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Help us learn about autism diagnosis

Many people on the autism spectrum were not able to receive a diagnosis when they were children. Researchers at the University of New South Wales and Autism CRC would like to learn more about autism spectrum diagnosis (including Asperger’s syndrome) in adulthood.

Any adult with a formal diagnosis or thinks they may be on the autism spectrum is welcome to participate, but currently we are looking for adults who were diagnosed before age 18 and adults with intellectual disability and autism. We are also looking for carers/support persons who helped an adult get an autism diagnosis. You will have the option of taking part in an online survey, telling us your experiences in an interview, or both. The interview can be done in-person, via phone or online.

You will have the chance to win a $100 gift card for completing the survey, and/or receive a $60-$80 gift card for the interview depending on format.

To see if you are eligible, please click to  view our flyer and Easy Read flyer.

If you are interested, please click on the following links:

Survey for adults: tinyurl.com/AdultDiagnosisAA

Survey for carers: tinyurl.com/AdultDiagnosisC

Expression of interest for interview: tinyurl.com/AdultDiagnosisI

If you have any questions, please contact Yunhe Huang at yunhe.huang@unsw.edu.au or 02 9385 3025.

Personality study of adolescents with autism

People are different and this is due to their personality which is a combination of their temperament, characteristics, self-beliefs and the environment they have been living in. In the past few decades, researchers have mainly focused on adults’ personality, and its development in youth, especially autistic children and adolescents and how it affects their lives is unclear. We need your help to validate one of such measures for all Australian youth, especially those with autism spectrum disorder. If you are interested please email Eveline West.

View flyer

 

Social group program autistic children

Sometimes experiencing difficulties in social interaction can lead to stress and mental health concerns, this is especially true for autistic youth. These effects can follow children throughout life, and perhaps that is why many of them do not want to go to school. Social skills programs held in a group setting has been helpful with boosting social and emotional skills of autistic youth. KONTAKT© is a one of those programs, developed in Germany and then tested in Sweden and has been really helpful for the autistic youth there We think it will help Australian you. If you are interested in this study, please complete the expression of interest form at https://www.autism.org.au/our-services/school-aged/school-therapy-groups/kontakt-kids/

View flyer

Get exclusive access to a new manual for employers of autistic adults

Researchers of the Curtin University Research Group are offering employers of autistic adults a unique opportunity to use a new manual for employing autistic adults and then give feedback on it, so that the manual can be improved.

The manual, also known as the Integrated Employment Successful ToolTM (the IEST), has been designed to help them. After testing it Australia-wide with individuals working with autistic colleagues, the results showed that the manual helped to boost user confidence and communication skills.

Help make the IEST better

We are now reviewing the guide and would like to invite employers, managers, supervisors and mentors of autistic adults to use the IEST and provide us with feedback.

What you will find in the IEST:

  • Recommendations for every stage of the employment process from job recruitment to the interview, work modification and ongoing support.
  • Strategies for success, including how to create an awareness of autism in the workplace, how to identify the strengths of autistic employees and how to overcome potential challenges.
  • Checklists covering things to consider, including modifications to make and providing support to autistic employees.
  • Sample forms to ease the planning process. Included are a Support Plan, a Goal Planner, a Priority Planner and a Supervisor Workplace Handover form.

We will only ask you to:

  • Consent to use the IEST in your organisation only.
  • Consent to provide us with feedback on how the IEST can be improved and what would make it easier for you to use it.

For more information or to express your interest:
Please contact Tanya Picen at tanya.picen@curtin.edu.au

Participants recruitment for physical activity program targeting children with autism

The Curtin Autism Research Group is undertaking a study with Autism Association of Western Australia to develop a tailored physical activity program targeting children with autism aged between 12-16 years. At times it may be difficult for children with autism to participate in physical activity due to multiple physical, social and emotional demands. This program aims to provide opportunity to engage in various sports and practise their skills. We need your help to identify what influences you/your child in participating in sports. We are looking for teenagers (12-16 years old) on the autism spectrum and their guardians to volunteer and contribute to taking part in focus groups to be run at the Shenton Park Autism Association of Western Australia offices on Wednesday 27th of March 2019, 4-5.30pm. If you have a teenage child on the spectrum or know other parents/teenagers, please feel free to share the link.

If you are willing to participate in our upcoming focus groups, please contact Jill Perry on 08 94898900 or email therapyservices@autism.org.au

View flyer

 

Survey participants recruitment for social skills group training program

Our PhD student, Bahareh Afsharnejad, is conducting a study that is seeking to understand how Australian teenagers have fun and who they like to have fun with. This information will help inform a social skills group training program for autistic teenagers. She is looking for Australian teenagers aged between 12-17 years who do not have autism to complete a confidential survey. If you are a teenager who do not have autism and would like to volunteer for this study, please complete the survey by clicking on the link below. If you have a teenage child or know one, please feel free to share the link.

https://curtin.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4UilllIH2E31Nrf

For more information, please contact Bahareh Afsharnejad.

 

Social groups for teenagers with autism

Adolescence is a time of increasing social demands, during which peer networks become important. Contrary to popular belief, teenagers with autism often accurately perceive their social interaction and communication skills and their limitations in networking with their peers. The social difficulties associated with autism along other co-morbidities such as social anxiety, can make this period in life very difficult for the teenagers, negatively impacting their and their families daily functioning. It has been argued that social skills training programs can be really helpful improving social communication skills, reducing anxiety and improving family quality of life.

Curtin Autism Research Group has chosen one of such programs, named KONTAKT, which has been really successful teaching Swedish teenagers social skills. With a partnership with Autism Association of Western Australia, the research group aims to modify and fit the program into Australian context.

The questions the research group is really interested in, are: 1) will this program help the teenagers achieve their socially meaningful goals (e.g. finding a new friend, see what my peers are interested in, how to understand the emotions they are expressing) and improve their social functioning as compared to a social cooking group? 2) Will it be cost-effective to run such groups in Australia?

To learn more about this study, please contact Bahareh Afsharnejad.

 

Developing a support and training program for employers of adults on the autism spectrum

One of the aims of the Curtin Autism Research Group is to help improve employment rates for the autistic community. One way to do this is to design a support and training program that would help prepare employers, so they gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to successfully employ and support adults on the autism spectrum.

Ideally, the program would provide the resources and support they need to apply tried-and-tested recruitment and employment strategies that supports people with autism and to create workplaces where people on the autism spectrum can succeed.

We’ve collaborated with the Autism CRC to undertake research that would help determine what to include in such a support and training program. We recently interviewed adults on the autism spectrum and their employers and were able to find out information such as:

  • The challenges employers face.
  • The strengths and weaknesses of current practices.
  • What has worked, what hasn’t and in what situation.
  • What employers are doing to meet the needs of adults on the autism spectrum.
  • How employers modify their recruitment practices and workplace environments for adults on the autism spectrum.
  • How employers and employees provide support.
  • The value that adults on the spectrum are bringing to the organisations.
  • The resources that can make a difference for employers and each person on the team, including the individuals who are on the autism spectrum.
  • Any additional support that employers need to successfully employ and support adults on the autism spectrum.
  • Any additional support that adults on the autism spectrum need to succeed in the workplace and to maintain employment.

Our initial findings will be published and then we will proceed to the next stage where we’ll seek additional information from employers who are yet to employ adults on the autism spectrum.

To find out more about this project or you can get involved, contact our researcher Rhonda Chapman

 

A strength-based approach in autism

The employment rate for individuals with autism is lower than all other categories of people with disability and without disability. This is surprising considering the valuable strengths and talents that individuals with autism demonstrate. While interventions should target employers, helping to recognize strengths over deficits, it is also thought that strength-based programs for adolescents can help build employability skills. The Curtin Autism Research Group has focused research on developing a strength-based technology program for adolescents with autism.

The research group aims to help develop a strength-based program through its partnerships with Autism Academy of Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) CoderDojo, Autism West and Firetech Camp Australia. The organizations provide opportunity for adolescents to learn new computer coding skills, robotics and game development. Data was gathered from all three organizations to create recommendations for delivering a strength-based approach. The recommendations can be used by health professionals to develop their own strength-based technology clubs for adolescents with autism.

The recommendations were presented at the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) 2018 annual meeting in Rotterdam, where the Curtin Autism Research Group formed part of an international panel discussing the strengths of individuals with autism.

To learn more about a strength-based approach in autism please consider attending the Curtin Autism Open Day on Sunday, 9th September 2018, or contact Matthew Jones.

How adults on the Autism Spectrum recognise emotions

Being able to tell what other people are feeling based on non-verbal signals (such as facial expression) is an important aspect of social communication. Many adults on the Autism Spectrum can have difficulty recognising how other people are feeling, which can make interactions with others difficult.

The role of the brain in recognising emotions

Difficulties that adults on the Autism Spectrum have in recognising how others are feeling may be due to differences in the way the brain functions and processes information. In our lab, we can use eye tracking (to measure vision) and EEG (to measure brain activity) to understand how people recognise emotions. Understanding how people recognise emotions can lead to improved interventions.

As part of our investigations, we are also seeking to understand how intervention can help adults on the Autism Spectrum to recognise emotion and how intervention can harness the brain’s plasticity (ability to adapt and learn).

How computer games can help

Computer games can be a helpful way for adults on the Autism Spectrum to understand emotions. It offers a safe and secure environment to learn social skills which may be inherently difficult for people on the Autism Spectrum. Learning content within computer based platforms are presented in a visual manner, supporting the learning styles of people on the Autism Spectrum and enabling them to be autonomous in their learning.

In addition to computer games, our research aims to explore the potential of adding an online mentoring program to further assist adults on the Autism Spectrum in transferring their learnt skills to everyday environments. We hope that the program will provide adults on the Autism Spectrum with a toolbox of practical strategies to understand and respond to emotions in their everyday situations.

Find out more.