The York ASD Partnership Team

York ASD Partnership Group Photo Legend

Back Row L-R

Chris Simmons-Physick, Kinark Child and Family Services; Tracy Mansell, Kerry’s Place Autism Services; Alana Racicot, Autism Ontario; Megan Rubenstein, York Preschool Speech Language Program;  Neil Walker, Project Manager, York ASD Partnership;  Cindi Buick, parent; Cenza Cacciotti, parent; Barbara Duncan, York Region Board of Education; Len Godin, Ministry of Education.

Centre Row L-R

Sandy Stemp, Reena; Francis Donovan, Kinark Child and Family Services;  Jackie Buchanan, parent;  Kim Thorn, York Support Services Network; Jodi Sherman, TRE-ADD & Panorama Program; Ann Leblanc, Vita Community Services

Front Row L-R

Sylvia Pivko, Blue Hills Child and Family Centre; Cathy Saul, Early Intervention Services of York Region;  Alice Jara, York Central Hospital Behaviour Management Services of York/Simcoe; Lynda Beedham, parent; Vicki Merrilees, Catulpa Community Services; Sandy Thurston, Children’s Treatment Network of Simcoe/York.


Caroline Johnson, Children’s Case Management; Maria Paczek, York Catholic District School Board,  Jonathan Weiss, York University Faculty of Health; Lorri Johnston, TRE-ADD & Panorama Program; Greg Ladyka, MCYS/MCSS; Nehama Baum, Muki Baum Treatment Centre.

Leadership Bio’s

Jackie Buchanan Parent Representative

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
Jackie Buchanan is the parent of a 19-year-old son with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Jackie has held various administrative and marketing positions within the Canadian Music Industry including CBS Records (Sony Music), Concert Productions International and Entertainment Marketing and Communications International (EMCI).  She also held the position of Accounting and Centralized Services Manager at Xerox Canada.  Currently she owns a small event and marketing company with her husband, attends Seneca College part-time and is pursuing an Accounting CGA designation.
Cindi Buick Parent Representative

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
Cindi Buick is the parent of a teenager with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  In 2001, she left a career in the pension industry to focus her efforts on her family and volunteering in the autism community. She has been involved with Autism Ontario for over ten years, serving as President of the York Region Chapter from 2001 to 2004. Cindi has contributed to many regional and provincial committees over the years, aiming to increase awareness and improve support/services for families living with autism.  She has shared her experiences through presentations to parent groups, community organizations, educators, students and medical professionals.
Frances Donovan, RSW Director of Autism Services, Kinark Child and Family Services

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Physician Support Work Group member


Frances Donovan, RSW, is the Director of Autism Services at Kinark Child and Family Services, which operates the Central East Autism Program, School Support Program – ASD for the Central East Region.  Frances is a member of the agency leadership team at Kinark and sits on a number of community tables in the Central East Region, including the York ASD Partnership and Steering Committee.   Previously, she led intensive services and crisis intervention services for Kinark’s Durham Program, which offers services to children and families with mental health needs.
Barbara Duncan Principal on Assignment, Student Services, York Region District School Board

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Co-chair, Screening and Assessment Work Group
Barbara Duncan is a York Region District School Board liaison with the Children’s Treatment Network and a member of the Clinical Manager’s Committee, Systems Operations Committee, and Reference Group. She is the administrator responsible for the implementation of Policy Program Memorandum (PPM) 140 – Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and associated training. Barbara is a board representative on the York ASD Partnership and a Co-chair of the Assessment and Screening Working Group. She is the Board Lead for the Connections for Students initiative, the Student Services representative on the Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) Program Implementation Steering Committee and a Co-chair of the High Needs Management Working Group for Safe, Caring and Supportive Schools and Workplaces.
Alice Jara Acting Coordinator of the Behaviour Clinic, York Behaviour Management Services

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Co-chair, Professional Development Work Group
Alice Jara is the acting Coordinator of the Behaviour Clinic at York Behaviour Management Services (YBMS), part of the Mental Health Program at York Central Hospital. YBMS provides best practice and clinically sound behavioural supports to individuals who have a developmental disability. Alice has held many different positions at YBMS: a Senior Therapist working specifically with clinical supervision of staff running Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI), a Transition Coordinator for learners graduating out of the IBI program, and a Behaviour Consultant working closely with many families and in partnership with many community agencies.  Alice has over 20 years of experience working with individuals with multiple disabilities but her passion has always been in autism.
Tracy Mansell Regional Executive Director, Kerry’s Place Autism Services

  • Chair, York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
Tracy Mansell is presently the Regional Executive Director at Kerry’s Place Autism Services in Central East Region.  She has been supporting people with autism (children and adults) through Kerry’s Place Autism Services since 1994.  Tracy actively participates in the community to develop partnerships and opportunities to enhance the quality of life for people with Autism and their families.
Maria Paczek ASD Coordinator, York Catholic District School Board

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Screening and Assessment Work Group
Maria Paczek is an educator with 31-years experience.  As a classroom and special education teacher she taught students with multiple needs and gifts.  In 1998 she became a Program Consultant Elementary Panel – Special Education for the York Catholic District School Board. She was the first Special Education Consultant for the York Catholic District School Board’s ASD Team and is presently working as the ASD Coordinator, which allows her to coordinate services for students and families attending the YCDSB. Maria is also actively involved in various initiatives pertaining to ASD services for families and students living in York Region.
Sylvia Pivko, MSW, RSW Executive Director, Blue Hills Child and Family Centre

  • Chair, York ASD Partnership
  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
Sylvia Pivko has been the Executive Director of Blue Hills Child and Family Centre, a children’s mental health agency serving children, youth and families in York Region, since October 2003. Besides Children’s Mental Health, her career has involved extensive Child Welfare, Young Offender and Violence against Women experiences. She is interested in promoting a shared leadership model and working collaboratively towards an improved service system for children, youth and families.  Sylvia immigrated to Canada from Venezuela, grew up in Montreal and now calls Toronto home.
Christine Simmons, M.M, RSW Program Director, York Region, Kinark Child and Family Services

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Co-chair, Access Mapping and Pathways Working Group
Christine Simmons, a registered social worker with a master’s degree in non-profit management, joined Kinark Child and Family Services in August 2005 as the Program Director for York Region. Her career in social services has spanned three decades working with children youth and families in a variety of positions and organizations. Early in her career Chris worked in children’s mental health as a child and youth worker and crisis social worker. She then joined Kids Help Phone where she worked for 17 years and eventually became the Vice President, Child and Family Services. Chris has also held a number of volunteer positions locally, nationally and internationally, focusing on suicide prevention and the provision of counseling via telephone and web based technology.
Kimberly Thorn Manager, Developmental Services, York Support Services Network

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Co-chair, Transition Planning Work Group
Kimberly Thorn is a York University graduate with a specialized honours degree in psychology.  She has worked in the developmental services sector for 18 years and is currently employed at York Support Services Network as a Manager of Developmental Services.
Sandy Thurston Director of Planning, Evaluation and Network Development, Children’s Treatment Network Simcoe York

  • York ASD Partnership Steering Committee
  • Co-chair, Screening and Assessment Work Group
Sandy Thurston has been involved as a planner and administrator with services for children with special needs – including children with ASD through her previous roles with the Simcoe York District Health Council and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Approximately 25 per cent of the Children’s Treatment Network’s (CTN) population have an ASD, leading CTN to be involved in the development of the ASD Partnership.
Neil Walker

  • Project Manager, York ASD Partnership
  • Co-chair, Communications Work Group
Neil Walker has specialized in the field of ASD for over 30 years.  He has designed, implemented, and directed services for individuals with an ASD of all ages and their families. Neil began his career in autism with Kerry’s Place Autism Services in Ontario in 1980. He served as Senior Program Director with the Geneva Centre for Autism in Toronto for 20 years, returning to Kerry’s Place Autism Services in the capacity of Director of Education & Capacity Building in 2010. In addition to directing ASD intervention services, Neil has presented and consulted internationally in England, Australia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bermuda, and across the USA and Canada.