Specialisterne Denmark’s founder Thorkil Sonne gives a personal account of his journey
I am a mum of six. My three youngest all have ASD and have terrible trouble with meltdowns after school. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of the ‘delay effect’ for children on the spectrum. That being that they hold themselves together and show no behaviour of concern at school but ‘meltdown’ when they return home. My question: is there any research evidence that this exists and what can be done to help?
We have completed nine years at OTARC, and this year’s Annual General Meeting launches us into celebrating our tenth year! Thus it was ten years ago that I met the extraordinary Mrs Olga Tennison who made possible Australia’s first dedicated centre for autism research. Her decade of generosity and support has meant that we have been able to increase autism research capacity in Australia, which would not have otherwise been possible.
The last year has been a year of awards for our free mobile app ASDetect which detects autism in toddlers aged 11 to 30 months. To date, the app has been downloaded over 15 000 times, and won both the Victorian and National iAwards for Research and Development Project of the Year. As one often finalists in the Google Impact Challenge, work is underway to translate ASDetect into Spanish and Mandarin, two of the most common world languages. And Dr Josephine Barbaro, upon whose work the app is based, won the Autism CRC Research Translation Award, for the second time!
Our work with the Autism Cooperative Research Centre progresses well, with one of its signature projects, the Australian Autism Biobank, being extended to enable the collection of biological materials (hair, urine, faeces) in addition to phenotypic data and blood – and not only in children with autism and their parents, but also their siblings, as well as children without autism. This database will be a unique research resource for Australia and beyond.
Our research on employment of people with autism, in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprises, has continued to grow, with the Dandelion Program having been extended in 2016 to include the Australian Department of Defence (with a focus on border security),in addition to the Department of Human Services. Adjunct Professor Michael Fieldhouse from HPE has been leading the charge to ensure that people with autism have career opportunities afforded to them within corporate organisations in Australia.
In conclusion, OTARC has had another successful year thanks to the stellar efforts of our staff and students, and our partners who collaborate with us to achieve better outcomes for people with autism and their families. I hope you enjoy reading this Annual Report which charts our activities, research and otherwise, throughout 2016.