Staff profile

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake

Director: Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre

College of Science, Health and Engineering
School of Psychology and Public Health
Department of Psychology and Counselling
Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre

Biological Sciences Building 2, Room 254, Melbourne (Bundoora)

Qualifications

BSc Hons, PhD Monash.

Membership of professional associations

Registered Psychologist; Australian Psychological Society; International Society for Autism Research; Australasian Society for Autism Research (Vice President)

Area of study

Psychology

Brief profile

Professor Dissanayake is the Founding Director of Australia’s first research centre dedicated to ASDs established in 2008. She has been an autism researcher since 1984, when she began her PhD at Monash University. On completion she undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the Sigman lab at UCLA, and has established and led an active research program since joining La Trobe University in 1996. In addition to her scholarly activities, with numerous grants and publications, Prof. Dissanayake was instrumental in bringing together Victorian and Australian autism researchers, having co-founded the Autism Victoria ASD Research Group (in 2003), the Australasian Autism Research Alliance (in 2005), the Australasian Autism Research Collaboration (in 2009) and the Australasian Society for Autism Research (2011), a member based society of which she is vice-President. She is also a Project Leader in the Autism Cooperative Research Centre of which La Trobe University is an Essential Partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research interests

Cognitive and developmental psychology

- Comparative studies of social-emotional and social-cognitive development in Autism

- Development in Autism from infancy through to adulthood

- Studies on early intervention for Autism

- Understanding the early autism phenotype including early identification and diagnosis

Teaching units

PSY3ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorders  

PSY2DEV - Developmental Psychology

Recent publications

Publications (2013-2015)

1. Coulson, M., Skouteris, H., & Dissanayake, C. (2013). The role of planning, support, and maternal and infant factors in women’s return to work after maternity leave. Family Matters, 90, 33-44. 

 

2. Barbaro, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2013). Early markers of Autism Spectrum Disorders in infants and toddlers prospectively identified in the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS). Autism, 17(1), 64 - 86.

 

3. Nielsen, M., Slaughter, V., & Dissanayake, C. (2013) Object-Directed imitation in children with high-functioning autism: Testing the

Social Motivation Hypothesis. Autism Research, 6(1), 23-32.

 

4. Whitehouse, A.,. J. O, Mattes., E., Maybery, M., Dissanayake, C., Sawyer, M., Jones, R.M., Pennell, C., Keelan, J., & Hickey. M. (in press, 2013). Perinatal testosterone exposure and the autism phenotype. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 4(1), 1-12.

 

5. Vivanti, G., Dissanayake, C., Zierhut, C., & the Victorian ASELCC Team. (2013). Brief Report: Predictors of outcomes in the Early Start Denver Model delivered in a group setting. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(7), 1717-1724.

 

6. Nuske, H., Vivanti, G., & Dissanayake, C.  (2013). Are emotion impairments unique to, universal, or specific in Autism Spectrum Disorder? A comprehensive review. Cognition and Emotion, 27(6), 1042-1061.

 

7. Vivanti, G., Hudry, K., Trembath, D., Barbaro, J., Richdale, A., & Dissanayake, C. (2013). Towards the DSMV criteria for Autism: Clinical, cultural and research implications. Australian Psychologist, 48(4), 258-261.

 

8. Vivanti, G., Barbaro, J., Hudry, K., Dissanayake, C., & Prior, M. (2013) Intellectual development in Autism Spectrum Disorders: New insights from longitudinal studies. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5(7), 354.

 

9. Dissanayake, C. (2013) Parent mediated intervention for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A commentary.  Evidence Based Child Health, A Cochran Review Journal, 8(6), 2480-2482.

 

10. Bavin, E.L., Kidd,E., Prendergast,L., Baker,E., Dissanayake,C., & Prior,M. (2014). Severity of autism is related to children's language processing. Autism Research, 7, 687–694.

 

11. Chandler, F., & Dissanayake, C. (2014). An investigation of the security of caregiver attachment during middle childhood in children with high-functioning autistic disorder.Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 18, 485-492.

 

12. Eapen. V., Woolfenden, S., Williams,K., Jalaludin,B., Dissanayake,C., et al. (2014). "Are you available for the next 18 months?" - methods and aims of a longitudinal birth cohort study investigating a universal developmental surveillance program: the 'Watch Me Grow' study. Biomedical Central: Pediatrics, 14(234).

 

13. McStay, R., Dissanayake, C., Scheeren, A., Koot, H.M. & Begeer, S. (2014). Parenting stress and autism: The role of age, autism severity, quality of life, and problem behaviour of children and adolescents with autism.  Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice,18, 502-510.

 

14. McStay, R.L., Trembath, D. & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Stress and family quality of life in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parent gender and the double ABCX Model. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(12), 3101-3118.

 

15. Nuske, H. J., Vivanti, G., & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Reactivity to fearful expressions of familiar and unfamiliar people in children with autism: An eye-tracking pupillometry study. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 6, 14.

 

16. Nuske, H., Vivanti, G., Dissanayake, C. (2014). Brief Report: Evidence for normative resting-state physiology in Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 2057-2063.

 

17. Nuske, H., Vivanti, G., Hudry, K., & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Pupillometry reveals reduced unconscious emotional reactivity in Autism. Biological Psychology, 101, 24-35.

 

18. Vivanti, G. & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Propensity to imitate in autism is not modulated by the model's gaze direction: An eye-tracking study. Autism Research,7, 392-399.

 

19. Vivanti, G., Trembath, D., & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Atypical monitoring and responsiveness to others' goal-directed gaze in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Experimental Brain Research, 232 (2), 695-701.

 

20. Vivanti, G., Prior, M., Williams, K., & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Predictors of outcomes in autism intervention: Why don't we know more? Frontiers in Pediatrics: Child and Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry, 2, 1-10.

 

21. Vivanti, G., Trembath, D. & Dissanayake, C. (2014). Mechanisms of imitation impairment in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42, 1395-1405.

 

22. Vivanti, G., Paynter, J., Duncan, E., Fothergill, H., Dissanayake, C., Rogers, S.J. & the Victorian ASELCC Team (2014). Effectiveness and feasibility of the Early Start Denver Model implemented in a group-based community childcare setting. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 3140-3153.

 

23. Bent, C., Barbaro, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2015). Mapping the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders in children under 7 years in Australia: 2010 – 2012. Medical Journal of Australia, 202, 317-320.

 

24. Green, C., Dissanayake, C., & Loesch, D. (2015, in press). A review of physical growth in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Developmental Review.

 

25. McStay, R.,Trembath, D., & Dissanayake, C. (2015, in press). Raising a child with autism: A developmental perspective on family adaptation.Current Developmental Disorders Reports.

 

26. Bavin, E., Kidd, E., Prendergast,L., Baker, E., Disanayake, C. (2015, in press). Online processing of sentences containing noun modification in young children with high functioning autism. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders.

 

27. Nuske, H., Vivanti, G., Dissanayake, C. (2015, in press). No evidence of emotional dysregulation or aversion to mutual gaze in preschoolers with autism - An eye-tracking pupillometry study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

 

28. Trembath, D., Vivanti, G., Iacono, T., Dissanayake, C. (2015, in press) Accurate or assumed: Visual learning in children with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

 

29..Unwin, L.M., Maybery, M.T., Murphy, A., Lilje, W., Bellesini, M., Hunt, A.M., Granich, J., Jacoby, P., Dissanayake, C., Pennell, C.E., Hickey, M., Whitehouse, AJ.O. (2015, in press). A prospective ultrasound study of prenatal growth in infant siblings of children with autism. Autism Research.

 

30. Randall, M., Brignall, A., Sciberras, E., Ihsen, E., Efron, D., Dissanayake, C., & Williams, K. (2015, in press). Autism Spectrum Disorder: Presentation and prevalence in a nationally representative Australian sample. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

 

31. Chaudry, M., & Dissanayake, C. (2015, in press). Pretend play in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A review of the literature. In Douglas, S & Stirling L (eds), Children’s Play, Pretence, and Story: Studies in Culture, Context, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. NY: Psychology Press.  

 

Older publications

Publications (2010-2012)

Dissanayake, C., Shembrey, J., & T. Suddendorf, T. (2010). Delayed self-recognition in children with high-functioning Autism and Asperger’s Disorder. Autism, 14, 495-508.

Barbaro, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2010) Prospective identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders in infancy and toddlerhood using developmental surveillance: The Social Attention and Communication Study.  Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Paediatrics, 31, 376-385.

Coulson, M., Skouteris, H., Milgrom, J., Noblet, A., & Dissanayake, C. (2010). Factors influencing the planning undertaken by women during pregnancy for their return to work after maternity leave. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Organisational Psychology, 3, 1-12.

Barbaro, J., Ridgway, L., & Dissanayake, C. (2011). Developmental surveillance of infants and toddlers by Maternal and Child Health nurses in an Australian community-based setting: Promoting the early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Paediatric Nursing, 26 (4), 334-347.

Kelly, R., Dissanayake, C., Hammond, S., & Ihsen, E. (2011). An investigation of the relationship between symbolic play and executive function in young children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36, 21-27. 

Tee, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2011). Can 15-month-old infants understand pretence: An investigation using the ‘violation-of-expectation’ paradigm. Acta Psychologica,138, 316-321.

Barbaro, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2012). Developmental profiles of infants and toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders identified prospectively in a community-based setting. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 1939-1948.

Trembath, D., Germano, C., Johanson, G., & Dissanayake, C. (2012). The experience of anxiety in young adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Focus on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 27(4), 213-224.

Dissanayake, C. (2012). Comparative social abilities and deficits: It depends on the where, when and how. Invited Commentary on Scharfstein LA, Beidel DC, Sims VK, Rendon Finnell L. Social skills deficits and vocal characteristics of children with social phobia or Asperger's disorder: a comparative study. Evidence Based Mental Health, 15, 37.

Dissanayake, C. (2012). Social behavior and social impairment. Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Ed. F. Volkmar). Springer.

 

Research projects

Grants (2013-2015)

2015 LTU Near Miss Grant. $17,000. Dissanayake, C., Vivanti. G., &. Hocking, D.

2015 Autism CRC Innovation Grant “How was your day?”: Home conversations about their school day in children with Autism. $50,000. Stirling, L., Dissanayake, C., Sofronoff, K., Westerveld, M., Trembath, D., & Ashburner, J.

2015. LTU RFA Building Healthy Communities: Facilitating the early identification of  autism through a mobile application. $ 30,000. Barbaro, J., Ridgway, L., & Dissanayake, C.

2015-2018 Hewlett Packard Australia: Successful employment outcomes for people with ASD. $300,000. Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., Hedley, D., & Uljaravic, M.

2015. Australian Department of Social Services-National Disability Insurance Agency Grant. Evaluating the benefits of social inclusion in early intervention for children with Autism. $70,543.  Vivanti, G., Duncan, E., & Dissanayake, C.

2015. LTU RFA Understanding Disease. Understanding the role of oxytocin in shaping social affiliation and social processing in young children with autism and Williams syndrome. $30,000. Hocking, D., Vivanti, G., Bishop, N., Iacono, T., Dissanayake, C. & Kent, S.

2015. LTU RFA Understanding Disease. Restoring normal function in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorder. $30,000. Hale, M., Lesku, J., Kettle, C., Kent, S., Richdale, A. & Dissanayake, C.

2015  LTU Major Equipment Allocation Funding. Emotional reactivity and regulation in Autism. $12,080. Nuske, H. J., Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., & Uljarevic, M.

2014-2017 Autism CRC Core Program 1. Project 1.001RC, Base Resources Project. $665,500. Whitehouse, A., Dissanayake, C., Eapen, V. & Heussler, H.

2014-2017 Autism CRC Core Program 1. Project 1.005RC, Developmental surveillance for ASD. $330,163. Dissanayake, C. & Barbaro, J., Maybery,M., & Whitehouse, A.

2014 - 2017 Autism CRC Project. 1.022RS. The development and efficacy of a Family Support Program for newly diagnosed children with ASD. $54,140. Barbaro, J. & Dissanayake, C.

2014-2017  Autism CRC Core Program 1. Project 1.002RC, Creation of the Australian Autism Biobank. $251,905. Whitehouse, A., Dissanayake, C., Eapen, V. & Heussler, H.

2014-2015 Macquarie University Research Development Grants. The role of oxytocin in modulating anxiety and social behaviour in neurodevelopmental and anxiety disorders. $49,737. Porter, M., Hocking, D., Wong Q., Williams, M., Rapee, R., Dissanayake, C., Kent, S.

2014-2015  Playgroup Australia. Strengthening PlayConnect: Expert advice and current service evaluation. $71,000.  Hudry, K., Nadachowski, W. & Dissanayake, C.

2014. Pierce Armstrong Foundation. $8,818. Development of an emotional regulation intervention for young children with autism. Nuske, H. & Dissanayake, C.

2013-2015 NHMRC. Characterization of a novel epigenetic boundary and long range epigenetic modifications specific to FMR1 expansion carriers with behavioural and cognitive disorders. $647,399. Slater, H., Godler, D., Amor, D., Dissanayake, C. & Bui, M.

2013 -2014 William and Vera Houston Memorial Trust. Parents with ASD. $49,000. Dissanayake, C. & Richdale, A.

2013.LTU RFA Building Healthy Communities Strengthening PlayConnect: Specialist playgroups for families of children with autism. $29,886. Hudry,K., Dissanayake, C., & Sivey, P.

2013 LTU RFA Understanding Disease Small Projects Grant. Investigating the genetics of co-morbid anxiety and insomnia in Autism Spectrum Disorder. $29, 520. Richdale, A., Somers, G., Hale, M., Lesku, J., Dissanayake, C., & Kent, S.

2013  LTU Near Miss Grant. $15,000. Dissanayake, C., Iacano, T., Trembath,  D., & Vivanti, G.

2012 – 2013. Australia-China Science Research Fund: Promoting the early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Tianjin, China. $25,000. Dissanayake, C.

2013-2015 NHMRC Project Grant: Characterization of a novel epigenetic boundary and long range epigenetic modifications specific to FMR1 expansion carriers with behavioural and cognitive disorders - implications for earlier diagnosis and treatment. $647,399.  Slater, H., Godler, D., Amor, D., Dissanayake, C., & Bui, Q.

2011 - 2015 NHMRC Project Grant: Prenatal and early postnatal risk factors in ASD. $671,928. Whitehouse, A., Maybery, M., Dissanayake, C., Hickey, M., & Pennell, C.

2011-2013 NHMRC Partnership Grant: Universal surveillance and early identification of developmental disorders. $680,590.  Eapen,V., Williams, K., Jaludin, B., Dissanayake, C., & Woolfenden, S.

2012 – 2014 William Buckland Foundation; Early Diagnostic Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders. $150,000. Dissanayake, C. & EDC Team.

2011 - 2013 RE Ross Trust Early Diagnostic Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders. $98,000. Dissanayake, C. & EDC Team