The Ontario Government’s ASD Clinical Expert Committee has appointed their second expert from Brock University to be part of their team. Dr. Julie Koudys is an Assistant Professor at Brock for the Department of Applied Disabilities Studies. She, along with Dr. Maurice Feldman, a professor from the Department of Child and Youth Studies as well as Applied Disability Studies, now sit on the ASD Expert Committee.
“The ASD Committee reviews and analyzes evidence-based research on treatments, services, and supports for children and youth with autism spectrum disorders; and provides clinical advice to the Ministry on treatments, services, and supports that facilitate meeting the best interests of children and youth with autism spectrum disorders and their families,” said Feldman.
“I was thrilled to be appointed to the committee,” said Koudys. “It is an honour to have the opportunity to work with the existing committee members who bring expertise on the assessment and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from a variety of disciplines.”
The committee consists of ten members. Koudys is one of three behaviour analysts on the team. Before working at Brock, Koudys worked as a behaviour analyst and clinical psychologist. Koudys’ roles involved working with children and youth who had developmental disabilities, many of which fall on the Autism Spectrum. She worked to providing services to these children to help them facilitate communication and to increase their level of independence.
One of her current areas of research and interest is augmentative and alternative communication systems for nonverbal children.
“Many children with ASD will not develop spoken language, so augmentative/alternative systems are essential,” explained Koudys, who is currently studying the impact and effects of tablet-based communication systems. “ There is a lot we don’t know about [these systems], such as whether they impair or improve speech. These are important considerations for families, so I’m excited to contribute to the literature in this area.”
Other fields Koudys is currently studying include Intensive Behavioural Intervention, and how intervention is applied in settings outside of clinics, such as the family home. In addition to providing clinical services, Koudys actively researches both of these areas. She recently finished a follow-up study in partnership with Dr. Adrienne Perry from York University of individuals who received IBI as children; it is the largest and longest study to-date on the subject that has been published.
“Given the substantial public investment in behavioural services for children with ASD in the province, exploring long-term outcomes is essential,” said Koudys.
She also has a project underway which explores “intensive in-home parent training to treat challenging behaviour.” She is also hoping to do a study using behaviour analysis to try and manage children with ASD’s sleep difficulties.
“Many children with ASD do experience sleep difficulties, which has significant implications for their learning and behaviour, not to mention their family’s quality of life. For this reason, I’m eager to start work in this area,” she said.
Koudys looks forward to putting her expertise and extensive knowledge to work as a member of the ASD Expert Committee: “As one of the three behaviour analysts on the committee, I hope to play an integral role in providing advice related to best practices in ABA [Applied Behaviour Analysis] intervention, and how these services can best be designed at a systems level to help individuals with ASD across the lifespan, from toddlerhood into adolescent years, and beyond.”
Koudys has accomplished a lot in the area of Applied Disabilities, making her an ideal candidate for the committee. She has chaired multiple committees during her career, worked in places such as McMaster Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. She also recently won the 2017 Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis Research Award.
The committee is focused on the Ontario Autism Program that began just over a year and a half ago, in March, 2016. “The role of the committee is to provide advice to the Minister of Children and Youth Services on up-to-date, evidence-based research on effective clinical practice and autism programs,” said Koudys.
There is a lot are in the works in the field of ASD research. These include “the investment of over $538 million dollars over five years, the intention to improve early assessment and diagnosis, to reduce wait times, and to develop services that are more flexible and individualized.” As for her goals as a member of the CEC, Koudys had the following to say: “I would be interested in seeing if the CEC can take a leadership role in systematically reviewing and updating the evidence-base over time. I also hope there is the opportunity to expand evidence-based interventions to include younger children and older youth, especially those with complex needs, who often miss out on such supports.”