Staff profile

Dr Josephine Barbaro

Research Fellow

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

Melbourne (Bundoora)



Membership of professional associations

International Society for Autism Research (INSAR); Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR); Health Services Research Association Australia and New Zealand (HSRAANZ); Australasian Human Development Association (AHDA); Menzies Menorial Scholars Association (MMSA)

Area of study


Brief profile

Dr Josephine Barbaro is Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University, and the lead clinician in Australia’s first ‘Early Assessment Clinic’ for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Dr Barbaro’s research interests are in the early identification and diagnosis of ASD in infants and toddlers, and family health and well-being following a diagnosis. Her developmental surveillance program for ASD, the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS), has been translated and disseminated widely, both nationally and internationally, and has had extensive media attention. Dr Barbaro was the recipient of a prestigious Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship in the Allied Health Sciences, and has won a number of awards, including the International Society for Autism Research Dissertation Award and Best Translation of Autism Research 2015 by the Autism CRC.

Recent publications

Barbaro, J. & Dissanayake, C. (in press). Diagnostic stability of Autism Spectrum Disorder in toddlers prospectively identified in a community-based setting: Behavioural characteristics and predictors of change over time. Autism.

Barbaro, J. & Halder, S. (2016). Early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Current challenges and future global directions. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 3, 67-74.

Durkin, M. S., Elsabbagh, M., Barbaro, J., Gladstone, M., Happe, F., Hoekstra, R. A., Lee, L-C., Rattazzi, A., Stapel-Wax, J., Stone, W. L., Tager-Flusberg, H., Thurm, A., Tomlinson, M. & Shih, A. (2015). Autism screening and diagnosis in low resource settings: challenges and opportunities to enhance research and services worldwide. Autism Research. 8, 473-476. DOI: 10.1002/aur.1575

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

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, 7, 354.

Vivanti, G., Hudry, K., Trembath, D., Barbaro, J., Richdale, A., Dissanayake, C. (2013). Towards the DSM 5 Criteria for Autism: Clinical, Cultural and Research Implications.  Australian Psychologist, 48, 258-261

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: International Journal of Research and Practice, 17, 64-86.

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.

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. Journal Pediatric Nursing, 26, 334-347.

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

Barbaro, J. & Dissanayake, C. (2009). Autism Spectrum Disorders in infancy and toddlerhood: A review of the evidence on early signs, early identification tools, and early diagnosis. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 30, 447-459.

Barbaro, J. & Dissanayake, C. (2007). A comparative study of the use and understanding of self-presentational display rules in children with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1235-1246.


Download Resume

Research projects

Study: The Social Attention and Communication Study-Revised (SACS-R): Evaluating the efficacy of the SACS-R in identifying infants and toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Names of Researchers: Josephine Barbaro
  • Aim of the Study: To implement developmental surveillance for ASDs in a primary health-care setting using a revised version of the SACS (SACS-R) during children’s second year of life, and a preschool version (SACS-Pr) between the ages of 3 to 4 years. This study aims to maximise the sensitivity of developmental surveillance for ASDs whist minimising the amount of false positives.

Study: Development of a Family Support Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Name of researchers: Josephine Barbaro, Cheryl Dissanayake, Stacey Rabba
  • Aim of Study: To develop and evaluate the efficacy of a Family Support package for parents following an early diagnosis of their child.

Study: Investigating the barriers to early detection and diagnosis of ASD

  • Name of researchers: Josephine Barbaro, Cheryl Dissanayake, Cathy Bent
  • Aim of Study: This study aims to investigate the barriers to the ealry detection and diagnosis of ASD, to inform current research and practice.

Study: Follow-up of children from the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS) between 7-9 years of age

  • Name of researchers: Josephine Barbaro, Cheryl Dissanayake, Megan Clark
  • Aim of Study: To follow-up children identified in the original SACS to determine current functioning, social skills, and development over time.

Study: Diagnostic stability of ASD from 2- to 4-years of age

  • Names of Researchers: Josephine Barbaro
  • Aim of the Study: The primary objective of this longitudinal study is to investigate the diagnostic stability of ASD diagnoses from 2-years of age to preschool age, in the children prospectively identified through the SACS. A secondary aim is to identify the individual behaviours that were most predictive of crossover from ASD to non-ASD diagnoses, and compare the cognitive profiles of the children who continued to have an ASD diagnosis, versus those who no longer met criteria for an ASD diagnosis at preschool age.