2018 Autism Scholars: Bios

Doctoral Award

Patrick Jachyra, University of Toronto

Patrick Jachyra’s project aims to discover why young people (12-19) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tend to be less physically active than their peers. Since inactivity can lead to health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and depression, it is important not only to pinpoint the social and behavioral causes of the inactivity, but also to examine the conditions that might lead to more physical activity to potentially improve their health and quality of life.

Patrick is conducting two studies of young people with ASD – one using in-person interviews and another based on a written survey – asking questions about their habits, preferences and social conditions that might be inhibiting or encouraging participation in physical activity. Results of the research will help inform how to create programs, services, and supports that help young people with ASD become more active.

Patrick is a PhD candidate in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto and the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. He is a trainee in the Autism Research Training Program, and a trainee in the Collaborative Program in Bioethics at the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto.

Master’s Award

Kaitlyn Parks, Western University

Kaitlyn Parks’ research examines the role of statistical learning difficulties in contributing to the problems children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face in learning language and speech, as well as understanding social cues. In statistical learning, a child learns to recognize the patterns and probabilities in everyday language and other forms of communication – for instance, the likelihood that two spoken syllables either indicate one word or two separated words. The statistical learning difficulties identified in children with ASD have been linked to their challenges with language and social communication.

Kaitlyn’s research objective is to identify underlying factors that help early language and social communication abilities in children with ASD, with the aim of informing clinical practice to remedy the difficulties that can arise from poor language and social communication skills. She is a Master’s student in Psychology at the University of Western Ontario.