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Strength-based coding clubs benefit autistic teenagers

Recent evidence suggests that strengths-based programs with activities tailored to focus on strengths and interests of autistic students may support them to develop their skills and realise their own potential leading to meaningful employment.

In a recent study, Dr Elinda Lee and her colleagues from the Curtin Autism Research Group have found that autistic teenagers who participated in strengths-based programs such as the computing coding clubs that focus on their strengths, interests and skills show improvement in

  • sense of belonging
  • confidence and self-esteem
  • health and well-being
  • social relationships and interaction
  • activities and participation

The full article can be accessed at this link.

Neurodiverse School Holiday Program

Firetech is launching two school holiday courses this April for neurodiverse students, please use the links below for booking or for more information.

Video Game Design (2 Days)

Coding with Python (2 Days)

View flyer


Support Group for Parents of Young Adults with Autism

This recently formed group is for parents of young people with autism in their final year of school, or those having recently left school, up to age 25.

We meet for an hour once a month at Curtin University to discuss programmed topics centred around how to support our young people during the time of transition to adulthood. Sessions are on an alternating weekday (mostly Tuesday or Thursday) from 5 to 6 pm. Refreshments are provided.

We plan to have occasional guest speakers with knowledge in this area.

For questions, please feel free to email:

Tanya Picen or Bahareh Afsharnejad

Curtin Research Team Award

The Curtin Autism Research Group (CARG) has won the Curtin Research Group of the Year. The Award is given for “Recognition of a team that supports inclusive behaviours, fosters research performance, increases collaboration across Curtin and with external partners and has achieved an exceptional outcome”. Congratulations to all members of CARG for this wonderful achievement!

Strengths-based Policy Brief

Autistica in UK has released the strengths-based action briefing,  a work in partnership with the Curtin Autism Research Group and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, explaining why both strengths and challenges should be looked at when assessing autistic people’s needs.

View Strengths-based Action Briefing

Autism in the workplace

Professor Sonya Girdler, from the Curtin Autism Research Group, spoke about employment for autistic people and how workplaces can best support them.

Play Podcast

Policy brief on employment

The International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) policy brief on employment has now been endorsed and released.  CARG led this work in Australia in partnership with researchers from the USA and Sweden.

View policy brief

Marita’s sharing on inclusive research

CARG member, Associate Professor Marita Falkmer, gave a lecture on inclusive research related to the autistic community at Jönköping University, Sweden recently.

CHILD's newest Associate Professor Marita Falkmer gives a lecture on inclusive research related to the autistic community. Curtin Autism Research group, where Marita is a member, sets a good example in the area.

Posted by CHILD Research Unit at Jönköping University on Friday, 23 November 2018

AASQA wins National Award

CARG is delighted to share with you that the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) won the Business and Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Award in Melbourne last November. AASQA came in top in the category of ‘Outstanding Collaboration for National Benefit’ (see Below are some of the judges’ comments which are all very encouraging:

  • “This program is of outstanding value to our society. The uptake of the program is enormous. This is a great contender for the award.”
  • “This is a tremendous program; it shows excellent partnerships and outcomes.”
  • “The unique characteristics of this project make a fascinating application of university skills with a special group of people generating long term benefits to them and the industry using their skills.”
  • “An inspiring approach that brings together a number of international components, local research and a network of collaborators.”

Further news of this award can be found here –

We would like to thank all of you (ninjas, mentors and parents) for your support over the years. Without your participation, we will not be able to achieve this success within a short period of time.

We look forward to 2019 as we continue to make greater impact in the area of learning through the AASQA CoderDojo.

Autism Open Day focuses on strengths and opportunities

Written by Arianne Chavez

Autism Open Day was bigger and better again this year. Following the success of last year’s Open Day, more than 500 people attended the event at Curtin University’s Technology Park including Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry, the Minister for Environment and Disability Services, the Hon. Stephen Dawson, and the Ambassador of the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) and past Chief Scientist of Western Australia, Professor Lyn Beazley AO.

Curtin Autism Research Group (CARG) Director, Professor Sonya Girdler, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, said an estimated 230,000 Australians are currently affected by autism with 75 per cent of people diagnosed with autism being 19 years of age or younger.

“People with autism are ambitious and aspirational and possess unique strengths and abilities that can be harnessed in the work environment, often performing well in jobs requiring systematic information processing and a high degree of accuracy, precision and repetition,” Professor Girdler said.

“Employment can help improve the quality of life for people with autism, mainly through financial support, but also by encouraging personal dignity and improving their cognitive abilities. Currently, there are only a small amount of appropriate services available to support these adults, specifically in finding employment.”

Professor Girdler said that Autism Open Day offered a unique opportunity for adults and children with autism to learn more about their skills, which could be utilised by potential employers.

“Autism Open Day provides a space that encourages parents and individuals on the spectrum to join in on informative discussions about employment, meet autism researchers from Curtin and Telethon Kids Institute, see live demonstrations of the newest technologies available, and learn about engaging programs that support people living with autism,” Professor Girdler said.

At the event, people on the spectrum joined researchers, families, clinicians and interested community members for all the latest news on autism research, social skills programs, pathway planning for school leavers, peer mentoring for university students and workplace initiatives. The Vice-Chancellor delivered the official welcome, followed by Minister Dawson launching the Neurodiversity Hub, which will be run by AASQA and CARG in partnership with DXC Technology, the world’s leading end-to-end IT services company. Professor Beazley delivered a keynote presentation titled, ‘Tapping the talents of people with autism’.

There were discussions about strengths-based programs that support people with autism, and parents of autistic children and autistic individuals shared their stories and experiences with the hundreds of guests. The day included a series of short presentations by researchers and experts, with and without lived experience of autism.

During break times guest visited the exhibition area, which held stalls with information on key areas such as:

  • Pathway planning for school leavers with autism
  • Social skills training for teenagers with autism
  • Emotion recognition training computer games
  • Peer mentoring program for university students with autism
  • Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance
  • Getting around the community
  • National guideline for autism assessment and diagnosis
  • Autism Register

There was a popular playroom for autistic children, whose caregivers were attending the presentations nearby, which was filled with toys and staffed by able volunteer students from the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology and volunteers from Telethon Kids Institute. Much to the delight of the children, there was also a visit from an Autism Assistance Dog from Guide Dogs WA.

A quiet area for guests who needed downtime was available, and delicious food and coffee could be purchased from food vans throughout the day.

Professor Girdler said the 2018 Autism Open Day was a fantastic success, and paid tribute to everyone involved with the event.

“Curtin staff and students put many hours of work into ensuring Autism Open Day runs smoothly, and many people volunteer their time. I am very grateful to everyone who was involved in making the event so engaging and successful,” Professor Girdler said.

“Autism Open Day offers a unique opportunity for the autism community to gather and discuss fascinating research, including proposed future research areas, wonderful initiatives and, of course, hear about the wonderful successes and achievements of people with lived experience of autism.”