Julie Scorah, PhD, is a licensed neuropsychologist specializing in neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
She is the Associate Director of the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) Clinic, and full research member.
What sparked your interest in neurodevelopmental disorders?
I have always been interested in neurodevelopment and how biological and environmental factors affect brain function. Through various professional experiences, I started working more closely with children with neurodevelopmental conditions, particularly autism, and decided that this was where I wanted to focus my career.
I really felt at home working with neurodiverse individuals and their families.
I also saw first-hand how many of them were lacking appropriate services and supports and how few professionals specialized in this area. I felt that I could have a positive impact if I focused my efforts within this community.
What's new at ACAR?
In 2021, ACAR launched its clinic for autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions for youth and adults at The Neuro; a specialized service that didn't previously exist within the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).
The ACAR Clinic also launched a clinical training program aimed at increasing clinical capacity for autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions in the healthcare system. We also hosted the first ever ECHO-Autism series in Quebec; a no-fee professional development program that uses telehealth to enhance specialization of clinicians.
What drives your work?
I am driven by the desire to help people reach their potential. I see so much promise in my patients and I learned a long time ago never to underestimate anyone, especially if they receive the right kind of support at the right times.
I strongly believe in providing quality and personalized care that meets the unique needs of patients and their families.
We want to stay away from the old "one size fits all" process and continue to grow a network of specialized clinicians that are accessible to our patients for all of their various needs.
Through my work at the ACAR Clinic, I hope to help fill some of the gaps in clinical care for autistic individuals and to change the way that autism services are delivered. We start by finding out what their needs are and going from there to decide how best to support them. This is a key focus of our navigation service, where the entire goal is to respond to families’ needs and connect them with information or resources that could help them.
Your work at the ACAR Clinic is integrated with research. How does this help improve the lives of autistic individuals and families?
Much of the work that has been done in the field of autism research has focused on characterizing the symptoms or impairments that exist in this condition and understanding how these develop.
While this has been important, I think autism research should also focus on better characterizing the strengths and talents that autistic people have and better understanding their ways of thinking and viewing the world. This is essential if we want to figure out how to truly help and support people in reaching their potential.
Our work at the ACAR Clinic helps to advance research and inform our patients’ clinical care in a personalized way.
Above all, my work focuses on trying to better understand strengths as well as weaknesses, and how to adapt and work with each individual's profile; tailoring their care to their skills and needs and what will work for them and their families.
Julie Scorah, PhD, is a licensed neuropsychologist specializing in neurodevelopmental conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
She is the Associate Director of the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) Clinic, as well as a full research member. In 2019, she joined McGill University as an Assistant Professor (Professional) in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. She was formerly an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary (2008-2011).
Scorah received her master and doctorate degrees in Psychology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. She has 16 years of experience working in clinics specializing in the assessment and diagnosis of neurodevelopmental conditions in various tertiary centres including the McMaster Children’s Hospital, the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital). She also has experience leading multi-disciplinary teams in home, school, and centre-based intervention for autism.
Scorah has clinical research experience in the design and implementation of clinical assessment protocols, project development, and as a clinical site leader in multi-site research protocols.
Email: julie.scorah [at] mcgill.ca