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Research participation at the Autism Association of Western Australia

Find out more about our current research projects and our dedication to creating best-practice Autism services.


The Autism Association of WA continues to engage in wide-ranging research, including projects funded through one of the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centres: Autism CRC.  Autism CRC is the world’s first national cooperative research effort focused on Autism. The research takes a ‘whole life’ approach to Autism, with a focus on diagnosis, education and adult life.

Other research projects in which the Autism Association participates, are funded through the Department of Social Services (DSS) as part of the Child and Family Outcomes Strategy (CFOS). In addition, throughout the year, we may meet requests from PhD candidates also those from post-doctoral researchers by linking them to families who may be interested to participate in Autism research. Outlined are a range of research projects we are currently engaged in across Australia.


Publications:

A Critically Appraised Paper, published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal: A personal digital assistant intervention reduced job coaching support hours without reducing work performance among workers with Autism

Long term research projects include:

This research commenced in 2012, and aims to measure child and family outcomes of children with Autism who participate in the Association’s Autism Specific Long Day Care Program. Child outcomes have been investigated in relation to goal achievement, preparation for the first education setting and developmental profiles. Following analysis of the data from child and family assessments conducted over the past six years, preliminary results have shown positive outcomes for children and families who have participated in the Early Intervention Programs. The children showed statistically significant improvements in their expressive and receptive language skills, their social functioning and their fine and gross motor skills. In addition, a significant reduction in behaviours of concern was measured. Many parents reported being able to return to work, study or local community activities, confident their children were engaged in a safe, inclusive educational environment. The research will also report on the outcomes as reported by community childcare workers who participate in training to support children with Autism in their childcare programs.

Following further analysis of the data several articles will be submitted to well-established journals throughout the year.

Overview: the Association’s ASELCC in WA, in partnership with Curtin University, participated in a collaborative research project with the ASELCCs in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland. The aim of this collaborative study was to identify staff knowledge, and use of therapy approaches by childcare and clinical staff working in a specialist early intervention setting, using a combined (rather than single) treatment approach. This will be published in the near future.

Overview: children with Autism have different responses to early intervention. This study, with Curtin University, focused on whether we can identify clinical and behavioural characteristics that predict the child’s development and responses to particular approaches. Identifying subgroups of children will assist in determining which intervention will be most suitable for each individual child.

This research will be implemented across our First Steps for Autism Early Intervention programs across 2016-2019

Overview: this project aims to match children with the intervention that will work best for their biological make-up. While we know that early intervention enhances developmental outcomes for children with Autism, it is hoped to find subgroups that will have distinct profiles in order to ensure targeted and therefore more effective early intervention. Study subjects have been recruited through all six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCCs) across Australia and other comparable sources, e.g., Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) that provide ASD early intervention programs, in addition to the pre and post intervention data from the six ASELCCs.

For further information see: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/diagnosis

Overview: the biobank will contain detailed biological information collected from over 1200 families where a member has Autism. This will allow for the first time, on an unprecedented scale, genetic discovery enabling an earlier and more accurate diagnosis. The Autism Association provides assistance to the project in the participant recruitment process.

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/diagnosis

Overview: another project with which Curtin University and the Association’s ASELCC are involved, aims to evaluate transition to school outcomes for children with Autism who have received at least/around 12 months intensive support through the six ASELCCS (one in each state in Australia) prior to school entry. The purpose of the project is (1) To determine the individual child characteristics as well as family and intervention variables that are associated with successful transition to school for children with Autism; (2) to develop evidence based guidelines for practice to support positive transition to primary schooling.

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/diagnosis

Education

School connectedness project – Autism CRC

Overview: developing school connections, and supporting school connectedness for young adolescents with ASD in rural, remote and urban communities.

Summary of objectives:

  • To identify student, parent and staff perspectives on their experiences of school connectedness.
  • To determine individual, school, community and system factors which contribute to or threaten school connectedness.
  • To identify the impact of culture and location on school connectedness.
  • To identify program and adjustments to support school connectedness.

Two focus areas of the project:

  • Focus 1: experience and perspectives of school connectedness in rural and remote communities.
  • Focus 2: Implementation of school connectedness program in urban schools.

Based on the Autism Association’s existing relationship and work in regional Western Australia, the Association assisted in the identification and engagement of schools and families to be involved in Focus 1, schools in rural and remote WA.

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/education

Teacher watching students color

Adulthood


Overview: A team from Curtin University and Western Sydney University is developing a driver training package specifically for learner drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to assist them in learning to drive and to maintain on-road safety.

Who can participate? Learner drivers aged 16 – 35 years with  autism who are able to independently complete the tasks described below.

What would you do?

  • Complete questionnaires about your overall cognition and driving behaviours
  • Participate in a lab-based assessment on a driving simulator
  • Complete a short driving route in a dual control vehicle with a qualified instructor

Where and When?  Curtin University, Bentley Campus, February—June 2017

Further Information:  To express your interest to participate or to find out more, please contact:

Overview: people with Autism have a very high rate of unemployment or underemployment. By developing the Successful Transition to Employment Protocol – Autism Spectrum Conditions (STEP-A) and the Integrated Employment Success Tool (IEST) the aim is to help more people with Autism find paid employment and therefore enhance their overall well-being. The Autism Association to provide assistance in recruiting participants.

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/adulthood

Project objectives: to identify and describe the comprehensive and unique profiles of Australian school leavers with ASD through two longitudinal studies. Participants will be tracked over four years, and outcomes on productivity, physical and mental health, well-being, and societal participation will be documented. The Autism Association to provide assistance in recruiting participants.

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/adulthood

Overview: enhancing the social relationships of young adults with ASD in everyday contexts through a peer mentoring program and social/emotional training.

Two programs within the one project:

  • Program 1: Develop, implement and evaluate a peer mentoring program for young adults with ASD attending higher education.
  • Program 2: Develop computer-based social/emotional training intervention with a brain-computer interface using eye-tracking and bio-feedback technologies.

The Autism Association to assist with the recruitment of adolescents and young adults to participate in evaluating the social/emotional training intervention (Program 2).

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/adulthood

Overview: to develop an Autism Spectrum Disorder Career Recommender System software application for use by people with ASD. The software will assist high school students with ASD from Year 11 onwards with their career planning. For use by ASD students and their parents/guardian, the system will use state of the art in intelligent agent and machine learning technologies to automatically draw links between the personal attributes of the ASD user with the possible pathway to opportunities. It will be developed at Curtin University and trialled and evaluated in schools.
The Autism Association to assist with recruitment of ten students who are 12 months away from finishing school to pilot the system with the assistance of their career guidance staff.

For further information: www.autismcrc.org.au/research-programs/adulthood

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Assistance provided to other projects following requests for links to families include:

Trial of a peer-to-peer play-based intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder to improve social play skills and pragmatic language

Overview: research has shown that many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including very high functioning children, may have problems with social play and social communication. These children may have difficulty making or keeping friends. Good social play skills and good social communication skills are necessary for childhood development. These skills help develop good quality relationships and the ability to cope better with changes and challenges. The research team is developing a program aiming to help children with ASD improve their ability to talk and play with others.

For further information contact:
PhD candidate Cally Smith
Email: cally.smith@curtin.edu.au
Phone: 0433 833 417

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