OTARC hosted two events as part of our commitment to disseminate our research findings to the community. These sessions are held every two years and consist of research presentations and lengthy Q&A opportunities.
The morning event was for Grandparents of children with autism. The Chair of our Advisory Committee, Dr Sylvia Walton, opened and closed the session, as well as introducing the first speaker, Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, Director of OTARC, who talked about the history and current research activities at OTARC. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Nancy Sadka, who is both an OTARC staff member and parent of two children with autism. Nancy talked about the physical and emotional support grandparents can offer to their families with children with autism drawing on her own experience. The delegates were then invited to ask questions of a panel of OTARC staff and students.
The afternoon session was open to all registrants on our data base and we were pleased to see some adults with autism, their families and service providers attending.
Ms Cathy Bent, one of our postgraduate research students, presented her findings on ‘Barriers to the Early Identification of Autism in Australia’, which include reduced availability of services in regional areas, increasing demand and waiting lists for diagnostic services, awareness about the early signs of autism (especially among cultural minority groups), and professional behaviour (such as adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach).
Dr Mirko Uljarević, CRC Research Fellow at OTARC, talked about his research on ‘Transition from secondary school for students with Autism’ (part of the Autism CRC). He described how difficult it is for students to make this transition due to inadequate preparation of the students themselves, as well employers and educators in tertiary institutions. His research is aimed at finding out more details about the transition process and what support should be offered. He also appealed to the delegates to look out for people who may be suitable and willing to participate in his study.
The third presentation was by Dr Darren Hedley, Research Fellow at OTARC, who described the ‘Dandelion Program’ on ‘Adults with Autism and Employment’ funded by Hewlett-Packard Enterprises . This program evaluates the training methods and job placement of adults with autism at Department of Human Services and the Federal Department of Defence.
Ms Ru Cai, another one of our postgraduate research students was the last speaker, presenting her work on ‘Emotional regulation in Adults with Autism’. She is particularly interested in examining the relationships between emotion regulation strategy use and outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and positive well-being. Ru’s presentation was followed again with a lengthy Q&A session with a panel of OTARC researchers and students.
An audience evaluation of both events were well received. We thank all of the people who attended. Your interest, questions and feedback are very important to us.