Board of Directors

Autism Network LAC is a volunteer, registered charity to support neurodivrse individuals.

Our mission is to advocate to local, Provincial and Federal agencies to ensure equity, inclusion and support. Engaging with local agencies to collaborate for best practices, resources, advocacy and information for those who need it most.

Our vision is to continue to provide opportunities for neurodivrse individuals to connect and be a part of their community, in a fulfilling and productive way. Autism Network LAC strives to provide individuals living on the spectrum to have an equal opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in life.


Introducing our Board of Directors for 2023-2024

Caylee Ortiz

Director – Associate Member

My name is Caylee Ortiz and I have humbly accepted a position on the board of directors with The Autism Network LACAN.

I have a diploma in Early Childhood Education and Community and Justice Services with 7 years of experience in the world of child care. I am wildly passionate about working with children and ensuring that each child I come into contact with feels seen and heard. I currently work as a programming assistant for the early years with the Kingston Frontenac Public Library and I am an ECE & EA with the Limestone District School Board. 

My approach as an educator is one in which I describe as The Whole Child Approach. This can be broken down into three categories, 1. See the child 2. Hear the child, 3. See With New Eyes.

My teaching wheelhouse is driven by adaption, inclusion, diversity, praise and research. 

A child at heart myself I believe connection comes in all forms and the most effective avenue of learning is through organic play. The paramount scale to follow, is that of happiness and joy. To See With New Eyes is to recognize and value the differences in the children of the world. It is to educate ourselves and those around as to how to be successful in being a propeller of success in a child’s life. Change the way we teach, not change the way they learn, find new perspective, in times of confusion. 

My passion for advocacy has many branches but in terms of this particular branch, there is a child close to my heart who is navigating his adventure with ASD and I can truly say, no tiny human has taught me more than this little man. It is because of him and others along my ECE journey that I will continue to work hard to provide equal opportunity for those who have been touched with the wand of neurodiversity. 

I have a deep passion for yoga and holistic approaches to healing, therapy and education. It is through my practice that I am able to provide affirmation, reassurance and support to each family I work with. I look forward to the journey ahead, may you all be happy and free! 

Pronouns: She/her.

Lee Cowling

Director – Associate Member

Hello! My name is Lee, I’ve been selected for a position, on the board of directors with Autism Network LAC – LACAN as a healthcare professional.

I have been in the healthcare field for the past 20 years. During this time I have seen diversity and with that the knowledge of how important educating our community of different challenges many families face daily. How to be an inclusive; family member, friend, co-worker or neighbour.

Someone close to me lives on the autism spectrum and has given me many reasons to be passionate about advocating for acceptance and inclusion.

I’m looking forward to bringing a voice as a healthcare professional to encourage inclusion now and for our future generations!

Lee Cowling

Lee Cowling has graciously joined our efforts to spread awareness of inclusion in her field of work and our communities.

She lives in Harrowsmith, which is an area we cover in Lennox & Addington County.

Lee is an experienced professional in the healthcare community. Some might even call her an expert in critical care, which is a specialized area of nursing.

Lee has travelled to the United States on a special work visa, spending two years of her career in a trauma hospital located in St. Petersburg, FL.

More recently, Lee held an important role with Trillium (Organ Donation Donor Team) where she experienced grief, tragedy and loss regularly.

She has provided compassion and kindness to many families during the challenging journey of organ donation.

We have no doubt Lee is perfect for a seat on our board to assist us to fulfill our vision of advocating for acceptance and inclusion in our community.

Autism Network LAC is honoured to have Lee’s skill-set, healthcare perspective and integrity on the board.

Lindsay Walsh

Director – CFO

Hi everyone, my name is Lindsay I’ve accepted a position on the LACAN diverse board of directors.

My son is neurotypical, his name is Archer. We love our boxer named Lyric. Our family has friends of all different abilities and backgrounds.

I am dedicated to being an inclusive family as well as a supportive source for our neurodivergent friends.The decision to accept this diversity position on the LACAN board is an honour.

I am delighted to assist in spreading awareness surrounding social inclusion, to teach our children to be good advocates as well as good friends!Inclusion starts young, it’s learned – we can all be good teachers.

Let’s help our youth understand that it’s ok to be different!Looking forward to an inclusive future with you!

Lindsay Walsh

Ashley Gilbert

Director – Associate Member

Ashley is a self-advocate and identifies as neurodiverse. LACAN is thrilled to have her voice on the board of directors.

Ashley gained a great amount of inspiration while being an older sibling to Avery who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

When growing up, Ashley sensed she was different from her peers, always seeking a real connection and not really sure how to make it happen on her own. She suffered in silence for many years, not understanding what others were laughing and joking about, which was usually aimed towards her and being bullied most of her academic life.

Ashley enjoys artistic work as well as technology. These activities/work help her to reduce the stress and anxiety of social sensory input throughout her day.

After falling through the cracks of a system not built for her, Ashley hopes to continue her education and learning about disability studies and be an advocate for change.

Sarah Fisher

Director – Associate Member

My name is Sarah Fisher, I reside in the Town of Greater Napanee. My son is 15 years old and he lives on the autism spectrum.

Our journey has been adventurous in getting to where we are today. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you, and the network to help advocate for positive change in our community.

We were given an opportunity to work with Queen’s Psychology Clinic, who are remarkable in advocating for kiddos on the spectrum. The continous gratitude we feel has no words.

For 15 years I have worked with the vulnerable persons population. My career blends well with our personal values and ethics. Not only as a family, as an individual.

Today I am pleased to announce my partnership with LACAN as we advocate in commitment to educate the community about autism and those on the spectrum.Looking forward to joining our community in neurodiversity.


Jocelyn Vilneff

Director – Secretary

Jocelyn gained great inspiration while being a dance teacher. When working with children, she sensed a greater need for there to be inclusion of children living with barriers.

Jocelyn worked at Kool Kamp held at Children and Family Services in Napanee, where she was inspired by each and every child she worked with.

This lead her to become a respite worker with Children’s Aid Services, as well as in personal homes. With every child, comes new needs, but she strongly believes in fostering a supportive environment, with positivity, a child will flourish.

Jocelyn is entering her 4th, and final year of her bachelor of fine arts in dance (honours degree) with a concentration in dance education at York University.She has also earned her certification in crisis prevention and intervention.

After seeing children fall victim of the injustices of our systems, she hopes to further her education with a master’s degree in disability studies and be an advocate for change.

Mandy Stapley

Director – CEO

My name is Mandy, I reside in the Town of Greater Napanee. I am a single mother to son, Hank, who lives on the autism spectrum (non-verbal/semi-verbal) or otherwise known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Hank’s birth was “normal,” no complications and considered natural. I sought a referral to a Pediatric doctor when Hank was nearing 18-months old because I had strong feelings he wasn’t meeting typical milestones for a child of his age.

This process was long and challenging for Hank and we are thankful to the many people who have supported us along the way.

There were times when I felt I was navigating blindly, helpless, alone and defeated. Mostly I felt like a failure as Hank’s mother.

I found myself reaching out for any and all types of information about autism. One of the most important things I learned was to trust the professionals in their field and to trust my “gut” when it came to mothering a non-verbal child.

Hank had tubes out in his ears at 24-months, an Audiologist determined Hank was hearing impaired. Hank was diagnosed with ASD shortly after this surgery.

Hank began an intense behavioral intervention (IBI) program with the Maltby Centre located in Kingston, Ontario at the age of 5 years old.

Hank, like many children, waited on a list for therapy, (in my opinion this was detrimental to our family – we were languishing for support).

During Hank’s treatment, he began using Picture Exchange Communication (PECs) as a form of communication. Hank’s communication increased and he upgraded to an iPad with a Proloquo2go app, known as an augmentative communication device.

It was during this time, I began to reach out to my community to connect with like parents with unique yet similar situations. Networking with like-minded people has been so important for my mental health. I’ve learned finding the right people to share your life with is key.

This lead to the creation of this grass-roots network to serve our community in an effort to help each other through challenging times of uncertainly.

Thank you for your support and kind messages! Together we can make a difference in our community, province and with hopes, our nation.

Mandy Stapley