Using an eye tracker in Autism Research

By Dr Giacomo Vivanti

An eye

A key question for science to explore in the twenty-first century concerns the mechanisms that underlie social behaviour. How do we understand other people’s thoughts, beliefs and intentions? To what extent can our mental states and feelings be shared with other people? And how do we incorporate other people’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs into our mental world?

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Drawtism: Play Pictionary for autism

Do you remember the last time you played Pictionary and you couldn’t be understood by your team? Frustrating right? That’s exactly what Drawtism 2015 is about!

Drawtism is a fun game that uses Pictionary to help understand the communication challenges faced by people with autism while raising funds to overcome these challenges. That communication frustration when playing Pictionary is experienced everyday by many of the one in 100 Australians who have autism.

This winter you are invited to gather your friends and family round the games table for an evening of fun, and play a game of Pictionary to raise funds and awareness for autism research undertaken at Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre.

To regsiter your game, go to OTARC’s Drawtism website.

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Dr Cherie Green is now a trainer on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)

Dr Kristelle Hudry, Dr Cherie Green and PHD Candidate Emma Baker

Dr Kristelle Hudry, Dr Cherie Green and PHD Candidate Emma Baker celebrate Cherie’s new qualification as an ADOS trainer.

Congratulations to Dr Cherie Green, post-doctoral research fellow at the Melbourne Brain Centre (and former PhD student at OTARC) who is now a trainer on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Continue reading

Could early infant screening and intervention help prevent autism?


Kristelle Hudry, La Trobe University and Andrew Whitehouse, University of Western Australia

Among the many available therapies and early interventions for children with autism, only a few are backed up with solid scientific evidence. But here’s some good news: recently, the quality of autism early intervention research has improved significantly.

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Children, teenagers and adult volunteers wanted

Research with a child







OTARC needs the help of children, teenagers and/or adults (with or without ASD) to volunteer for a practice assessment, to allow clinicians on the ADOS-2 course (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) to practice their new skills under supervision.  In thanks for your help, we can provide a short assessment report (if your child has an ASD) and a $20 Coles-Myer gift card.

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Research to help young people with ASD achieve better outcomes in adulthood

Longitudinal Study of School Leavers with Autism and their Famil

Our team from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) led by Associate Professor Amanda Richdale is currently working on a longitudinal study looking at the transition of young people with and without autism from secondary education into higher education, vocational training and employment. This study is a part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism CRC).

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Children with autism aren’t necessarily visual learners


There are genetic and behavioural differences among children with autism, as well as differences in response to treatment. Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

David Trembath, Griffith University & OTARC Adjunct

Children with autism are often described as “visual learners” and said to “think in pictures”. Accordingly, teachers and therapists routinely prescribe picture-based communication systems in an effort to support their learning.

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Changes are coming to managing disability employment in Australia


Wojciech Nadachowski attended the recent Disability Employment Forum on 11th June at which Senator Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services, announced a Taskforce to develop a new Disability Employment Framework. The Taskforce is responsible for developing a new framework for 2018 and its work is vital in shaping the future of disability employment. The timing coincides with the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the end of contract period for the Disability Employment Services.

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Ask an Autism Researcher: Are Autism Assistance Dogs effective in supporting children with ASD?


Are Autism Assistance Dogs suitable for children of all ages?

When should an Autism Assistance Dog be introduced to a child with autism?

These questions, coupled with an increase in interest by families in acquiring a dog for their child and ASD researchers attempting to assess the effectiveness of dogs in support of a child and family. However, it is not yet possible to conclusively state that assistance dogs (also called service dogs) are effective companion for a child with ASD, let alone make recommendations as to the desired characteristics and training of dogs or suitable child and family characteristics (e.g., child age, level of functioning, behavioural issues; family type and dynamics). This is because the studies published to date have many limitations.

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Director’s Report – June 2015

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake MAPS Director, OTARC

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake
Director, OTARC

Welcome to our Winter edition of Another Piece!

This month we celebrate seven years at OTARC. I want to acknowledge and extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mrs Olga Tennison whose continued generosity supports our research programs.

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