Emma Pivato was born in Elk Point, Alberta. Her mother was a rural school teacher who rode horses  to the one-room schools lost among the  pine and aspen forests scattered across the northern prairies.  The family moved to Calgary where Emma graduated from high school and began attending university. She taught school in Coleman, a mining town in the Rockies, and then returned to university completing a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  She worked as a school psychologist in Edmonton and Toronto, and then as a forensic psychologist in Alberta Hospital, the major mental institution in Alberta. She later worked for Catholic Social Services and in private practice as a psychologist. Her last career before retiring was as a graduate instructor in psychology at Athabasca University.

From the time her daughter, Alexis was born in 1978, Emma also worked as a volunteer advocate for individuals with severe disabilities. In 1981 she established the GRIT program to assist parents with severely handicapped children to conduct the necessary therapy at home on a daily basis. She also advocated for the inclusion of these children into the normal school systems. In 1984 she edited a collection of stories about these children entitled,  Different Hopes, Different Dreams.

With her husband, Joe, Emma established  a new system of  home care for these children and young adults allowing them to live at home with family or in a home run by their family. See the website for  Home-Within-A-Home Society of Edmonton.

She has also been able to take her wheel-chair bound daughter, Alexis to Mexico 13 times and to the Rocky Mountains almost every year since 1989.  Emma and Joe have two other children in addition to Alexis: Marcus Janni who lives in Peterborough, Ontario,  and Juliana in Toronto.

Emma Pivato’s  mystery novels in the Claire Burke series is an extension of  her advocacy work promoting the inclusion of people with severe disabilities into normal society.

Related Links

Home-Within-A-Home Society    – Alexis  Enterprises    


Position: Author
Emma Pivato spent her childhood in a rural area in northeastern Alberta but has lived most of her adult life in Edmonton. She earned an MA in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Alberta and worked for twenty years as an assessment and counseling psychologist before joining Athabasca University, a distance learning institute, in 2004. She teaches in their Interdisciplinary Studies program and does most of her work from home. Emma lives with her husband, Joe Pivato, and younger daughter, Alexis, who has multiple challenges. The various efforts involved in organizing a positive life for her daughter have provided some of the background context for this book. Emma is the editor of Different Hopes, Different Dreams, (1984, 1990), a collection of Alberta stories about the impact on the family of raising a child with developmental challenges.