Awards open to celebrate quality research

24 Aug 2022

We are proud to announce the opening of the annual Autism CRC Awards for Achievement in Autism Spectrum Research. The awards recognise and celebrate research and development initiatives that are exemplary of the Autism CRC’s vision, mission and values.

The awards are open to all organisations and researchers undertaking quality research projects related to autism, regardless of location or affiliation with Autism CRC. 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.

Nominations closed on Monday 26 September 2022, and winners will be publicly announced in late November 2022.

Last year's awards

Translation of autism research into practice 

In Raising Awareness of the Needs of Autistic Australians the Australian Autism Alliance (AAA) engaged Professor Sandra Jones, an autistic autism researcher from Australian Catholic University, to refine, conduct and analyse a survey of autistic adults and their family members. The outcomes informed AAA’s submission to the Federal Senate Select Committee on Autism. The committee was seeking to understand the experiences of, and identify the services, supports and needs of autistic people in Australia, and to explore the need for a national autism strategy. The project received the Award in the Research Translation category.

The study design and data collection instruments were reviewed and approved by a panel of representatives from the 12-key autism support and advocacy organisations that constitute the AAA, and promoted with an initial target sample size set at 100+ respondents. The response saw 3,884 completed surveys; 769 from autistic adults responding on behalf of themselves, and 3,115 from parents/carers responding on behalf of an autistic person they care for (including 257 autistic adults who are also parents/carers of autistic people and completed the survey in both contexts). The resulting dataset is the largest and most comprehensive compilation of autistic voices in Australia and internationally.

One reviewer commented “The application demonstrates that the research was extensive, with high engagement….The focus on intersectionality is needed and will benefit underrepresented groups. Collaboration with the autistic community has been evidenced and the size of the population that participated in the research will mean the research will be considered for greater financial support initiatives to benefit the autistic community and their supporters.”

Inclusive research practice

The Inclusive Research category was jointly awarded.

Priorities of Autistic people in Australia and their families for autism services and supports was led by Trevor Clark from Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) with research funded by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

The main aim of this study was to ensure the organisational plan and the research agenda of ARCAP are directly related to the needs of autistic and autism communities in Australia. This participatory research is important to the provision of services, programs and resources to support autistic people and their families. The study asked autistic people, including adolescents, about their own perceptions of what a good life is and how to best achieve it. The research questions and design centred on the idea that autistic people and their carer/parents are best situated to inform what research and enquiry is needed in the autism practice field.

The research team included two autistic researchers that co-designed the research project and were active in recruitment, data collection and analysis of the study. An advisory group was also established that included three autistic adults, three parents of autistic children, three autism practitioners and three autism researchers to inform all stages of the research process. The research method including key documents such as participant information, survey and interview schedules were all co-produced with the autistic researchers and the advisory group.

Feedback from one reviewer stated “Implementation of this evidenced-based research will have impact organisation wide and it’s a credit to Aspect that they are prioritising the community needs and translating the findings in an accessible manner.”

The Autism CRC project Investigating Autistic Burnout (#AutBurnout), co-led and co-produced by Dr Samuel Arnold and autistic advocate and peer researcher Julianne Higgins from its inception – conducted two studies to define autistic burnout and explore its risk factors. The project was joint recipient in the Inclusive Research category.

Co-leads worked closely together throughout the entire process; from conceptualising the research, to developing the study materials and drafting the grant application, to analysing the data and interpreting and disseminating the findings.

One project reviewer said “The project focuses on an area that has been increasingly highlighted as in need of further research. It takes a co-produced approach throughout the project lifecycle, placing Autistic people and their experiences at the centre. Good to see the translation of the research into peer reviewed journal articles as well as presentations at key national and international conferences.”

Thanks to all our reviewers and entrants across the categories. We especially congratulate the teams of Professor Sandra Jones, Dr Trevor Clark, Dr Sam Arnold and Julianne Higgins for their outstanding work to enhance the lives of people on the spectrum.

Nominations are closed

Nominations closed on Monday 26 September 2022, and winners will be publicly announced in late November 2022.