Dr. Smith began her professional career as a speech and language pathologist working first with preschoolers in a clinic setting and then as a school district consultant. She went on to complete a Doctoral degree in Special Education from the University of British Columbia. While completing her doctoral degree, Dr. Smith worked as a research assistant, course writer for a diploma program in Infant Development and Supported Childcare, and instructor in the Teacher Education and Graduate Program in the Department of Educational Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia.
Since joining the U of A faculty in September 2004, she has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in autism and a doctoral seminar in program evaluation.
The focus of Dr. Smith’s research, scholarly, and professional activities is in the area of social and language development of children at risk or with identified disabilities/delays in school and community settings. Included in this are specific interests in early intervention (specifically in preventing early reading failure), social emotional learning programming in classrooms, and strategies for supporting development and learning in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
In particular, in collaboration with Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl from UBC she is evaluating the effects of a prevention program developed by Mary Gordon from Toronto entitled Roots of Empathy. At the core of this research is an interest in developing effective and efficient tools to examine how the essential elements of implementation of the program vary across classrooms and how this links to child outcomes. In February 2005 she traveled with Dr. Schonert-Reichl to Australia where they initiated a replication of the study in collaboration with the Health Department in Newcastle, NSW and the Telethon Child Health Development Institute in Perth, WA.
In collaboration with Dr. Pat Mirenda at UBC and as part of a BC Ministry for Children and Family Development funded contract she continues to evaluate long-term outcomes of the early intensive behavioural intervention (EIBI) programs for children with autism spectrum disorders in British Columbia. A particular focus of this evaluation has been to better understand language development in young children with autism and how patterns of behaviour evident upon diagnosis predict change over time.
A final area of research involves an examination of the effectiveness of an early reading intervention implemented in kindergarten and conducted as part of a school district wide literacy initiative in Prince George, British Columbia. Early in 2005 she received funding from the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network to continue this investigation.