New project investments announced

29 Nov 2018

Earlier this year, we announced the outcome of our Autism CRC 2017-18 Investment Round, with six projects from across Australia and New Zealand successfully receiving investments. Projects were assessed based on their addressing Autism CRC's milestones and utilisation of existing project outputs, as well as being clearly focused on end-user driven outcomes, among other criteria.

Details of each of the successful projects are provided below. 

Assessment of functioning based on the ICF Core Sets for Autism

Project parties: Autism CRC, Curtin University, University of Western Australia, University of New South Wales, Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres, Autism Association of Western Australia, and Consumer Researcher Becky Roberts 

The purpose of this project is to co-produce user-friendly descriptions for each item of the recently published International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) Core Sets for Autism. 

In their current form a clinical tool based on the ICF Core Sets for Autism would require significant interpretation from a clinician to translate professional jargon into lay language. This project will develop questions that both tap the elements of functioning delineated by the Core Set items and enable self-reporting by individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, removing the present need for professional interpretation.

Diagnostic Inconsistencies in New Zealand

Project parties: Autism CRC, Autism New Zealand, University of Western Australia, Victoria University New Zealand, Auckland University of Technology, Caldwell Partners, University of Otago, Autism New Zealand Consumer Panel, and Autism New Zealand Expert Panel

Previous Autism CRC research found that diagnostic practices for autism in Australia are inconsistent, leading to the development of a guideline for assessment and diagnosis of autism. 

This new project is a collaboration between Autism New Zealand and the original Australian researchers, with key objectives of:

  • determining diagnostic practices for autism in New Zealand, including disparities between individuals being assessed and variations across regions of New Zealand
  • determining how individuals on the autism spectrum and their families experience the diagnostic process, including recommendations for further support made at the time of assessment
  • laying the foundation for key policy reforms.

Evaluating the effects of humanoid robots on the narrative role-taking abilities of children on the autism spectrum

Project parties: Autism CRC, Queensland University of Technology, the Queensland Department of Education and Training, and CSIRO

This project aims to evaluate the effects of humanoid robot-assisted interventions on the story retelling skills of school-age children on the autism spectrum. It will do this by: 

  • identifying effective strategies that strengthen story retelling for children on the spectrum
  • creating story retelling scripts (verbal and non-verbal) for use by humanoid robots with children on the spectrum, facilitated by their support teachers 
  • assessing changes in the narrative perspective taking ability of the children following the interventions
  • ascertaining if children's story retelling skills are transferred to their classroom activities 
  • developing evidence-based guidelines for teachers on the use of humanoid robots to foster narrative perspective taking. 

‘Hear’ to help: Striving for greater participation and wellbeing through tailored chat-bot technology

Project parties: Autism CRC, CSIRO, Curtin University, Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA), the Queensland Department of Education and Training, and Autism Spectrum Australia 

This project will work with people on the autism spectrum, support service providers and peer mentoring services to determine how chat-bot technology can support education participation and education-related health and wellbeing (study-related stress, looking after yourself on campus, and so on). 

The ultimate aim of the project is to create a chat-bot 'brain' that can deliver useful multi-modal resources to support greater participation and wellbeing of people on the autism spectrum in higher education. 

Biobank Longitudinal Pilot Study

Project parties: Autism CRC and University of New South Wales

This project aims to determine the feasibility of undertaking a longitudinal study with a subset of participants from the Australian Autism Biobank, which has created a large Australian repository of phenotypic, genotypic and biological information of autistic individuals and their parents. 

Creating a second time point with participants in the initial Biobank project will allow for the longitudinal trajectory (change in clinical features over time) and the stability of a biomarker through development to be investigated. This information will help facilitate better understanding of the course and outcome and the factors that determine such outcomes.

Middle Years Behaviour Support (MYBSP) 

Project parties: Autism CRC, Queensland University of Technology, Autism Queensland, Autism Spectrum Australia, and the Queensland Department of Education and Training

This project aims to develop guidelines for a teleconsultation approach to support the learning needs of students on the autism spectrum in the middle years of schooling in rural, remote, Indigenous, and isolated education communities.  

The project will use teleconsultation to:

  • identify the needs of middle years learners in rural, remote, Indigenous, and isolated education communities (including those students being home educated or enrolled in distance education). 
  • trial cost-efficient approaches to service delivery and support that meet the needs of middle years learners 
  • identify and trial a model for professional support to meet needs of middle years teachers in these communities
  • identify and trial practices for meeting the learning needs of middle years students in these settings (including considerations to learning space design). 

The project aims to help increase participation and engagement for middle years students on the spectrum, reduce isolation and increase the use of inclusive practices for all students in these communities.

We congratulate everybody involved in these project proposals and look forward to seeing the research and translation outcomes these projects deliver for the autistic and autism communities.