Gluten- and casein-free diet makes a meal of autism science

Child eating cereal

Diet modification is one of the most prominent alternative autism therapies. Image: Larisa Lofitskaya/Shutterstock

By Andrew Whitehouse, University of Western Australia

From the moment a child is diagnosed with autism, their family enters the unknown. Conference halls are lined with salespeople, letterboxes are stuffed with pamphlets, and life is transformed into a whirlwind tour of a fantastical array of therapies and potions that are positioned as the “cure all” for their child’s difficulties.

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Research Update for the Dandelion Program


Dr Darren Hedley, OTARC HP Research Fellow

We are six months into our research on the Dandelion Program – an employment program initiated by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, the Department of Human Services and Specialisterne Australia aimed at creating a pathway to meaningful employment for adults on the autism spectrum.

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By Wojciech Nadachowski

The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre has been awarded $215,000 in the Force for Change Grant Program managed by to develop TalentMark. TalentMark is a virtual marketplace for job candidates with ASD, employers and service providers.

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Imitation Difficulties Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Social Motivation or Motor-Execution Problem?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

By OTARC Honours student, Ms Lacey Chetcuti

Copying others is important for development. It provides a way to learn about the physical world, and a context for children to practice and develop their skills for interacting with others. There is evidence to suggest that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) imitate less often and less accurately than typically developing children. While several explanatory theories have been put forward for these findings, the specific reasons for imitation difficulties remain unclear.

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Ask a researcher – What is the evidence basis for sensory processing interventions?

Boy in ball pit

Image courtesy of Suri Nualpradid at

If a child appears to present with sensory processing difficulties such as discomfort in noisy environments, mouthing of objects, picking at skin; is there any benefit to seek therapy for sensory processing. If so, can you suggest any particular therapy?

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Director’s Report – Summer 2015/16

Dan Bognar and Professor Dissnayake at the Salesforce Advantage Tour 2015

Dan Bognar, Senior Vice President (Aust.) with Professor Dissnayake at the Salesforce Advantage Tour 2015

Another year is nearly over and I wonder how we got here so quickly? It doesn’t seem long ago that I was taking down our Christmas tree – which I traditionally do on Jan 6th each year!

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Conferences – October to December 2015


International Conference on Autism, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China, 3 November.

  • Richdale, A. Autism and Comorbid Conditions. (Invited address)

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Visitors to the Centre – October to December 2015

Dr Santoshi Halder and Professor Dissanayake

Dr Santoshi Halder and Professor Dissanayake

Dr Santoshi Halder, Assistant Professor in the Department of Education, at the University of Calcutta, India is an Endeavour Australia-India Education Council Research Fellow who is visiting OTARC for a period of four months. She is also a former Fulbright Nehru Senior Research Fellow.. Dr Halder recently delivered a presentation entitled Disability, Inclusion and Culture: Indian Scenario at our October research seminar, and has been busy learning about our work in early identification, diagnosis and intervention. She is also writing a number of review papers as well as exploring autism services in the greater Melbourne area and giving talks at a number of other tertiary institutions.

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Celebrating Achievements – October to December 2015

Dr Darren Hocking

Dr Darren Hocking

An Award for Dr Hocking

We are very pleased to share the great news that Dr Darren Hocking was a recent recipient of the highly prestigious ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher (DECRA) award. The scheme provides a fellowship salary and project costs with a significant investment from La Trobe University. It is designed to support the most promising early career researchers to conduct high quality basic or applied research and expand the knowledge base and research capability in Australia.

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Media Activities – October to December 2015

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Wide awake: Why children with autism struggle with sleep.

Associate Professor Amanda Richdale was interviewed for this segment in Spectrum, an online source of news and expert opinion on autism research.


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