Inside the Lab – Episode 5: Focus on Adults

Associate Professor Amanda Richdale, Dr Janine Mangiviona and Dr Debra Costley discuss the developments in research focusing on adults with ASD. Topics include the greater focus on adult issues at International Meeting For Autism Research 2014; findings from Aspects We Belong Study; why little research time has been focused on adults historically; shortage of clinical services for adults; challenges of diagnosis; the importance of relationships and social connections; education: learning support and social support; issues in gaining and keeping employment; being able to live independently; the influence of co-morbid conditions; greater end-user engagement; the Autism CRC.

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Resources for Grandparents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Audience at Grandparents' Afternoon

Thank you to all for attending, or your interest, in the Grandparents’ Afternoon hosted by the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University on 4th July 2014.

Your feedback was most valuable and we are pleased that the afternoon went so well. We have taken on board your suggestions for future events of this nature. It seems the Question and Answer session was the most popular part of the day. If you still have questions, you can submit them via our Ask a Research service on the OTARC website. This service is mainly for questions related to Autism research.

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Translating evidence-based treatments into effective childcare programs for young children with ASD – yes we can!


Dr Giacomo Vivanti

There is increasing evidence that intensive implementation of educational programs can be efficacious in improving outcomes in young children with autism. One of the most promising early intervention programs is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a play-based intervention specifically targeting the educational needs of preschoolers with autism. Research conducted in the US indicates that the program is efficacious in the context of intensive individual home treatment. Continue reading

A fine and generous Australian is recognized: Mrs Olga Tennison OAM

Mrs Olga Tennison

Of special importance is Olga’s appointment as Honorary Grandmother of the children who attend the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre: The Margot Prior Wing of the La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre. The necklace she wears in this photograph was made by the children and presented to her on World Autism Awareness Day.

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Director’s Report June 2014

CDfor NL

Cheryl Dissanayake, PhD, MAPS

Director, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre 

Foremost in my mind as I sit down to write this report is the recent recognition of our Foundation Donor, Mrs Olga Tennison, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, with an award of an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).  This richly deserved honour has delighted us all at OTARC and La Trobe University.

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The Emotional Life of People with Autism


By Heather Nuske

The way in which people with autism perceive and express emotions has captured my interest and fascination, and I expect this will continue for many years to come. Although there is much that is still to be discovered, from my research and others on this topic, as well as my clinical experience with people with autism, there are a few things we can confidently describe at this stage:

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Evaluating Australian Community Based Support for Families with Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Playconnect logos-B

Within the next couple of weeks, we will launch a survey titled: Evaluating Australian Community Based Support for Families with Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are asking parents about their views and experiences of community-based support services around the time their young child receives an ASD diagnosis or starts showing signs of ASD (even if the diagnosis is not yet confirmed). If you are part of the OTARC registry, an email will be sent out to you soon to invite you to participate and complete the survey. If you are not on the OTARC registry but would like to hear more about the survey, please contact Rachel Yeo:; (03) 9479 3271. If you are a parent/carer of a young child with ASD or signs of ASD, this is a really important chance to have a say about community-based support in Australia.

Life Issues for Adults with ASD


By Associate Professor Amanda Richdale.

Principal Research Fellow, OTARC

Just like all children, children with ASD grow up, and the vast majority will still have ASD. However, until recently the issues affecting adults with ASD, and supports they may need, have been largely ignored.  The Autism Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) recognises this with its support for Core Program 3 - Finding a Place in Society. It focuses on the transition of young people with ASD from school to further education and/or employment and examines issues facing adults with ASD. The ultimate goal is to assist adults with ASD to participate in and contribute to society. Interest in the needs of adults with ASD was also evident at the recent International Meeting for Autism Researchers (IMFAR) in Atlanta, USA. The room for the 7.15am Special Interest Group – ‘Approaching Adulthood: Transitional & Vocational Issues in ASD was full, with delegates standing along the back wall. Professor Marsha Mailick presented a keynote address – ‘Adolescents and Adults with ASD and their Families: Life Course Development and B-Directional Effects’ and the series of oral presentations on Adulthood were also well attended.

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Ask an Autism Researcher – Do Children with ASD “hear voices”?


by Dr Elfriede Ihsen


“I have had a parent ask me if children with ASD hear voices in their brain. Her son has said that when he kicks and hits it is the voices in his brain telling to do so. Is the hearing voices connected to ASD? I have suggested to the mother that if you ask do you hear voices people with ASD usually say yes but I am not sure if her son is asking something different.”

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CRC update – June 2014


A number of research projects are now underway with new postdoctoral fellows and PhD scholars, having begun their candidature within the CRC. The Research and Development Committee met at CRC Headquarters in Long Pocket, Brisbane on May 12 to approve the second round of funding of selected Strategic and Innovation Projects. The search for a CEO continues, with Board Member, Mr Scott Reading, filling in as interim CEO. The first autism CRC scholar event will be held at La Trobe University on 3rd December adjacent to the second conference of the Australasian Society for Autism Research.