Richard Haskayne Scholarship 

The Richard Haskayne Scholarship is for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  It is an annual scholarship of $5,000 and is awarded to an eligible Albertan with ASD who is pursuing post-secondary education, training or vocation. Applicants for this scholarship must submit a 250 word essay on “how being a student with ASD has impacted their education, as well as their educational goals and post-secondary program plans. 

This year’s award goes to: Hayley Marie Todesco

For the 2016/2017 academic year, Hayley, has just started her third year in a Microbiology Honours, Bachelor of Science (BSc) program at the University of Alberta.  This is a unique four-year BSc program because it requires a year-long thesis research project that is completed in addition to her regular classes.  She enjoys research and would like to eventually pursue graduate studies and become a professional biologist. She is particularly interested in the field of synthetic biology which she defined as the “design and construction of biological systems or machines for an intended purpose.”  Her dream is to solve environmental issues with genetically-engineered organisms.   

Hayley describes both the challenges and advantages of having a diagnosis of ASD.  In her words, “My intelligence, ability to focus, and large memory capacity have given me an advantage.”  She also states that she has a unique ability to “create abstract connections between ideas.”  On the other hand, she finds that the non-academic aspects of her education are more difficult: for example, the noisy academic environment, group work, and class participation.  She also struggles with independent living skills while living in the students’ residences away from home.  Regular Skype sessions with her parents coaching her on these skills have helped.  She has also learned to ask for help from her professors and the university’s Student Accessibility Services.  While, in general, she finds face to face interactions and networking difficult, she has made friends in some of her smaller classes and at her summer job.

Dr. Fraser Mustard Scholarship

The Dr. Fraser Mustard Scholarship for “Advancing Knowledge in the Field of Autism Spectrum Disorders” is an annual scholarship of $5,000. It is awarded to an eligible Albertan pursuing a post-secondary academic program in a field that supports and furthers the knowledge and/or research of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Applicants for this scholarship must submit a 750 word essay outlining why they are interested in the field of autism and their research experience to date. As well, they must document their volunteer activities and accomplishments with respect to ASD.

This year’s award goes to: Amanda Smith-Demers

Amanda has just started her fourth year of her doctoral program in the School and Applied Child Psychology (SACP), University of Calgary. She has already completed her candidacy oral examination pertaining to her dissertation.  In 2016/2017, she will be analyzing her data, writing her dissertation, and completing her final oral examination. Her dissertation research focus is qualitative work exploring the decision making process, and lived experience of families with a child with ASD. More specifically, how families make decisions pertaining to when, how, and if their child or adolescent with ASD should be informed about their ASD diagnosis.  She hopes to continue the dissemination of this knowledge through poster presentations and published work. She would also like to create a website where both families and professionals can go to access information pertaining to diagnosis disclosure.

Amanda is a member of the Autism Spectrum Education, Research, and Training (ASERT) group under the supervision of Dr. Adam McCrimmon.  She has extensive experience working with youth and young adults with ASD such as being a facilitator for the Program for the Enrichment and Education of Relational Skills (PEERS).  She also has experience working as a registered provisional psychologist.  In addition, she has presented at several conferences and she has co-authored several journal papers and book chapters. 

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