Two York students presented with Autism Scholars Awards

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Alaa Ibrahim and Carly Magnacca, two York University doctoral scholars, are named recipients of the 2023-24 Autism Scholars Award.

The community of scholars fostered by this awards program excel in the creation of new knowledge of child autism that positively increases the province’s capacity for diagnosis and assessment of autism and leads to a strengthened treatment system. Ibrahim and Magnacca will each receive a one-year award of $20,000 to advance their research, which can lead to improved treatments and health-care policies.  

Alaa Ibrahim
Alaa Ibrahim

Ibrahim will begin her PhD in the Clinical Developmental Psychology program at York University in September. Her PhD research focuses on examining flourishing in autistic youth. Flourishing is the term used to describe individuals achieving wellness and is associated with high levels of positive mental health. Her study examines existing positive mental health interventions for autistic youth, in addition to understanding the experience of flourishing in a marginalized/racialized autistic community in Canada.

The important topic undertaken by Ibrahim will help provide better understanding of Canada’s marginalized groups in terms of their flourishing and well-being, as well as inform intervention design for these populations. Additionally, this dynamic study can provide researchers, clinicians and policy-makers with autistic experiences that can help ensure all youth with autism, including those from marginalized groups, are supported to flourish.

Outside of her cutting-edge research, Ibrahim has participated in international collaboration projects with the World Health Organization as a therapist and trainer of a parent-mediated intervention in Canada, Egypt and Jordan. She is also starting her clinical training at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

Magnacca will enter her first year of the PhD program in Clinical Developmental Psychology at York in the fall. She has worked with autistic individuals for several years in many different roles, including as a research analyst at the Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre at CAMH and Chair of the Kids Brain Health Network’s Policy Advocacy Research Training Committee.

Carly Magnacca
Carly Magnacca

Magnacca’s research aims to better understand the experiences of autistic youth who previously received Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) and explore the impact of these intensive interventions to better inform policy and families’ intervention decisions. IBI is an evidence-based, intensive behaviour-analytic intervention designed to support young children with autism and has been demonstrated to improve cognitive functioning and adaptive behaviours.

Her work is split into two parts. Study A involves comparing the long-term outcomes of individuals who received IBI to those who received other intensive interventions or no intensive intervention. Study B involves interviewing a subset of individuals who participated in Study A regarding their experience of receiving (or not receiving) an intensive intervention.

Magnacca’s study can be essential to help families understand the long-term outcomes of intensive interventions and guide them to make the choice that would benefit them the most. Moreover, the results of the research can aid policy-makers in education and social service systems when making decisions about interventions that should be funded and made widely accessible.

Find out more about the Autism Scholars Awards and the outstanding work the community of autism scholars are undertaking to help increase Ontario’s capacity to diagnose, assess and treat autism.