Australian autism research will be in the spotlight in a seminar series in Brisbane from May 2017. Presented by Autism Queensland in collaboration with The Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), the ‘Research to Practice’ series will showcase the latest findings from the work of Australian clinicians, educators and researchers.

Autism Queensland manager research and development, Dr Jill Ashburner told F2L the series will explain how the research can improve educational outcomes for students with autism with reports from a number of projects. Teachers, OTs, speech pathologists, psychologists and students of these disciplines can be expected to benefit most from the seminars, she said.

At the first Research to Practice seminar to be held on May 19, the development of a new tool called My Sensory Experiences, developed by Autism Queensland, will be presented. It utilises photographic representations of sensory experiences in everyday contexts (e.g., classrooms, supermarkets), combined with open-ended questions to assist young people describe their sensory experiences in their own words. The tool is designed to be administered through an interview, and includes child/adolescent and adult versions, and a family observation form.

“Preliminary findings have suggested that the visual cues used in My Sensory Experiences capture the full range of their sensory experiences and enhance user-friendliness,” Ashburner said. “Parents have reported that they gained new insights into their child’s sensory preferences, though the use of My Sensory Experiences. As sensory sensitivities can contribute to distress and challenging behaviours, it is important that they are understood. By providing a deeper understanding of the person’s sensory challenges within the context of their life enables us to develop individualised strategies to accommodate these challenges,” she said.

Researchers will also present the results of an Autism CRC nationwide online survey into how Australian schools are meeting the needs of students with autism.  A team of researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, Autism Queensland, Aspect, and Griffith University surveyed 1,468 participants from every state for the study, making it the largest of its kind.

“Educators face the challenge of meeting the complex needs of children with autism while maintaining an appropriate learning environment for all students. Our aim is to support teachers by developing interventions that are easy to implement and will make a huge difference to a student with autism, but ultimately benefit the whole class.”

Other topics will include how schools can help overcome sensory challenges for students with autism, school bullying, managing anxiety, as well as whole of classroom programs such as the ‘Secret Agent Society’. Dr Ashburner said that appropriate autism-specific supports can help children with autism succeed at school, which will ultimately help them to have successful adult lives.

Seminar details are:

19 May 2017: Sensory processing issues of people with ASD: What we can do to help

21 July 2017: Supporting students with ASD at school using a Universal Design learning approach. October 2017: Supporting the social & emotional wellbeing of students with ASD.

The cost is $185 per workshop, or $150 for parents and students. Early bird registrations close on April 21. The seminars will be held at the Autism Hub & Reading Centre, 141 Merton Rd, Woolloongabba, Brisbane.

For more information call 07 3273 0000 or email: