Identifying the early behavioural signs of autism in infancy and toddlerhood is critical to understanding how autism develops in the first years of life. This knowledge assists in identifying and diagnosing children earlier, enabling them to receive supports and services in their early and most critical years.
It is well established that early intervention promotes positive developmental outcomes for autistic children. Supporting families in the care of their children is also important to enhance wellbeing and quality of life. Our research has focused on how best to promote these positive outcomes for autistic children and their families, beginning at the earliest possible time, and understanding the predictors of best outcomes for children and their families. In so doing, it’s important to acknowledge that intervention and supports at any age provides benefits for autistic people and their families. Much of our work in this program is how best to support learning in natural environments that young children typically find themselves in such as in early childhood education and care settings and the home, which is the key early learning environment of all children.
Many people on the autism spectrum do not go on to post-secondary education after they graduate, and many do not find work, work only intermittently, or work in jobs that do not match their skillset, training or education level. We envisage a world where people on the autism spectrum have the same chance as their peers to complete further education and find and retain a fulfilling vocation. Our broad research goal is to understand why people on the autism spectrum are often unable to fulfil their full potential, and to discover what factors and supports can assist them to do so.
Physical and mental health conditions such as anxiety and sleep difficulties commonly occur in autistic children and adults. Co-occurring conditions can negatively affect learning, behaviour and family wellbeing. In adults these conditions impact everyday functioning in the community and workplace. We aim to develop a better understanding of these conditions, which will contribute to the development of better supports and prevention strategies for autistic individuals both in Australia and internationally.