This year’s conference is themed ‘Social Skills for Life’. We’ve put together a packed agenda that speaks to current issues facing families and individuals living with 22q11DS.

View the program


Keynote speaker Rick Lavoie
Keynote speaker Rick Lavoie

Rick Lavoie (Keynote) – Rick Lavoie served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for 30 years. He holds three degrees in Special Education and holds two Honorary Doctorates in Education from the University of Massachusetts (2003) and Mitchell College (CT – 2007).  He has served as a visiting lecturer at numerous universities including Syracuse, Harvard, Manhattanville College, University of Alabama, University of Melbourne and Georgetown.

His recent videos “Beyond F.A.T. City: A Look Back, A Look Ahead” and “It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success” are among the most widely distributed films in the educational media.

Jacob A.S. Vorstman, The Hospital for Sick Children – Professor Vorstman trained in both child and adolescent psychiatry (clinic and research) and molecular genetics (research). Starting in 2001,his research focused on the psychiatric and genetic aspects of the 22q11.2 deletion. Between 2004 and 2006 and between April 2016 and June 2017 he worked in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, United States of America. Dr Vorstman and co-workers frequently communicate their observations that are collected in one of the largest neuropsychiatric follow up studies on youth with 22q11DS. Recently this group, situated in Utrecht, the Netherlands, received a large funding to examine the early language characteristics in children with this genetic disorder. Dr Vorstman is an adviser member of 22q11.2 Society and also an executive board member in an international consortium for the study of the behavioral phenotype in the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, encompassing 22 research sites and funded by the NIMH ($12M). Following his PhD in 2008 he has worked as an assistant professor and PI at the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, UMC Utrecht where he supervised four PhD students towards a successful defense of their thesis and continues to supervise several ongoing trajectories in an adjunct appointment. As of September 2017 Dr Vorstman is appointed as an associate professor at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada and Scientist at the SickKids Research Institute.

Debra Pepler – Professor Debra Pepler is a Distinguished Research Professor and her research has changed the way we think about bullying, aggression and other forms of violence, especially among marginalized and alienated young people. She speaks widely to professional and community audiences about children at risk. Dr. Pepler has a strong publication record and has edited five volumes in the past eight years on understanding and addressing children’s aggression, bullying, and victimization. Dr. Pepler has been a Senior Adjunct Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children since 2001. She has been a member of the Department of Psychology at York  since 1988. She was the Director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution from 1994 to 2002.

Leandra Desjardins – Leandra is a psychology research and clinical fellow at SickKids hospital where she works with children, adolescents, and their parents. Leandra is particularly interested in helping children cope with stress and develop friendships. For the past eight years her research and therapy intervention work has focused on coping, social relationships and cognitive functioning in children diagnosed with cancer. She also works part time at a private practice where she helps children and their families develop strategies to help with mood and anxiety disorders, as well as a range of other internalizing and externalizing challenges. In her spare time, Leandra likes to explore Toronto with friends, cook Italian food, and spend time with her cat, Artemis.

Cheryl Cytrynbaum – Cheryl Cytrynbaum is a genetic counsellor in the Division of Clinical and Metabolic Genetics at The Hospital for Sick Children and has been in practice since 1990. She received a BSc in Human Genetics from McGill University and an MSc in Medical Genetics from the University of Madison, Wisconsin. Cheryl has a special interest in 22q11 Deletion Syndrome and has been involved in the care of individuals with 22q11DS for over 20 years.

Andrea Shugar – Andrea Shugar is a genetic counsellor in the Division of Clinical and Metabolic Genetics at The Hospital for Sick Children and has been in practice since 1992. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and her master of science in genetic counselling and biological sciences from the University of Cincinnati. In her current position at The Hospital for Sick Children, Andrea teaches and supervises graduate-level genetic counselling students, provides genetic counselling to pediatric patients and their families, and is involved in the clinic for 22q-11 deletion syndrome. Andrea has a special interest in research ethics and issues surrounding predictive testing for adult-onset disorders, and the multidisciplinary care model.

Lisa Palmer, B.Ed, MSW – Lisa Palmer is a Social Worker in the Dalglish Family Hearts and Minds Clinic. She is also an Ontario Certified Teacher. She has three years of experience working with adults with 22q11.2DS at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Dalglish Family Hearts and Minds Clinic. Working with the clinic team, she continues to pursue research, educates patients, families and allied health professionals about 22q11.2 DS, assists patients and their families examine psychosocial challenges and concerns and helps find the best available resources. She also facilitates groups and provides counselling and support as requested.

Megan Henze – Megan is an occupational therapist and a member of the Good 2 Go team in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children. Megan completed her Masters in Occupational Therapy in 2009. Megan has worked primarily with young people with physical disabilities in supporting transitions from pediatric service providers to adult service providers and in the development of life skills. In her current role in the Good 2 Go Transition Program she works to build evidence-based practices that support the transition of youth with special health care needs to the adult health care system. She has a strong interest in strengthening communities that support adolescents with chronic conditions and is passionate about working with youth to help them develop life skills and achieve their goals.

Dr. Khush Amaria – Dr. Khush Amaria received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Waterloo, and she completed her predoctoral internship training at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).In her current role at SickKids, Dr. Amaria serves as the team lead for the Good 2 Go Transition Program, working to build evidence-based practices that support the transition and empowerment of youth. This role includes leading Adolescent Medicine’s Transition Clinic, an outpatient program that provides treatment and support for adolescents struggling with transitions issues.

Jennifer Chin – Jennifer is a professional visual artist and educator. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree (Hons. M.F.A.) from the University of Windsor and an Associate’s Diploma (Hons. A.O.C.A.D.) from the Ontario College of Art and Design. She has exhibited her multimedia works across Canada and the US and has lead numerous youth focused, community arts programs across Toronto and Ontario with a variety of organizations such as: Vibe Arts and The Royal Ontario Museum; The Art Gallery of Algoma; The City of Toronto’s Cultural Services Department and Canon Canada. She is currently a member of the faculty at the Avenue Road Arts School in Toronto, leading programs in photography and ceramics for adults and youth.

Visit to see her studio work, and examples of her community based education projects at:  

Sandra Tarantino – Sandra received a Bachelor of Fine Arts through the Ontario College of Art and Design and Bachelor of Education at Western University. She has actively participated in the artistic community as Founder and Director of C1 art space from 2004-2011 and Co-founding Director of AWOL Gallery and Studios from 1996-2012. She is a past recipient of the Ontario Arts Council’s  Visual Artist Grant (2007, 2005, 2003), Exhibition Assistance Grant (2006, 2005) and Artist in Education Grant (from 2008 to 2012).  Teaching all ages in a variety of media including mural creation, mixed media painting and ceramic sculpture, she currently teaches at Avenue Road Arts School and throughout  GTA communities and schools with various arts organizations. Tarantino’s personal art practice incorporates elements of both painting and sculpture through shaped canvases, ceramic figurative pieces and other mixed media work, which are held in private and corporate collections across Canada, U.S.A and Europe. Visit for more info.

Carrie Hage BA, MA – Carrie is an actor, artist-educator and facilitator with a specialization in working with youth at risk of social exclusion. After completing her Masters in Applied Theatre at Goldsmith’s University, London, UK in 2013,  she worked for two years as a youth program coordinator and sensory storyteller for Mencap, UK’s leading charity for people with intellectual disabilities. In Toronto, Carrie has collaborated on arts-education projects with Young People’s Theatre, Story Planet, PAONE,  L’Arche Toronto, Miles Nadal JCC, and the Toronto District School Board.  Most recently, with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council, and of Unity for Autism, Carrie has created and delivered The Storytelling Project in partnership with the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre in Scarborough, Ontario.