2019 Autism CRC Awards for Achievement in Autism Spectrum Research

Awards celebrate three diverse projects

Autism CRC is proud to announce the winners of the 2019 Autism CRC Awards for Achievement in Autism Spectrum Research. Three projects have received recognition for their outstanding commitment to inclusive research practices and translation of autism research. They are:

  • Co-designing digital technologies with minimally-verbal children on the Autism Spectrum
  • Community attitudes towards Autism in Australia
  • Co-production approach to the development of an Australian first online autism training module for police

The awards took place at The Queensland College of Arts, Griffith University, Southbank on 4th November, and acknowledge initiatives that exemplify the Autism CRC’s vision, mission and values. In particular, they recognise achievements in inclusive research practice and the translation of autism research into practice, products, policy and programs that benefit the autistic and broader autism communities. The awardees demonstrated high levels of engagement with autistic individuals and the autism community across three very diverse projects that have the capacity to realise long term benefits.

The project Co-designing digital technologies with minimally-verbal children on the Autism Spectrum had significant involvement from autistic individuals and the autism community across all aspects. Notably, it included minimally verbal children on the autism spectrum. This has led to the development of novel technologies and prototypes that children are keen to use as vehicles for social interaction, self-expression and engagement.

The work was led by PhD student Cara Wilson from Queensland University of Technology. One reviewer said “I cannot think of another research project that is collaborating in this way with autistic children who do not use speech.”

There were two winners in the category of autism research translation. The first project was led by Professor Sandra Jones in collaboration with autistic people, the autism community and Amaze’s management and staff. Community attitudes towards Autism in Australia is the first research of its kind in Australia and provides a broad understanding of the public perceptions of autism and experiences by individuals.

Amaze secured significant additional funding to produce an Autism Public Education Campaign Strategy and three television commercials that aim to improve community attitudes and behaviours towards autistic people. The commercials are due to be released in early 2020 through TV, radio and digital media.

This campaign was developed in collaboration with autism organisations including ICAN, Yellow Lady Bugs, Aspergers Victoria, Spectrum Intersections, and Autism Family Support Association. The involvement of autistic individuals and the autistic community throughout the whole project is to be commended. The outcomes of this project have the capacity to improve the quality of life and social and economic outcomes of autistic people by providing policy advice to governments and hence influencing positive reform.

The joint award in this area went to Co-production approach to the development of an Australian first online autism training module for police. The project was led by Vicki Gibbs and co-funded by a National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) ILC Grant and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

The team development of a 30 minute interactive online learning module in collaboration with autistic people and members of the Australian Federal Police. A webpage was also developed and officers accessed the module information via QR codes on their phones.

Victoria and NSW Police forces are interested in the program and are currently reviewing the online modules. One reviewer commented, “This is an innovative project that has some potentially far reaching outcomes and impacts. It draws on international best practice and tackles an issue important for effective community engagement by the police.”

We thank all our entrants and congratulate the teams of Cara Wilson, Professor Sandra Jones and Vicki Gibbs for their outstanding work to enhance the lives of people on the spectrum.

The awards were presented by Rob van Barneveld, Autism CRC Chair at the Autism CRC Annual General Meeting.

AAGST Launch
Image (left to right): 2019 recipients Cara Wilson, Fiona Sharkie on behalf of Professor Sandra Jones, and Vicki Gibbs.