, scientific community, academic environment, people with disabilities and their close family members, general public).
Dr. Herb Emery, Ph.D.

He holds an MA and PhD in Economics from the University of British Columbia. His academic career began at the University of Calgary where, from 1993 to 2016, he assembled a track record of demonstrated excellence in research, teaching and leadership. At the University of Calgary, he served as Full Professor in Economics and Research Director, and Director for Health Policy, for The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary as well as the Svare Professor in Health Economics, a joint position in the Department of Community Health Science in the Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Economics. From 2010 to 2015, he served as Managing Editor of Canadian Public Policy/Analyse de politiques, Canada’s foremost journal examining economic and social policy.
Ms. Umbreen Rosa Gastaldo

Ms. Umbreen Rosa Gastaldo is a mother of a four -year-old autistic child. She has a degree in Criminology and currently works as a Credit & Collections Supervisor at Siemens Canada. Ms. Gastaldo is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Board and an advocate for employment for those with special needs. She has organized many sessions on how to communicate with individuals with barriers and is also a member of Autism Ontario and Erin Oaks Kids. She is keen to participate in preparing a much-needed framework surrounding those impacted with autism – from diagnosis to necessary therapies, along with funding. As a parent and advocate, she has experienced challenges navigating the system due to conflicting information and long wait times, and advocates for the streamlining of these processes.
Dr. Meng-Chuan Lai, MD, Ph.D.

Dr. Meng-Chuan Lai is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Sex and Gender Science Chair. His work focuses on multi-level research and clinical services to improve mental health and well-being of individuals with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders, across sexes and genders. His research delineates how sex and gender-related factors act as risk, protective, and modulating mechanisms for the behavioural presentation and adaptation, clinical diagnosis, and neurobiology/etiologies of autism and related neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions. His work particularly focuses on the experiences of female and gender-diverse autistic people and the relations between neurodevelopmental disorders, sex differentiation, gender socialization, and mental health.
Dr. Jennifer Zwicker, Ph.D., MPP

Dr. Jennifer Zwicker is the Director of Health Policy at the School of Public Policy, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Canada Research Chair (II) in Disability Policy for Children and Youth and the Deputy Scientific Officer for Kids Brain Health Network. With broad interests in the impact of health and social policy on health outcomes, Dr. Zwicker’s research program assesses interventions and informs policy around allocation of funding, services, and support for youth with disabilities and their families. Strong stakeholder and government collaboration have been critical in the translation of peer-reviewed publications to policy papers, op-eds and briefing notes.