Launch of OTARC Strategic Plan 2018-2028
When the Olga Tennison Research Austism Research Centre (OTARC) turned 10 last year, this significant milestone was cause for celebration – and also for reflection, as the team began mapping out the direction of the next ten years, building on the recommendations from the Centre’s review in 2017.
I have recently returned from New York where I attended the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Strategic Planning Meeting as vice-President and member of the INSAR Board. Our focus is ensuring this society becomes more global, as only 5% of the worlds autistic people live in first world, high income, high resource nations! Last week, I spent a day in Canberra with our La Trobe Children’s Centre Manager (Kristy Capes) and Margot Prior Autism Intervention Centre Clinical Manager (Carolyne Jones), together with representatives from each of the national Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCCs). The meeting, hosted by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the NDIA, focused on how the good work undertaken at the six ASELCCs can be supported following transition into the NDIS, particularly capacity building and research post June 2020 (when block funding from DSS ceases). You can see first had evidence of this work in the video provided below where Dr Hudry and Ms Upson discuss how children with autism can be supported to thrive in childcare. Our collective aim at the ASELCCs is to continue to disseminate this good work into the wider community so that increasing numbers of children with autism and their families can benefit from access to evidence-based early intervention and support.
Prof. Cheryl Dissanayake reflects on a decade’s achievements
OTARC has had many achievements over the last decade, including the:
- development of effective early identification strategies to facilitate earlier diagnoses of children
- establishment of Australia’s first Early Assessment Clinic for Autism so that children can be diagnosed prior to 3 years of age
- joint establishment of the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (The Margot Prior Wing) so that children may receive evidence-based early intervention
- enhanced collaboration between autism researchers nationally through supporting the formation of the Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR)
- development of an autism-specific undergraduate subject to educate students about Autism
- increase in knowledge and capacity of research scholars and professionals regarding Autism
- global knowledge transfer on evidence-based practice in early identification and intervention (particularly into low resource settings)
- research partner in the Dandelion Program for employment of people with Autism
- joint establishment and essential partner of the CRC for Living with Autism (2013-2021)
Although significant, 10 years of achievement pales in comparison to a lifetime of achievement, and we were thrilled that our inaugural Chair, Professor Margot Prior was awarded the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual conference, held in Rotterdam in May. I was privileged to give the Acceptance Keynote on Margot’s behalf, presented by the INSAR President, Professor Simon Baron Cohen. Simon thanked me for introducing Margot to a new cohort of INSAR scholars and, indeed, I had many approach me to comment on her remarkable achievements. Australia is lucky to have her!
OTARC Fast Facts 2017
- There were 2,859 people on our Research Participant Registry. 315 (11%) of these were aged 18 or older.
- Our researchers and students published 40 publications and gave 61 conference presentations.
- The mobile app ASDetect reached a cumulative total of 20,000 downloads.
- Podcasts on autism research topics were downloaded 23,900 times.
There’s a large issue surrounding the relationship between vaccinations and autism. The theory that vaccinations cause autism in young children continues to generate interest in the media and the general public, and may have contributed to the rise of many anti-vaccine campaigns.
Many parents are told by health professionals that their child will ‘grow out’ of what research has shown are early signs of autism. Olga Tennison’s Autism Research Centre’s Dr Kristelle Hudry says this ‘wait and see’ approach misses a vital opportunity for maximising a child’s developmental outcomes by starting very early intervention. Read more “Living with Autism Podcasts: Prevention as Intervention with Dr Kristelle Hudry”
Treatment for children with autism can be intensive and isolating. A different approach in early intervention in child care has been introduced to create a more interactive and cost-effective environment for both children with autism and their families.