York alumna with Asperger’s Disorder inspires her autistic students

It is the middle of a lesson in the classroom at Greenbriar Public School in Brampton, and the boys, aged 12 to 14, take turns jumping on the trampoline in between listening to their teacher, wrote the National Post May 17. "It releases tension," teacher Carole Ann Macdonald (BA ’95, BEd ’04) says matter-of-factly, as she surveys a classroom that also includes terrariums, a beanbag chair, a sectional couch and, most importantly, three teaching assistants and a teacher for just nine students.

Macdonald knows, perhaps more than most, the need for an autistic child to have a release from the structure of a school day, wrote the Post. When she was a bit younger than these students, she was labelled "retarded" and severely disabled, and required a team of private tutors to get her through school. It was not until her final year of teacher’s college, three years ago, that she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, a form of autism.

Like a typical Asperger’s person, Macdonald has no qualms talking openly about her personal life, even in class, wrote the Post. "Boys, I know what it’s like to be suspended from school. I know what it’s like to fail math class," she tells them. "I used to forget my tuba and was always late for school. It’s OK. When you get to high school, cling to the smart kids in class. That’s what I did."

When she applied for her job, straight out of teacher’s college, she already had an impeccable resume, which included master’s-level courses from York University, but what won her the job was a sense that she offered "this sort of ‘other’ dimension to her understanding of the students," says Pat Lewis, the school’s principal.

Canada counting on Mitchell’s experience

Dale Mitchell, Canada’s new national soccer coach comes with impeccable on-field credentials, wrote the Timmins Daily Press May 17. "A natural goal-scorer," said Paul James, a former under-20 coach, World Cup veteran and head soccer coach at York. James remembers how Mitchell, a teammate on Canada’s 1986 World Cup team, dealt with the adversity of injuring his knee ahead of the finals in Mexico.

Mitchell, then a star player, recovered in time but the injury affected his performance. He did not see action in Mexico until the final game against the USSR, when he almost ended Canada’s goal drought at the finals. “He was an absolute professional,” James recalled. “He wasn’t negative about it, he didn’t moan about it. He just got on with it. He was supportive of the players that did play. It’s a story that James has long used to educate younger athletes.

Clarifying health impacts

It is well documented that the primary modifiable factors for chronic disease are the adverse living conditions associated with income, housing and food insecurity wrote Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, in a letter to the editor of The Golden Star in Golden, BC, May 16, in response to an editorial. Lifestyle factors such as diet, tobacco use, and activity account for only a small amount of predictability of chronic disease once living conditions are taken into account.

While the motivations of lifestyle health promoters are laudable, in reality they have the potential to divert attention away from the primary causes of chronic diseases, adverse living conditions brought on by poor public policy.

Stone was a rock at York

Just over 20 years have passed since Trish (Barnes) Stone (BA ‘85) graced the volleyball court at York University, but her contributions to the program have never been forgotten, wrote Oshawa-Whitby-Clarington This Week May 16. In fact, on May 31, they will be forever remembered. Along with three other athletes and a builder, Stone will be inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame.

"I was thrilled," Stone said of her initial reaction when hearing of the honour. "We had a good run." Despite being offered a full scholarship elsewhere, Stone opted to stay closer to home, making York the school of choice. It helped that the coach of the women’s national team headed up the program at York at the time, and wearing Canada’s colours in international competition intrigued her. "That really was the goal," she remembers of her national team aspirations. "I was really young back then, and I just felt the calibre was much better here."

Running for Christina

Christina Caverly has been enduring a marathon of sorts for the past two years as she has battled leukemia diagnosed right around her 18th birthday, wrote Oshawa-Whitby-Clarington This Week May 16. So, it only seems fitting that her mother, Brenda, and one of her closest friends, York student Shonagh Craddock, will do their part by running an actual marathon later this month to help raise money and awareness for blood cancers. They’ve been part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, preparing for the big run.

Craddock, a friend of Christina’s since the pair were 12, has been balancing work, her education at York University, and training to take part in the upcoming marathon. "I can’t in any way compare to what (Christina’s) gone through," she said. "This is the closest I can come." She’d never heard of the Team in Training program until Christina showed her the pamphlet. "I couldn’t not do it for her," said the 19-year-old.


On air


  • Amin Alhassan, professor in York’s Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, took part in a debate about technology development in Africa, on TVO’s “The Agenda” May 16.