A busy week of Autism Events at La Trobe University


The first two weeks in December (and several weeks before and after) were exceptionally busy weeks for OTARC. During these weeks we hosted the Menzies Foundation Symposium on ‘Shaping Futures’, the second biennial conference of the Australasian Society for Autism Research, various events of the Autism CRC, and a workshop on eye-tracking technology for ASD research. All of these events were free of charge for delegates. Many of the OTARC staff, students and volunteers were involved in the organization and running of these events in addition to their usual workloads.

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Frame of Mind Update

Ray David Mural

We end the year with some wonderful news for Dr Ray David, our first Frame of Mind artist. As part of the mission to improve the aesthetic of La Trobe University, five of Ray’s art works have been selected to form a large scale mural to be installed in the stairwell of the David Myers Building. OTARC are working with La Trobe’s Creative Services and Infrastructure & Operations to get the mural installed, and it is expected that it will be completed by end of January.

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Ask a Researcher: Have any studies have been done on diet change for children with ASD?

Boy banana Blog


Complementary and alternative treatments such as the gluten and casein-free diet (GFCF), while not recommended in national and international guidelines on autism intervention, are extremely popular among families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), with a reported use between 52% and 95%. Casein is a protein found in dairy products, and gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and some other grain products; therefore, individuals on a GFCF diet cannot eat common foods such as bread, milk, cheese, or ice cream, and the GFCF diet involves challenges such as increased preparation time, increased food-related expenses, and children refusing to eat the dietary selections.

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Director’s Report: December 2014

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake MAPS Director, OTARC

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake
Director, OTARC

It has been an extraordinarily busy three months at OTARC. We hosted a very successful Forum for Adults with ASD on October 8th at the Bundoora Campus, La Trobe University. This engagement activity was designed to encourage participation of adults with ASD in our research and to explore the issues concerning them, including issues that need further research. Media personality Tom Gleisner (and father of a child with ASD) acted as front man for the event which brought approximately 70 people on campus. Adults with ASD, their parents and carers participated in individual presentations and group discussions.

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SACS in Poland

Dr Josephine Barbaro at the SACS training in Poland.

Dr Josephine Barbaro (Centre) at the SACS training in Poland.

OTARC staff, Professor Dissanayake and Dr Barbaro, have been working with Dr Joanna Kwasiborska-Dudek in Warsaw, Poland, to implement the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance (SACS) to facilitate early identification in Poland. Dr Kwasiborska-Dudek recently gave a lecture about this project at a conference organized by the Synapsis Foundation, a high-profile group of Polish psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Her talk was well received and generated a lot of interest in others wanting to be trained in SACS. They are now planning for the next SACS training in Poland.

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Visitors to Our Centre – September to December 2014

June – December

Lesley Stirling
Associate Professor Leslie Stirling has spent her sabbatical leave from the University of Melbourne at OTARC. She is working with Professor Cheryl Dissanayake on a joint project focused on communication during pretend play in young children with ASD.

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OTARC Folk Out & About – September to December 2014

Heather at Babylab2014

Dr Heather Nuske recently visited the Babylab at the University of London, to be trained in methods for recording of heart rate, skin conductance response, and event-related potentials, which are often used in psychological research. Dr Nuske’s trip was part of her VESKI scholarship.

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Conferences: September – December 2014

September 16-20

The 22nd Congress of the European Sleep Research Society, Tallinn, Estonia

  • BAKER, E. “Sleep Patterns in Adults with a Diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Preliminary Analysis.”
  • BAKER, E. “Chronic Sleep Reduction and Psychopathology Symptoms in Adults with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Emma Baker discusses her poster with another researcher at 22nd Congress of the European Sleep Research Society, Tallinn

Emma Baker discusses her poster with another researcher at 22nd Congress of the European Sleep Research Society, Tallinn

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Media – September to December 2014c


Our staff have been busy giving interviews over the past three months.

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Appointments: December 2014

Dr Josephine Barbaro

Dr Josephine Barbaro

Congratulations to Dr Josephine Barbaro who has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation Limited. In 2006 Josie was a recipient of a Menzies Foundation Scholarship. Josie is also Secretary of the Menzies Memorial Scholars’ Association.

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