Annie-Malory is swimming for OTARC


Annie-Malory is 11 years old. She is participating in the Melbourne Swim Classic 2015 on February 28, at noon on St Kilda Beach.

She says, “OTARC helps my sister, myself and other people with autism have better lives.”

You can support Annie in her swim by visiting Annie-Malory’s supporter’s page and making a donation.

Thank you Annie for nominating OTARC as your charity in this event.

Inside the Lab – Episode 6: Early Autism and Global Knowledge Transfer

Dr Josephine Barbaro is joined by Professor Catherine Lord and Dr Andy Shih during the week of Autism activities, co-ordinated by Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, held at La Trobe University December 2014. The focus of episode 6 is early identification and diagnosis of ASD as well as global knowledge transfer.

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Autism research playlist makes Apple’s best of 2014


Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre’s iTunes U playlist made it to Apple’s “Best of 2014″ list. This is indeed a significant world wide achievement and continues to prove the popularity of evidence based information within the community. The playlist contains episodes of Inside the Lab, interviews and recordings of presentations.

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Can you help us during the school holidays?

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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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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An investigation into sleep difficulties in Adults with High-Functioning ASD

Woman not sleeping

Many people with ASD report problems with sleep, but most ASD sleep research to date has focused on children and adolescents, with only a few studies involving adults with ASD. We also know very little about which aspects of sleep are problematic; is it difficulties with going to sleep (sleep onset latency), staying asleep (total sleep time), frequent waking during the night (wake after sleep onset), or less total sleep. There is also very little research into how daytime functioning is affected in adults with ASD who sleep poorly. One of our students, Emma Baker, has therefore decided to study sleep problems and how they are related to daytime functioning in adults with ASD. Emma is studying for her PhD under the supervision of Associate Professor Amanda Richdale who is one of the international experts on sleep problems associated with ASD.

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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 Patron of Learning for Life moderated the forum 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. Photos: Tomasz Dudek

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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