About Us

The Neurodiversity Matters research team includes people who have a range of identities and experiences related to neurodiversity, including people who identify as service providers, as Autistic/ neurodivergent/ neurodiverse community members and activists, as policy experts, as family members, as educators, and as researchers -- with many of us falling in more than one group.

Meg Gibson (She/Her), Principal Investigator                                                                              

Meg Gibson, Principal Investigator

Meg Gibson is an associate professor in Social Work and Social Development Studies at Renison University College, affiliated with the University of Waterloo, Canada. She has a BA from Harvard College, and a MSW and PhD from the University of Toronto. She is the principal investigator of the Neurodiversity Matters Project.

Meg's research and teaching focus on critical disability studies, queer and trans studies, social work, feminist research methods, and the history of social services. Her work has been published in a range of journals and books.

Meg enjoys jigsaw puzzles, essays about animals and plants, frothy shows, and almost all desserts. She lives with her wife, their two teens, a puggle (Henry), and a small tuxedo cat (Cupcake Jones). She is honoured to be able to work with so many committed and insightful people who have brilliant ideas about neurodiversity. Meg believes that research can change how we understand each other, and what we see as possible.

Izumi Sakamoto (She/Her), Co-Investigator                                                                                

Izumi Sakamoto, Co-Investigator

Izumi Sakamoto is an Associate Professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and an Academic Fellow with the Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research. Originally from Japan, Izumi’s research has focused on anti-oppressive practice, immigration, gender, empowerment, critical consciousness, community organizing, in Canada, the US and Japan. A few of her family members identify as neurodiverse, and Izumi herself has had mild brain injuries in her adult life. She enjoys the rich opportunity that this research project has afforded her to learn and reflect more deeply on neurodiversity.

More information about Izumi can be found at https://socialwork.utoronto.ca/profiles/izumi-sakamoto/

Patty Douglas (She/Her), Co-Investigator                                                                                     

Patty Douglas, Co-InvestigatorPatty Douglas is an Associate Professor of Disability Studies in Education in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada. Her work in disability studies concentrates on critical and creative approaches to autism, education and care as supported by feminist, queer, decolonial, critical post-humanist, cultural studies and other critical approaches that dislodge the (humanist) human in educational research and practice. Douglas leads the Re•Storying Autism in Education project, a SSHRC funded international, multimedia storytelling project that challenges deficit stereotypes of difference to transform policy and practice.

More information can be found at https://restoryingautism.com

Julia Gruson-Wood (She/Her), Co-Investigator                                                                          

Julia Gruson-Wood, Co-InvestigatorJulia is a postdoctoral fellow and completed her PhD in Science and Technology Studies at York University. Her thesis was on the topic of autism-based behaviour therapists and services in Ontario can be found here:https://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10315/35587/Gruson-Wood_Julia_F_2018_PhD.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y/ 

Other projects she is working on include: 1) Precarious Inclusion: an arts-informed qualitative research project analysing this ambivalent political moment of increased 2SLGBTQI+ rights and representation alongside mounting political backlash, and; 2) Gender Considerations: qualitative study examining how gender relations impact parents’ participation in the largest longitudinal family-based health study in Canada. Julia often incorporates participant driven arts-based methods, such as multimedia storytelling, to create knowledge and disseminate findings. 

Outside of research, Julia enjoys hiking, cooking, growing food, reality television, creative writing, and hot weather. More information about Julia can be found at: https://family.uoguelph.ca/people/julia-gruson-wood

Wendy McGuire (She/Her), Collaborator                                                                                       

Wendy McGuire, CollaboratorWendy McGuire is a Registered Social Worker who provides counselling, academic coaching and advocacy for the neurodiverse community. Her commitment and passion for neurodiversity stems from personal and professional experiences, as a mom, partner, friend, colleague and teacher to many unique and gifted people who have been diagnosed with Autism and ADHD. Wendy has extensive experience in universities and colleges teaching and mentoring students with learning disabilities and working with LGBTQTSI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning) students, clients and communities. Her practice focuses on teens and adults who are sex and gender questioning (LGBTQTSI+) and their family members, late diagnosed individuals on the spectrum, and neurotypical/atypical couples. Wendy has a PhD from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and an MSW from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Visit www.wendymcguire.com for more information.

Dori Zener (She/Her), Collaborator                                                                                                

Dori Zener is anDori Zener, Collaborator Individual, Couple and Family Therapist and the Director of Dori Zener & Associates, a mental health agency that provides counselling and neurodivergent-led peer support services. She is passionate about autism acceptance, and wishes to expand society's understanding of neurodivergence.

In her spare time, Dori enjoys spending time with her family and her dog Hali, doing puzzles and listening to podcasts and playing around on her skateboard, her new hobby.

For more information, visit www.dorizener.com or follow her on Twitter at @dorizener.


Estée Klar (She/Her), Collaborator                                                                                               

Estée Klar, CollaboratorEstée Klar holds a PhD Critical Disability Studies from York University. Her dissertation, Neurodiversity in Relation: an artistic intraethnography is a collaborative work with her non-speaking autistic son/poet, Adam Wolfond at Dis assembly – a neurodiverse arts collective at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto - which she and Wolfond founded with other collaborators.

Klar is also the founder of the former Autism Acceptance Project (2006—10) and its subsequent artistic-activist events, and the original blogger at The Joy of Autism (2004-8). She is an artist and filmmaker and her work with Adam can be seen at www.esteerelation.com. New work from the collective is located at: www.dis-assembly.ca.

bridget livingstone (She/Her), Research Assistant  - July 2020-present                      

bridget livingstone, Research Assistantbridget has a Masters degree in sociology from the University of Waterloo and has been part of the Neurodiversity Matters team since 2020. she identifies as queer and neurotypical, and is excited to be working on the discourse analysis component of the project.

bridget's research interests include critical health studies, qualitative methods, and social theory. her Masters research explored the ways that queer and trans* folx make sense of their experiences of mental illness and navigate biomedical categorizations of mental illness. a full copy of her thesis can be found at https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/handle/10012/15904.

bridget currently lives in Vancouver, BC, and enjoys backpacking and bouldering.

Josh McGonegal (He/ Him), MSW Practicum Student - January - May 2022                

Josh is a Master of Social Work candidate with the University of Waterloo. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from Laurentian University and a Sociology degree with a minor in Dramatic Arts from Brock University. Josh has spent much of his life volunteering for organizations in oncology and brain injury (being a survivor of brain cancer himself). He became the first “mentor” for an initiative started by the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario called the Survivor-to-Survivor Network (S2S) and spent years volunteering with the Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada facilitating both in person and online support groups. His previous social work practicums and areas of employment were in the realm of both brain injury, disability, and mental health. Josh maintains an interest in critical disability studies and is grateful for the chance to learn from those with lived and professional experiences with neurodiversity language and ideas.

Josh enjoys billiards, board games and reading fantasy novels.

Ivy Katugampala (She/Her), Research Apprenticeship Student - September - December 2021


photo of Ivy KatugampalaIvy Katugampala is an undergraduate student in Social Development Studies at the University of Waterloo. Ivy's research interests are disability studies, mental health, peace building, and multicultural education. Currently, her main goal is to pursue a master's degree in occupational therapy.

Ivy also enjoys exercising to maintain physical and mental well-being. She likes watching documentaries, spending time with her friends and family, as well as engaging in activities that encourage her to enhance her knowledge, such as learning to solve the Rubik's cube or participating in this Neurodiversity Matters project! 

Harisaa Selvanayagam (She/Her), Research Apprenticeship Student - September - December 2021

photo of Harisaa Selvanayagam

Harisaa Selvanayagam is an undergraduate student in Social Development Studies at the University of Waterloo. Harisaa's main research interests are in disability studies, social welfare policy, community development, maternal health rights,  children's rights, and social movements and activism. Her goal is to become a public servant and help promote social change for citizens. Harisaa has been involved with the University of Waterloo's Peer Mentorship Program, and with FullSoul Canada, which works to promote maternal health in Uganda. 

Harisaa enjoys watching documentaries and books that empower women. Currently her favourite book is Michelle Obama's "Becoming". She also enjoys playing the piano and spending time with her loved ones. 

Hannah Monroe (She/Her), Research Assistant - November 2019- September 2021  

Hannah Monroe, Research AssistantHannah Monroe's passion for disability rights and neurodiversity is the basis for her academic and career pursuits. She has a Master of Arts in Critical Sociology from Brock University, where her thesis research involved interviewing autistic young adults about their identities and experiences, using a post-structural theoretical framework. She is currently doing her Master’s in Social Work at University of Toronto.

She co-facilitates Chilling on the Spectrum, a support and social group for autistic young adults through Dori Zener & Associates, where she is the Intake Coordinator. She also enjoys playing the fiddle and hopes to participate in jams and perform at open mics someday soon.

Sarah Leo (She/Her), Research Assistant - September 2020- September 2021           

Sarah Leo, Research AssistantSarah Leo is pursuing her Master's in Social Work at Factor Inwentash School of Social Work at the University of Toronto. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies and Business from the University of Waterloo. She joined the Neurodiversity Matters team in September 2020.

Sarah's main research interests are in disability studies, queer and trans studies, social work, and community development. In addition to her role with the Neurodiversity Matters project, Sarah has been involved with the University of Waterloo's MATES program, where she has experience with peer support and social media marketing.

Sarah enjoys drawing, digital design, and crochet. She also likes spending time with her family and pets, including her two dogs and her parrot Wally.

Steacy Easton (They/Them), Research Assistant - May-September 2021                   

Steacy Easton, Research AssistantSteacy Easton is a writer and artist, who is currently working on a PhD in Critical Disability Studies, at York University. They work on the intersection of dissident genders, sexuality, class, and autism. Their thesis will be on the etiology of trans and autistic discourses, especially within the clinic. They are also working with the Restorying Autism project, about aesthetics and first person narratives about people with Autism. They are also a prominent country music critic, publishing on the subject in the National Post, CBC, NPR, The Atlantic online, Spin, Country Queer, Holler, among others. Their visual work has been shown in New York, Chicago, Toronto, Edmonton, and Hamilton. It is in the collection of the library of the National Gallery of Canada.  They are deeply committed to combining their media analysis, archival and material history works to understanding how autistic people live now. 

Paula Crockford (She/Her), MSW Practicum Student - August 2020 - January 2021   Paula Crockford, MSW Practicum Student, August 2020-January 2021

Paula Crockford has Haudenosaunee ancestry from Kahnawá:ke First Nation (QB). She is currently a Master of Social Work candidate with the University of Waterloo. She has a Bachelor of Social Work from Lakehead University and a Child and Family Studies degree from Nipissing University. She joined the Neurodiversity Matters team in August 2020. She has research interests spanning targeted interventions and social program evaluation. She is an advocate of Indigenous and diversity rights aligning with social determinants and is a published author. Her research Developmental Epidemiology: Toxic Stress Bio-markers of Intergenerational Trauma was presented at the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research Conference (Montreal, QB) and Kanawayhitowin Trauma Conference (Parry Sound, ON).

She currently co-facilitates the Remote Research Student Practicum Network, a peer mentorship initiative supporting emerging MSW researchers. She is a mother of four children, enjoys nature, the companionship of many furry and feathered friends.

Ashneet Mann (She/Her), Research Apprenticeship Student - January-April 2021   

Ashneet Mann, Research Apprenticeship Student, January-April 2021Ashneet Mann is an undergraduate student in Social Development Studies – Specialization in Social Work at the University of Waterloo. She joined the Neurodiversity Matters team from January 2021 to April 2021. 

Ashneet’s main research interests are in disability studies, mental health, substance abuse and social work. Her goal is to become a social worker in these specific areas: mental health and substance abuse or domestic/sexual violence. Ashneet is involved with the Spéro Foundation as a Volunteer and Communication Team Member. Ashneet and her team members enhance and maintain Spéro Foundation’s social media by sharing informative posts about poverty and its intersecting factors in the GTA.

Ashneet enjoys watching conspiracy theories such as BuzzFeed Unsolved (covers mystery, true crime, conspiracy, supernatural) and true crime documentaries on Netflix. She also enjoys spending time with her loved ones and her best friend Dior, the Goldendoodle.

For an overview of Ashneet's experiences as an apprenticeship student with the project, see her statement below!