Autism: Disability or Ability? La Trobe Bold Thinking Series

Event status:

Autism Promoting a meaningful life for people with autism

Wednesday 24 February 2016 06:30 pm until Wednesday 24 February 2016 08:00 pm (Add to calendar)
Bold Thinking
Presented by:
Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, Associate Professor Amanda Richdale
Type of Event:
Public Lecture; Public

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Is autism a disability or an ability? Join some of Australia's leading names in the autism field when they discuss this question and more at the inaugural event for La Trobe University's Bold Thinking Series.

Society has come a long way in terms of what we know about autism and how it affects people differently. Understanding of the complexities of autism is growing, and so too is the range of options available to autistic people and their families.

But what does a meaningful life look like for somebody with autism? Can early diagnosis promote better outcomes? How can we harness the strengths so many autistic people possess and help them develop great opportunities for employment?

Join our panel of experts who will share their knowledge, insights and personal experience, and challenge the audience to think differently about ability and difference.

La Trobe has been at the forefront of autism research in Australia since the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) was established in 2008.

About the speakers

Cheryl DissanayakeProfessor Cheryl Dissanayake is the Founding Director of the Olga Tennison Research Centre (OTARC), the first centre in Australia dedicated to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Professor Dissanayake has dedicated more than three decades towards researching autism. Prior to joining La Trobe in 1996 she earned her PhD at Monash University and spent time working at UCLA. In her time at La Trobe, Professor Dissanayake has been instrumental in establishing and leading an active research program.

Amanda RichdaleDr Amanda Richdale is the Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Research Centre (OTARC). Dr Richdale earned her PhD at La Trobe in 1992. Afterwards she joined RMIT as a lecturer in Psychology and Disability Studies, remaining there until 2008. In 2009, Dr Richdale returned to La Trobe in her current role with OTARC having been given an honorary appointment in 2008. Dr Richdale is an active member in the autism community. She is co-founder of Autism Victoria (now AMAZE) Research Reference Group, and an instrumental member of many other research groups and organisations.

Judy Brewer, AOJudy Brewer, AO is chair of Autism CRC and a regular speaker and writer on issues relating to families caring for family members with special needs. As a parent of a young adult with autism spectrum disorder, she has been actively involved in a number of autism and carer organisations and is a life member of Autism Spectrum Australia, convenor of the Autism Future Leaders program and founder of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia.

John DoyleJohn Doyle is an Australian actor, comedian and screenwriter, best known as 'Rampaging Roy Slaven' of Roy and HG fame. John grew up in 1950s rural Australia with his parents and older sister Jennifer, who is on the autism spectrum. John became patron for Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) after he was inspired to help other families living with autism by sharing his own family's experiences and some of the difficulties they faced early on.

Nik Nikoliev is an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was diagnosed in 2005. He has a successful long-term relationship with his neuro-typical (NT) partner. Nik is an active and enthusiastic member of Aspergers Victoria, fulfilling a number of volunteer roles as well as participating in the adult support group.  Since his diagnosis, Nik has explained his life journey and living with ASD to a number of groups including OTARC, community support groups, schools and students.


Francis LeachFrancis Leach is a radio personality and former current affairs journalist. He is currently co-hosting SEN's breakfast program with former Melbourne Demon, David Schwarz. Francis is a self-confessed man in love with ideas. He's passionate about people, sport, music, popular culture and great writing and he connects with audiences around the world.


Clemenger Theatre, The National Gallery of Victoria

The National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3006



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