Helping journalists, producers and conference planners find the female guests, speakers and expert sources they need.

Donna Thomson

Care Activist, Independent

Donna Thomson is a care activist and systems innovator. She writes and speaks about caring in networks of support across ages and abilities.


I'm a Professional Caregiver and You're Not! - Fit Minds Expert Interview with Donna Thomson -

Donna Thomson, disability activist and Nicole Scheidl, CEO of Fit Minds talk about finding the right balance of power between professional caregivers and families. Donna also talks about using the Tyze Personal Network for taking care of her disabled son and her aging mother.

Donna Thomson discusses advocacy and ethics

00:07 - Describes the Capability Approach 06:49 - Differentiates between rights-based and ethics-based activism 08:39 - Discusses dependency and what we value in our lives 10:14 - Discusses Eva Kittay's theory of equality 12:44 - Proposes that supporting families should be at the heart of policy

Donna Thomson, disability activist and author

Donna Thomson's new book, The Four Walls of My Freedom, is a riveting and redemptive memoir about her family's experience coping with her son's cerebral palsy. Her blog is

Donna Thomson's book launch

Donna Thomson's book launch for "The Four Walls of my Freedom", with an introduction by John Ralston Saul Donna's talk starts at 12:55

Being 'real' as a caregiver - Fit Minds Expert Interview with Donna Thomson -.

Nicole Scheidl of Fit Minds, a company that creates programs for caregivers of individuals suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and Donna Thomson, author and activist speak about being 'real' as a caregiver.

BLOOM Clips - Donna Thomson at Holland Bloorview

Donna Thomson at Holland Bloorview BLOOM clips is a video series where parents and experts talk about the subject of childhood disability.

Can caregivers be friends? - Fit Minds Expert Interview with Donna Thomson

An interview on the nature of friendship with individuals who suffer from a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Can caregivers - whether professional or family - be friends?

Disability writer Donna Thomson's clear-eyed look at the value of a life

The Globe and Mail, September 5, 2010Print


Donna Thomson, wife of the Canadian high commissioner to Britain and disability-rights pot-stirrer, leads the way up a grand staircase at her official London residence and leaves one life for another...

What To Do When Everyone Says No: Advocacy Strategies to Access Treatment and Medications

The Caregiver NetworkOnline


This three-part series will introduce patients and caregivers to how the health care funding system works and how to access the treatments they need. Health navigation knowledge and skills will be presented alongside best practice advocacy strategies, including how to successfully leverage the help and goodwill of friends, family members and health care professionals. In this highly interactive series, participants will be provided with templates, check lists and other tools to get them started in their own advocacy plan – or help them re-think their current approach.

How to Take Charge of Your Own Health Care Experience With Solution Based Advocacy

The Caregiver Network, May 18, 2016Online


We rely on health care providers to provide quality care and timely interventions. We expect that providers know the right questions to ask in order to understand our personal health situation and to obtain the appropriate resources. The reality is that many health care professionals are drowning in paperwork and case overload and cannot spend a sufficient amount of time getting to know us and our needs. As consumers, we must take our health into our own hands and advocate for what we need.

Today’s guest on Caregivers’ Circle, Donna Thomson, author of Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Life of Caregiving and I discuss solution-based advocacy and how to effectively get what you need from our complex private, public and community resources.

Work/Life Balance: The Secrets of Success

Abilities Magazine, September 1, 2015Online


Managing the Demands of Employment and Care Needs.

Clinicians Improve Outcomes By Connecting to a Circle of Care

Home Care Technology Report, December 21, 2014Online


Personal narrative of using Tyze Personal Networks ( to coordinate complex care in the community for our son who has severe disabilities and is medically complex. Tyze is an online care coordination tool that bridges home and families to hospitals and community care providers.

Ontario's crisis of disabled adults, abandoned by the system

The Globe and Mail, May 19, 2014Online


Activists like Donna Thomson are worried about a hardening of public attitudes toward the disabled in a bottom-line society (see Doug Ford above). Ms. Thomson is the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom, a book about living with, and fighting for, her son Nicholas, who has cerebral palsy. “You’ll hear things like, ‘Why should I care? Why should I pay? I’ve got two healthy children.’ We haven’t even begun to have the conversations about disability that we need to have.”...

Advocate Now To Get What You Need

Today's Kids in Motion, September 1, 2013Online


Best practice in advocacy strategies to succeed in advocating for a child with disabilities.

Surviving Sandwich Caregiving

Today's Kids in Motion, March 1, 2013Online


A personal reflection on my own sandwich caregiving with tips on surviving and thriving.

The Four Walls of my Freedom
by Donna Thomson
The House of Anansi

The ‘ouR-HOPE’ approach for ethics and communication about neonatal neurological injury

Published by Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology

Predicting neurological outcomes of neonates with acute brain injury is an essential component of shared decision-making, in order to guide the development of treatment goals and appropriate care plans.


The ‘ouR-HOPE’ approach for ethics and communication about neonatal neurological injury

by Eric Racine, Emily Bell, Barbara Farlow, Steven Miller, Antoine Payot, Lisa Anne Rasmussen, Michael Shevell, Donna Thomson and Pia Wintermark

Published by Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology

Predicting neurological outcomes of neonates with acute brain injury is an essential component of shared decision-making, in order to guide the development of treatment goals and appropriate care plans.



Donna Thomson began her career as an actor, director and teacher. But in 1988, when her son Nicholas was born with severe disabilities, Donna embarked on her second career as a care activist, author, consultant and writer. She now helps care for her mother who has Alzheimer's. In her book, "The Four Walls of my Freedom", (2010 in hard cover and 2014 in revised paperback, House of Anansi Press), Donna examines her personal family experience with caregiving, probing the ethics and economics of how families giving and receiving care can flourish in society. Donna examines how social innovation leading to practical solutions can help families thrive even in very challenging circumstances - a subject she blogs about regularly at her site "The Caregivers' Living Room" ( Donna is the Special Advisor for Caregiving at Tyze Personal Networks, an online tool for coordinating care at home owned by Saint Elizabeth Health Care. She is a board director of Kids Brain Health Network, a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE). She is a senior advisor on CHILD-BRIGHT, a CIHR funded national SPOR research project in childhood disability. She is the co-founder of Lifetime Networks Ottawa, a PLAN affiliate and speaks often on the subject of integrated, coordinated networks of professional and personal support to ease the way for families giving care in the community. Donna is also an instructor at the Advocacy School (Ottawa, Canada), teaching families how to employ best practice political advocacy strategies when advocating for care. She consults to hospitals and research projects, representing the interests of patients and families. Donna holds degrees in Fine Art (Theatre), Education and Theatre in Education. She has spoken on disability and family wellbeing extensively, including at the 2016 AACPDM Conference, London School of Economics, the Skoll World Forum, and the International Centre for Evidence in Disability. Donna is married to James Wright, the former High Commissioner for Canada in the UK. They have two children, one of whom has severe disabilities with medical complexity and Donna helps care for her mother (94 years young) as well. Donna lives in Ottawa, Canada when she's not escaping to the cottage in Quebec or to Cat Island, Bahamas.

Additional Titles and Affiliations

Tyze Personal Networks and Virtual Caregiver Support Program : Caregiving Consultant

Senior Advisor, CHILD-BRIGHT SPOR Research Project

The Advocacy School : Instructor

Director, Kids Brain Health Network (NeuroDevNet)

Past Talks

Keynote - Chambers Family Lifespan Address

AACPDM 70th Annual Meeting

Hollywood, FLA, September 22, 2016

Keynote: Innovation and Ethics

Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology

Toronto, ON

Family Participation and Exchange: An Ongoing Priority

7th Annual Brain Development Conference

Calgary, AB, September 28, 2016

CPIM Family Engagement Event: Living Life and Fulfilling Potential

7th Annual Brain Development Conference

Calgary, AB, September 30, 2016

Book Reading with Intro by J.R. Saul, IFOA

International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront

Toronto, ON, October 23, 2010

Research Grants

Child Bright SPOR

Organization: McGill University
Date: March 31, 2016
Grant amount: CIHR $12.5M


Co-Author and Patient/Family Advisor

More information:


  • Patient Centred Care
  • Home and Community Care
  • Family Caregiving
  • Family Engagement in Research
  • Family Wellbeing
  • Ethics and Economics of Caregiving
  • Eldercare
  • Disability Parenting
  • Caregiving


  • University of Ottawa
    B.Ed., 1977
  • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
    Theatre in Education
    DTIE, 1997
  • Concordia University
    BFA, 1976