Director

Stuart Shanker

Dr. Stuart Shanker is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University. He was educated at Oxford, where he obtained a First in PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) and won the Marian Buck Fellowship at Christ Church, where he obtained a First in a B.Phil in Philosophy and a D.Phil with Distinction in Philosophy.

Among his awards are a Canada Council Doctoral Fellowship and Postdoctoral Fellowship; a Calgary Institute for the Humanities Fellowship; a University of Alberta Mactaggart Fellowship; an Iszaak Walton Killam Fellowship; and the Walter L. Gordon Fellowship. He has received many grants, among them a $7,000,000 grant from the Harris Steel Foundation to establish the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI).

Among Dr. Shanker’s monographs are Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation (2012); El rizoma de la racionalidad (with Pedro Reygadas, 2007); Early Years Study II (with J. Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain, 2006); The First Idea (with Stanley Greenspan, 2004); Toward a Psychology of Global Interdependency (with Stanley Greenspan, 2002); Apes, language and the human mind (with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Talbot Taylor, 1998); and Wittgenstein’s remarks on the foundations of AI (1998). He is also the editor of several collections, among them The Routledge History of Philosophy (with G.H.R. Parkinson, 1994-2000); Jerome Bruner: Language, Culture, Self (with David Bakhurst, 2001); Ludwig Wittgenstein: Critical Assessments (with David Kilfoyle, 2002); Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (as a member of the PDM Steering Committee, 2006); Human Development in the Twenty-First Century (with Alan Fogel and Barbara King, 2008).

Dr Shanker served as Director of the Council of Human Development for ten years; Director of the Canada-Cuba Research Alliance for six years; and he was President of the Council of Early Child Development in Canada for two years. Over the past decade he has served as an advisor on early child development to government organizations across Canada and the US and countries around the world, among them Australia, Bosnia, Colombia, England, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Peru, Romania, and Serbia. Most recently he served as the 2012 Thinker in Residence for Western Australia.  He is currently rolling out a self-regulation classroom initiative with several superintendents under the auspices of the Ministry of Education in British Columbia (www.self-regulation.ca).


Administrative Team

Alicia Allison, TMC/MEHRI Coordinator

Alicia Allison has been with MEHRI for the past 5 years. She is MEHRI’s vital communication link between therapists, families and outside organizations. For over 15 years, Alicia has enjoyed working in various capacities in homes, schools and other community organizations supporting children who have a variety of special needs, including autism. Through her experiences, she sees how important it is to support the family unit. She brings a passion, commitment and enthusiasm to her work that is matched by few. 

If you have any questions about our work at MEHRI, please feel free to contact Alicia, as she’ll be glad to help!

Ana Bojcun, Executive Assistant and Office Manager

Ana Bojcun completed her Bachelor of Administrative Studies with Honours degree at York University specialized in Marketing.  She has over 12 years of experience in the Business Management and Marketing field.  She also holds a Professional Certificate in Management. 

Her work focuses on the day to day operational and financial activities of MEHRI under the direction of Prof. Shanker, whom she also provides with administrative support.  She is the proud mother of two young children, Michelle and Matthew and enjoys the outdoors, travelling and reading. 

Jeremy Burman, Associate Director

Jeremy Burman is contract faculty in the Department of Psychology and a senior doctoral student in its graduate program in history and theory. He was educated at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Employment Relations (with honours) in 2004; and at York, where he received his Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2009.

He has authored essays published in several peer-reviewed journals: the Journal of Consciousness Studies (2006), Theory & Psychology (2007 & 2011), Perspectives on Science (2008 & 2012), History of Psychology (2012a, 2012b, & in press), New Ideas in Psychology (in press), the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (in press), and the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (in press). He also has a chapter in a forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press.

Burman received the Pufall Award from the Jean Piaget Society in 2009 and the International Emerging Scholars Award from the Jacobs Foundation in 2010. He has also been recognized for his teaching, receiving certificates of teaching excellence from the Council of Canadian Departments of Psychology in 2010 and 2012, as well as York University's prestigious University Wide Teaching Award in 2012.

At MEHRI, Burman serves as Prof. Shanker's deputy and provides leadership on special projects and grants. Prior to this, he was an Associate Producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and—during the dot-com era—he founded and ran several entrepreneurial ventures. (For more, visit Jeremy's personal page.)

Research Team

Lisa Bayrami, Senior Scientist

Dr. Lisa Bayrami completed her Ph.D. in Psychology at York University in the area of Developmental and Cognitive Processes. She has conducted research on the early identification of autistic spectrum disorders and is also currently involved in several studies investigating the outcomes of social-emotional learning programs in children and young adolescents. Dr. Bayrami is also involved in research exploring the nature of maternal-fetal attachment.

Devin Casenhiser, Research Director (Behavioural)

Dr. Devin Casenhiser completed his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois specializing in Psycholinguistics and comes to us from Princeton University where he had been conducting post-doctoral research in the department of psychology. Dr. Casenhiser's research explores the roles of function, pragmatics, and semantics in language learning and child development. This has most recently led him to investigate learning in children with autism spectrum disorders since they often have constrictions in these same areas. Dr. Casenhiser is in charge of the behavioral and cogntiive research at MEHRI, oversees the research staff, and works closely with the treatment team members. (For more details, visit Dr. Casenhiser's Home Page.)

Luis Garcia Dominguez, Research Associate (Neuroscience)

Luis Garcia Dominguez, PhD, works in the field of signal processing with a focus on functional connectivity measures of brain activity derived from electroencephalographic (EEG) and magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings. He has collaborated with several groups and participated in many research programs from heart rate variability, autism, epilepsy, coma, brain injury to normal cognitive functions.

Jessica Mariano, Research Assistant

Jessica completed her HBSc in Psychology from the University of Toronto. Her interests focus on the nature of play in children with autism, specifically examining the dynamics of parent-child interactions during play.

Olga Morderer, Research Coordinator

Olga Morderer has been fortunate to work in different positions in MEHRI over the past 3 years. She started as a volunteer, filming therapy sessions; then helped part time with different research projects. Upon graduation from the University of Toronto with Honors BSc. in Psychology, Olga joined the MEHRI team full time as a research assistant. Currently, as Research Coordinator, Olga’s work is focused on handling and organizing research projects in MEHRI under the direction of Dr. Devin Casenhiser.


Jim Stieben, Research Director (neuroscience)

Dr. Jim Stieben is the director of the clinical and developmental neuroscience unit, where he oversees all neuroscience research and neuroscience research staff. His research is broadly focused on clinical and developmental neuroscience in children and adolescence.

Dr. Stieben’s research is focused on four main areas: 1) The core research focus in the MEHRI lab is intervention neuroscience with a number of studies assessing EEG and event related potential (ERP) changes associated with interventions e.g., DIR/Floortime intervention in young children with autism and neurophysiological changes using the Roots of Empathy program, 2) The neurophysiology of parenting with a focus on the effects of parenting style on frontal lobe development in children, 3) The effects of violent video game play on the development of the frontal lobe in adolescence, and 4) The development of joint attention in infancy.

Dr. Stieben’s lab is specialized for the collection of 128 channel dense-array EEG (EGI), psychophysiological methods (Biopac) including ECG, heart rate variability, vagal tone and skin conductance. He also utilizes eye-tracking methods (Tobii) to monitor participants gaze behaviour during EEG/ERP data collection. His lab is designed to acquire concurrent EEG, psychophysiology and video observation from two research participants simultaneously. This method provides us with a unique ability to study joint behaviour in our research participants (e.g., mother-infant dyads).

Clinical Team

Amanda Binns, Speech-Language Pathologist

Amanda Binns is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist who graduated from the State University at Buffalo, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. She began her career working in a private practice, seeing a wide range of clients in schools, hospitals, and in-home settings.

Binns has been at MEHRI since 2006, when the clinical program was founded, and is part of the multidisciplinary team who collaborated on the DIR based treatment efficacy study. Her current clinical practice includes working with children and families using a combination of trans-disciplinary parent coaching, reflective parent meetings and direct therapy. She is also providing ongoing professional consultation to a local private school. 

Binns is a certified Expert DIR Speech Language Pathologist and has been a Training Leader in the ICDL DIR certificate program since 2010. She has presented to professionals locally, across North America, and in Colombia on a variety of topics including: DIR principles and practice; Supporting communication development; The importance of play and interaction for young children; Self-regulation; and Coaching/Supporting parents to become part of the therapeutic process.  Audiences have included parents, clinicians, teachers, early childhood educators, medical professionals and government officials.

Eunice Lee, Social Worker

Eunice Lee is a Registered Social Worker who has worked with children with special needs and their families for more than ten years. She received dual Master's degrees in Social Work and Special Education from Columbia University and Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

Lee has focused her work on building collaborative relationships between parents, educators, and professionals in a variety of settings including a children's mental health clinic, Head Start program, therapeutic nursery, and a social service agency for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Her clinical experience includes providing individual therapy/counselling, designing and delivering psycho-educational workshops, and facilitating support groups for children, adolescents, and parents. 

Lee joined MEHRI in 2007 and is a member of the multidisciplinary team that provided treatment for families in the long-term research study. More recently, she has a significant role in developing and delivering curriculum for training and consultation locally, provincially, and internationally for schools, district school boards, non-profit organizations, and government programs including the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative. In addition to being certified as an Expert DIR Floortime provider, she is also a Training Leader for the Interdisciplinary Council for Developmental and Learning Disorders (ICDL).

Fay McGill, Speech-Language Pathologist

Fay McGill is a licensed speech-language pathologist who has been practicing since 2004.  She received her Master’s degree in Communicative Disorders and Sciences from the State University of New York at Buffalo and graduated with an honours Bachelor of Arts in linguistics from York University. 

In her clinical practice, she gained experience working with children with a variety of developmental and communication concerns and their families.  Since joining the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative in 2007, she has been working as a part of a multidisciplinary team serving children and families using a DIR-based treatment approach. 

Fay is certified as an Expert DIR Floortime provider and training leader.  She has experience coaching and educating parents and professionals.  She has presented throughout Canada on developmental, relational approaches to therapy and the importance of self-regulation when working with children.  She is currently involved in the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative and has been supporting British Columbia’s First Wave Self-Regulation classrooms and schools.

Chris Robinson, Occupational Therapist

Christine (Chris) Robinson has been working as an Occupational Therapist for twenty-five years, specializing primarily in the areas of early intervention and school-based practice. With a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto and certification to work in both Canada and the United States, Chris has enjoyed working with children who experience a variety of disabilities, their families, and schools in diverse rural and urban settings. Chris has also enjoyed the challenges of creating culturally-relevant family-centered practice as a member of multidisciplinary teams in such diverse places as the Outports of Newfoundland and the cattle farms of Nebraska. She has also appreciated the opportunity to work as part of technology access teams within the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication in major urban centers of Southern Ontario. Chris joined MEHRI in 2007 and is a registered Expert DIR® Floortime™ provider.

Affiliated Scholars

Dr. Maria Botero, Adjunct Scientist (Sam Houston)

Dr. Botero's research merges questions about science, mind, and living organisms. Though trained as a Philosophy major, she was also prepared to conduct studies in Primatology. With the support of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI) at York University, she designed and conducted a study of six mother-infant chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) pairs from the Kasekela community at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. This unique opportunity enabled her to look closely at the methods used in Primatology and at the same time to enrich her philosophical analysis of central aspects of the mind, such as communication and the effects of the mother-infant interaction for the development for the primate mind. Dr. Botero continues this research as an Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University in Texas.

Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo, Adjunct Scientist (Lakehead)

Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo completed her PhD in Education at York University with a focus on the attainment of family outcomes after participation in autism early intervention programs. She was a former Research Assistant at the Milton Ethel Harris Research Initiative where she was responsible for conducting the Autism Diagnostic Interview with families. Dr. Mastrangelo is currently an Assistant Professor at Lakehead University (Orillia Campus) in the Faculty of Education and Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies. In collaboration with Prof. Shanker and Dr. Casenhiser, she is working on a large scale study on the impact of early intervention on family outcomes. Her second area of research is a joint project with college professor Norah Fryer in Christchurch, New Zealand and Prof. Shanker on the effects of a self regulation model on the professional development of teachers at the Rangi Ruru early childhood education college. Lastly, Dr. Mastrangelo has just begun co-authoring a book for teachers about the Miller Method, a cognitive developmental systems approach for children on the autism spectrums.

Dr. Brenda Smith-Chant, Adjunct Professor (Trent)

Dr. Brenda Smith-Chant is the Chair of the Psychology Department at Trent University and Adjunct Professor with the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Institute at York University.

Dr. Smith-Chant completed her Masters and PhD at Carleton University and held a Restracom Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children on the Spina Bifida Project. She has served as the co-ordinator of the Developmental Section of the Canadian Psychological Society and as a senior researcher for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Ontario), overseeing research and evaluation of early-years programs. Her research interests are in the area of children’s cognitive development and how early development is influenced by parents, educators, and social policy.

She has also been involved in multiple research projects including Ontario’s Best Start, Cuba-Canada Pathways of Development, Count Me In! (and Count Me In, Two: Long-term predictors of math achievement in children), and the evaluation of the Community Aboriginal Recreation Activator initiative with the Ministry of Health Promotion. She is primary investigator on the Knowledge Synthesis Grant, "Nurturing the Next Generation," in partnership with Peel Public Health. (For more details, visit Dr. Smith-Chant's Home Page.)