Adults with autism spectrum disorder at higher risk of being sexually victimized

Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at a higher risk of being sexually victimized than those without the disorder, according to a new study out of York University.

Jonathan Weiss

Jonathan Weiss

Seventy-eight per cent of the ASD group in the study had at least one occurrence of sexual victimization relative to 47.4 per cent in the non-ASD group. The study also found that a lack of sexual knowledge in those with ASD played a role in increasing the risk of sexual victimization – experiences of sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, attempted rape or rape.

“I think what is the most important and the most concerning findings of our study were the high rates of sexual victimization that we are seeing,” says Stephanie Brown-Lavoie (MA ’11), co-lead of the study along with Michelle Viecili (BA Hons. ’08, MA ’11). Both are clinical-developmental psychology PhD students at York University.

“But the study really pointed to how having a lack of sexual knowledge placed these individuals at risk and that increasing sexual knowledge is a really important avenue for intervention to increase sexual safety,” says Brown-Lavoie.

The researchers used an online survey involving 95 adults with ASD and 117 without, ranging in age from 19 to 43. “Research has shown that with anonymous questionnaires you may get more honest answers because there isn’t a researcher in front of you and no one is evaluating your responses,” says Viecili.

Although she admits the participants cannot be considered representative of the entire population, Viecili says, “I think we really had a good picture of what rates could look like with this type of survey.”

Stephanie Brown-Lavoie

Stephanie Brown-Lavoie

As Brown-Lavoie points out, they asked about specific situations, not just a general “have you been sexually victimized” question. “Some may not know that the experience they had is actually classified as sexual victimization. But if you give them a specific situation, like someone touching you inappropriately after you said no, they may say, yeah, that has happened to me.”

After getting some idea of the rates of victimization experienced, the study delved into the reasons. It looked at where both the ASD and non-ASD groups got their information.

“We were interested in identifying what was related to higher risk. There seems to be a really pronounced difference,” says York Professor Jonathan Weiss, Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment & Care Research. “Adults on the autism spectrum tended to get their information from non-social sources, but that’s not what we typically saw for adults who weren’t on the spectrum. Adults without ASD got a lot of their information about sexual behaviour and sexual safety from social sources.”

Non-social sources of information could include television, the internet, pamphlets and even pornography, whereas social sources would include parents, teachers and peers.

Brown-Lavoie and Viecili first recognized there may be an issue with how much knowledge adults with ASD had regarding sex and romantic relationships when they worked with students in the Asperger’s Mentorship Program and during their clinical work with individuals with ASD.

Michelle Viecili

Michelle Viecili

“In general, there was a lack of knowledge around romantic relationships and sex,” says Viecili. “We found we were trying to fill in the gaps for students we were working with and clients that we had, and really recognizing there wasn’t literature out there to support what we were seeing.”

Viecili and Brown-Lavoie approached Weiss with the idea of doing research to see if what they were witnessing held true for a larger sample of adults with ASD compared to those without ASD.

“I think there is a larger story that is emerging about the risks of victimization of people with ASD across the spectrum and the lifespan,” said Weiss. “Increasingly, clinicians and researchers are identifying this topic as something that’s important if we’re to understand and promote health and well-being.

“In the end, I hope what this research does is call attention to a really important issue that needs more investigation and that it spurs further research, more detailed and larger scale research. I think that would be a wonderful outcome of this study, that more people pay attention to this and start talking about it, especially the research and clinical communities.”

Veicili and Brown-Lavoie hope it will also lead to more acceptance of teaching sexuality to individuals with disabilities and how it could perhaps lead to less victimization. Already the pair has taken their research back to the community, where they have held one workshop for 60 clinicians and another for parents.

Sexual Knowledge and Victimization in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and is now available in the print edition.

By Sandra McLean, YFile deputy editor

York students with Asperger’s thrive in mentorship program

York University has taken an innovative approach with its Asperger mentorship program, which is winning praise from both students and experts, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 17. The program is the brainchild of psychology Professor James Bebko, who came up with the idea five years ago while helping the university’s disability office set up peer support for students with Asperger syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism. Read full story.

Mentorship program supports students with Asperger syndrome

After some three decades of working in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), York psychology Professor James Bebko knew one thing for sure. The number of people being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of ASD, and higher functioning autism was increasing significantly. That meant more students with an ASD attending university who would potentially need support. That’s why Bebko, along with several clinical-developmental psychology graduate students, started York’s Asperger Mentorship Program.

“We saw the need was going to be very strong,” he says.

Right: James Bebko

Now in its fourth year, Bebko expects the highest number of students yet – some 18 to 20 – will join the program and its 12 graduate mentors, supported by the Counselling Foundation of Canada. 

“The students will most likely need support with different social situations and sometimes with communication, and those are two key parts of university life,” says Bebko, a psychologist in York’s Faculty of Health. He developed the program to provide support to these students so they have a higher likelihood of success at university. It is free and open to students diagnosed with an ASD at all levels of York University.

Through the Asperger Mentorship Program, students are paired with a mentor – usually a clinical psychology-developmental grad student with experience in ASD – who meets with them anywhere from once a month to once a week, depending on need, to discuss issues, develop strategies and provide individual attention.

The mentors will help navigate social skills, such as how to make or get involved in evening and weekend social plans, meet new people, as well as help develop strategies around managing and organizing course work and exams or talking to a professor about a problem. The mentors will also help with issues around romantic relationships, sexuality, families, dealing with their sudden independence and substance use.

Left: Several of the Asperger Mentorship Program mentors. From left, Carly McMorris, Michelle Viecili, Megan Ames, Stephanie Brown, Ksusha Blacklock, Lisa Hancock, James Bebko, Jessica Schroeder. Missing are Magali Segers, Ami Tint, Jennifer MacMullin and Gayle Goldstein

If mental health issues arise, the mentors can advocate on their behalf and connect them with community supports.

The idea, says Bebko, is that the mentors act like coaches. “Coaches don’t play the game, but they may help teach and support the skills.”

There are also group events where mentors and students come together for a pizza party, to attend a play or sporting event, which helps the students build a social network in a safe environment. “It gives them the opportunity to socialize with people who share many of the same strengths and weaknesses, and where they can just be themselves without having to explain what Asperger is,” says Bebko. “It’s turned out to be extremely helpful to them. They realize they’re not alone at the University. We get continual feedback that it’s great to find others similar to themselves. It’s also been tremendously rewarding for the student mentors.”

As the academic year progresses, it is clear the students are feeling more comfortable. They even set up their own Facebook group.

“One of the main indicators for success I’ve set is that the dropout rate in the ASD student population is no greater than the dropout rate in the full student population,” says Bebko. So far no one in the Asperger Mentorship Program has dropped out of University. And, Bebko is proud to say that the first two students graduated in the spring.

Bebko can’t stress enough that students with ASD are just like other students with wonderful strengths and aspirations. They just may need a little assistance to successfully navigate university.

“The success of the program has been very gratifying,” he says. So much so that he wants to share the success. The program recently published a manual, A Mentoring Program for Students with Asperger and ASDs, to enable other universities and colleges how to set up similar programs. The manual is free thanks to the assistance of the Counselling Foundation of Canada. But Bebko is worried funding won’t last forever and is looking for more partners to ensure the longevity of the program.

For more information about the program or to order the manual, visit the Asperger Mentorship Program website or e-mail asmentor@yorku.ca.

New blog offers user-friendly information on trauma

How people cope with traumatic events varies widely between individuals, and the impact on a family can be long lasting and devastating. Now there is a new resource coming out of York University for people seeking information on what to do when faced with the effects of trauma.

Released today, The Trauma and Attachment Report is an electronic, research-based publication designed to disseminate current knowledge about trauma to the wider community.

Above: The launch of The Trauma and Attachment Report gives people seeking information on new research in trauma a readily available, user-friendly resource

Constructed in the form of a weekly blog, The Trauma and Attachment Report offers articles authored by graduate and undergraduate psychology students doing active research in the Trauma and Attachment Lab at York University.

“The purpose of The Trauma and Attachment Report is to provide clear, accurate information to members of the community on the topic of interpersonal trauma,” says York psychology Professor Robert Muller, who serves as the publication’s editorial director and publisher. “The report will cover topics such as the causes and consequences of trauma, treatment, prevention, and the implications of trauma for society at large.

Right: Robert Muller

“The articles draw upon primary sources such as interviews with survivors, therapists and others who work in the field of interpersonal trauma,” says Muller.

The report is oriented toward providing conversational, plain text articles about the effects of psychological trauma on children and adults. Much of the information covered in the report, says Muller, arises from interviews as well as research findings from the lab, and articles published in reputable scientific journals.

“Our goal is to disseminate this knowledge by discussing research findings in a manner that can be easily understood by readers,” says Muller.

In the spirit of knowledge dissemination there will be no charge to subscribers. In addition to regular articles, there will be book reviews in the area of interpersonal trauma and readers will be able to share their thoughts on particular pieces. Muller and his team decided on the blog format because it is “borderless and timeless and would provide individuals with information when they need it any time of the day or night.”

The first article in today’s issue presents an interview with a Canadian soldier who recently served in Afghanistan.

Part of the theoretical framework that informs the blog is attachment theory, pioneered in the 1970s by psychiatrist John Bowlby. He posited that humans form attachments as a survival mechanism to seek protection from real or perceived threats. Even when a protector’s caregiving skills are lacking, the developing child does what’s necessary to maintain the relationship; this shapes negative patterns of defence and affect, carrying over into adulthood.

Muller says the successful launch of the blog is a win-win for both students and readers. “We want readers at York University, we want readers in Australia,” he says. “That is why we have placed the report online so that it can be accessible to everyone. Much of what is on the Internet is someone’s opinion and is not backed by research. The Trauma and Attachment Report is a university-based project and it is as accurate as possible.

“One of the greatest skills a researcher can have is the ability to translate complex jargon into something understandable,” says Muller. “I am hoping that the students working on the blog get an opportunity to write in a style that is different from what they typically get in university. We know a lot about what works and what does not work in treating trauma. Being able to get it out there in a form that is highly accessible to everyone is very important.”

For more information, visit The Trauma and Attachment Report online.

Why is it that some smart people do really dumb things?

Why is it that some smart people do really dumb things? That’s the question Dr. Maggie Toplak, York University Psychology Professor and member of the York University Psychology Clinic, is trying to answer through her research on rationality.

What she’s found is that intelligence as measured by IQ tests is not the same as rationality or a rationality quotient (RQ). What that means is that although someone’s IQ may be high, their RQ may be rather low and if that’s the case, they are more likely to be irrational in their behaviour and decision-making capacity. That explains why some people who appear to be quite bright can make astonishingly silly decisions.  Often in pathological gamblers and in individuals with ADHD, it’s their decisions and goal-making capacity that are causing problems. Toplak thinks that  “the domain of rational thinking will help us quantify the difficulties that some of these individuals experience, and this will be very important from a training and treatment perspective.”   This is an area that people really haven’t paid much attention to in the past.

The problem with IQ tests, says Toplak, is that they don’t measure all of someone’s intelligence or mental ability. They don’t assess rational thought and that’s because rational thought can’t be measured through timed performance tests the way IQ can. Rationality shouldn’t be left out of the equation as it is key to whether people make choices that lead to happiness and fulfillment or possible misery.
People with low RQs are often cognitive misers, meaning that they take the easy way out when trying to solve problems, often leading to solutions that are illogical and wrong. Mindware gaps are another type of cognitive failure. It’s when people lack the specific knowledge, rules and strategies needed to make rational choices. Another category of cognitive failure is called contaminated mindware – for example, belief in luck and superstition can lead people astray, such as pathological gamblers, she says.

Test your own rational decision-making capacity with the following example

Q – Jack is looking at Anne, and Anne is looking at George; Jack is married, George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person? Yes, no or can’t be determined?

A – Most people say it can’t be determined, but the right answer is “yes”. That’s because whether Anne is married or not, a married person (Jack or a married Anne) is looking at an unmarried one (a single Anne or George).

What Toplak finds so exciting about this research is that if decision-making measures are unrelated to IQ and executive functions,

Taking Aim at Autism from Many Angles

Finding a diagnostic tool and an effective treatment for autism are the end goals for Dr. Dorota Crawford, whether she is studying genetic markers for autism or examining how the environment in which a baby develops in utero may affect development of brain cells, reported Hospital News in its October 2010 issue.

Crawford, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health at York University, aims to change this. She is using her unique dual expertise in genetics and neuroscience research to study how genes that have been associated with autism affect brain cell development, and how environmental factors – for example, drugs or infections – may cause molecular changes that interfere with communication between neuronal cells in the developing brain. Crawford is confident that breakthroughs in earlier diagnosis and treatment of the disorder will come from a multidisciplinary approach.

Crawford’s lab at York University’s Keele campus is one of very few autism labs in the world that integrates genetics with molecular and cellular neuroscience approaches to study the link between biological and environmental causes of autism. She is a member of the York University  interdisciplinary Autism Alliance Research Group which is affiliated with the York University Psychology Clinic, a provider of autism assessment services. By working together, researchers and clinicians in the Autism Alliance are seeking to understand the whole individual, working from the level of genes to cells to behaviour and the family.

Adapted from Y-file – October 6. 2010

New book by York prof offers help for clients who resist therapy

A new book by York University psychology Professor Robert Muller offers help for therapists dealing with patients who resist treatment.

Trauma and the Avoidant Client
, to be officially released this week by W.W. Norton & Company, offers practical guidance for treating clients who withdraw into themselves or avoid disclosing painful past experiences.

Right: Robert Muller

“Trauma therapy is difficult to begin with, but when patients reject help it becomes that much more challenging,” says Muller, a professor of clinical psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. “Unfortunately, a large segment of people needing therapy fall into this category. Rather than simply labelling them as resistant to treatment, it’s important to try and devise alternative means of offering them help,” he says.

In his book, Muller, who specializes in treating trauma within families, explains the defensive and interpersonal patterns seen among avoidant individuals and lays out a game plan for effective treatment. Through detailed case examples and practical clinical instruction, readers will learn how to build trust with clients, help them connect with and commit to the treatment process, and facilitate mourning to face the loss associated with trauma.

The theoretical framework driving Muller’s approach is that of attachment theory, pioneered in the 1970s by psychiatrist John Bowlby. He posited that humans form attachments as a survival mechanism to seek protection from real or perceived threats. Even when a protector’s caregiving skills are lacking, the developing child does what’s necessary to maintain the relationship; this shapes negative patterns of defence and affect, carrying over into adulthood.

Muller offers practical advice on how to address the “I’m-no-victim” identity often adopted by such clients, who tend to see people as either strong or weak and have difficulty understanding that there are shades of grey.

“These types of clients split their life stories in two in order to keep the two worlds of strength and vulnerability compartmentalized,” Muller says. “Despite their personal histories of trauma, they will maintain a defensive veneer so that they’re viewed as and feel strong, independent, self-reliant and normal.”

This can be resolved, he writes, by gently and tactfully pointing out narrative discrepancies, bringing the focus back to the original attachment and using the client’s symptoms as motivators.

Muller also offers candid advice based on his personal experience dealing with counter-transference – a phenomenon in which the therapist’s personal issues can sometimes get in the way of therapy.

In addition to his role at York, Muller is a supervising psychologist at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, specializing in the areas of trauma, attachment and psychotherapy. He is lead investigator in a multi-site program to treat intra-familial trauma and has over 20 years of clinical experience in the field.

Muller’s lab is funded by the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

For more information about the book, click here.

Y-file July 20, 2010

Emotion-focused therapy training draws international group

When York psychology Professor Leslie Greenberg (PhD ’96) was first developing his emotion-focused therapy (EFT) approach, he was bucking a trend that put the emphasis on controlling and suppressing emotions, rather than working with them. That was in 1986. Today, EFT is catching on as a therapeutic approach of choice and therapists are coming to York from all over the world to learn from Greenberg.

Last week, 16 therapists from as far as Israel, Hong Kong, Denmark, Portugal and Australia, as well as the United States, were at York for four days of in-depth skill training at the Emotion-Focused Therapy Level Two 2010 Summer Institute led by Greenberg. The week before, Level One was offered. Both sessions, which were full and had a waiting list, were held at the new Emotion-Focused Therapy Clinic at the York University Psychology Clinic (YUPC).

Right: Leslie Greenberg instructs therapists from around the world on emotion-focused therapy

“It’s the only place in the world they can do this in-depth training that I developed with my collaborators, and it’s becoming a world-recognized approach,” says Greenberg, who recently received the title of Distinguished Research Professor (see YFile, May 20) and the 2010 Carl Rogers Award from the American Psychological Association’s Society for Humanistic Psychology (Division 32).

Although ideas about EFT began percolating when Greenberg was completing his doctorate in psychology at York, the approach really started to come together in 1993 following the book Facilitating Emotional Change: The Moment-by-Moment Process (The Guilford Press), co-authored by Greenberg. He has since authored and co-authored several books on the subject, including Emotion-Focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings (American Psychological Association, 2002). It was in 1995 that Greenberg began doing evidence-based research to support the approach.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was the dominant treatment at the time and had already generated evidence that it worked, but as Greenberg says, “it’s not an in-depth approach to how humans function. It’s good at helping people cope, but not really good at dealing with the core problems people have. So it seemed important to develop a much more in-depth approach to human emotions.” And in the 1980s, there was a greater understanding of the role emotions played. “More and more scientific evidence began to show how important emotions were in life.” That included some of the unpleasant emotions.

Left: From front left, therapists Timothy Downing Brown from the United States and Ben Shuhar from Israel, and from back left, Nels Klint Karsvang and Belinda Lange from Denmark, in the Emotion Focused Therapy Level Two 2010 Summer Institute at York

There is strong evidence now that EFT, with its focus on developing emotional intelligence and the importance of secure relationships, helps couples having marital difficulties, as well as individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and eating disorders, says Greenberg, who was awarded the 2004 Distinguished Career Award by the Society for Psychotherapy Research, an international, multidisciplinary, scientific organization.

EFT is designed to help people accept, express, regulate, understand and transform emotion, not deny or suppress it. Emotion alerts people to what is important in any given situation and acts as a guide to what is needed or wanted, says Greenberg. Working with these emotions helps people to figure out what they should do.

Right: From left, Eve Alon from Israel, Leslie Greenberg, Chui Fan Yip from Hong Kong, Melissa Harte from Australia, Candice Knight from the US and João Salgado from Portugal were just a few of the therapists who came to York to learn emotion-focused therapy

“EFT focuses on helping people become aware of emotions, express their emotions in the right way at the right time, learn to tolerate and regulate them, and to reflect on them to make sense of them and transform them,” says Greenberg. It is not enough to learn about emotions; people need to experience them in a safe environment, such as in a therapy session, and learn how to manage and use them in a flexible manner. It’s not about eliminating emotions, but working with them.

Therapeutic approaches such as CBT and psychoanalysis have their place and have helped a lot of people, but they don’t address the whole picture, he says.

Now that EFT is an internationally recognized approach, Greenberg will be spending much of his upcoming sabbatical training therapists around the world who couldn’t make it to York this summer, starting in his home country of South Africa.

The Emotion-Focused Training for Couples 2010 Institute is the next session Greenberg will offer for therapists at the Emotion-Focused Therapy Clinic from Nov. 22 to 25.

For more information or to register for future training institutes, visit the YUPC Continuing Education Web site.

By Sandra McLean, YFile writer (August 9, 2010)

Looking for a quiet place to meditate?

Room 102, Behavioural Science Building. Designed for fluorescent-lit tutorials, it doubles now as York’s Zen-like space for meditating.

It’s Tuesday, noon hour. The lights are off, the blinds are down, the room is dim and still. Four, maybe 10 people, arrive and sit down, sometimes together, on one of the black plastic chairs lining three walls and arranged in a semicircle at the centre of the room. They settle into their seats, straighten their backs, rest their hands in their laps and close their eyes. The door clicks shut. They inhale and exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Forty-five minutes later there’s a tap on the door. It’s 12:45pm. Time to go back to work. See you next week.

The York University Psychology Clinic started Meditation Tuesdays this summer after participants in the winter Mindfulness Meditation Group expressed an interest in continuing.

“The key to meditation is doing it regularly,” says clinic director Louise Hartley. “And it’s really nice to meditate together. It’s sort of like exercising together. It helps motivate you.”

Some people meditate for the entire 45 minutes, others for less. It’s all good. “Meditating energizes people,” says Hartley. “It calms the mind and helps the body restore energy. You go back to work refreshed.”

“Meditation is one of the keys to dealing with stress,” she says. “But it’s like exercise. We know we should do it. The problem is finding the time.”

The clinic hopes to be part of the solution. Meditation Tuesdays will continue after September, says Hartley, and the clinic might open up Room 102 for an additional lunch hour during the week.

Y-file 2010

A ‘landmark day’: York University Psychology Clinic officially opens

“Today is clearly a landmark day”, Michael Kirby, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, told the group gathered at the official opening of the York University Psychology Clinic (YUPC). A 5,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in York’s Behavioural Sciences Building, the YUPC will provide training for graduate psychology students, as well as mental health services to York faculty, staff and the surrounding community.

Left: Louise Hartley (left), YUPC clinic director, Michael Kirby, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, student Madalyn Marcus (MA ’07), President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and Harvey Skinner, dean of the Faculty of Health, cut the ribbon to officialy open the York University Psychology Clinic

“There is no other illness that has the impact mental health has on people,” said Kirby. “And there simply aren’t enough places where people can go when they need help.” The opening of the YUPC is important as it gives people more access to mental health services, which is absolutely critical.

In addition, there are not enough people working in the mental health field, and the YUPC will play a crucial role in training more psychologists. “It is a huge, huge step forward,” said Kirby.

Right: Michael Kirby, chair of the Mental Health Commission

As an example of how little importance has been placed on mental health up until now, Kirby said there have been many national studies done on acute care and only one on mental health. In addition, Canada is the only G8 country without a national mental health strategy and it has no national policy against discrimination for those with mental health issues.

Kirby retired from the Senate of Canada in 2006 after 22 years of service and chaired the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science & Technology from 1999 to 2006. The committee, under his leadership, produced 11 health care reports, including the first-ever national report on mental health, mental illness and addiction, titled Out of the Shadows at Last. One of the committee’s recommendations was to set up a national mental health commission, which Kirby now heads.

The commission has embarked on a 10-year national anti-stigma campaign to change attitudes about mental health and to initiate a social movement to make mental health a priority in this country. Kirby said research has shown that this kind of a campaign can have a dramatic difference.

Left: Harvey Skinner (left), dean of the Faculty of Health, and Louise Hartley, YUPC director

Only by creating that kind of social movement will mental health get the dollars for research and an increase of services, said Kirby.

Harvey Skinner, dean of the Faculty of Health, underlined the need for clinics such as the YUPC when he told the gathering that “fourteen per cent of children under the age of 15 have some form of mental health concern.” In addition, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, and youth are yet another high-risk category.

“Mental health is a huge issue in Canada and globally,” said Skinner. “One of the distinctions of the YUPC, is we have both clinical and clinical developmental graduate programs. That is quite unique.”

Louise Hartley, clinic director, told the gathering that 52 students have already signed up to work in the clinic to receive training, whether it’s in doing assessments or learning more about infants and pain, autism spectrum disorder or anxiety. She talked about the need to deal with the stress some people are under as it can lead to more serious mental health issues and physical health issues, and in families it can have a negative effect on the children.

Right: York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri at opening of the York University Psychology Clinic

“One in eight Canadians alive today will experience a major depressive disorder,” she said. Yet many people still see asking for help for a mental illness as a sign of weakness.

Mental health, said Hartley, is important to a person’s overall health. “Psychology has a lot to offer physical health.”

The clinic will operate in a manner similar to a teaching hospital, with PhD students conducting counselling under the supervision of registered psychologists. It will provide services for people of all ages, including individual, couples and families. The clinic will also offer cutting-edge treatment with researchers specializing in disorders including autism, Asperger syndrome, anxiety and chronic pain.

Some of the funding for the clinic has come from the Counselling Foundation of Canada, which pledged $225,000 for a mentoring program that matches psychology students with students with Asperger syndrome a form of autism that affects people’s ability to understand basic social cues. Not only does the program help students with Aspergers navigate their way through university, it provides invaluable experience to the mentors who are training to become mental health professionals. In addition, the Alva Foundation, which donated $100,000 toward autism research and treatment, to be used to purchase equipment for diagnosis, observation and other tasks.

For more information about the clinic, visit the YUPC Web site.

y-file 2009