Educational and vocational engagement

We determine and promote the best learning and vocational pathways for Autistic people at all levels of education and in volunteer and paid employment.

Research program leader: 
Associate Professor Jennifer Spoor

Cheryl Dissanayake, Susan M Hayward, Darren Hedley, Amanda Richdale, Simon Bury, Rebecca Flower, Josephine Barbaro, Melissa Gilbert, Lauren Lawson

Our work aims to benefit Autistic people, employers and broader society by:

  • increasing the rates of Autistic people in high quality jobs
  • ensuring an individual differences approach to supporting Autistic strengths at work.

New Research!

“Maybe no one knows we need help” - Explore the Experiences of Autistic Working Mothers in Australia in this online summary presentation by PhD candidate Kate Gore based on her Masters research published in Autism in Adulthood.

View presentation

The SENSIBLE approach for Accessible Learning

As a result of a 2022 project commissioned by the Queensland Department of Education, OTARC Director Professor Alison Lane and colleagues delivered a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the literature about sensory processing challenges in school settings. This review assessed the evidence for various interventions, including weighted vests, alternate seating, classroom amplification systems and multisensory environments and provided recommendations for their use.

The findings from this review were incorporated into developing training and resources for teachers and learning support staff, specialist advisors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, principals and teacher's aides. The findings of focus groups with school staff indicated a need for more knowledge amongst teachers in mainstream schools about how sensory processing challenges may impact student behaviour and learning. Further, decisions regarding the strategies used by school staff to address these challenges were not always grounded in evidence .

The suite of resources includes a flow-chart-style poster to guide decision-making regarding sensory needs, two webpages explaining sensory issues, and explaining inclusive education principles, all linked to the Department resources, together with a manual setting out the overall approach.

These materials were developed using a practical framework comprising five decision-making phases, called "a SENSIBLE approach: SENSory-Informed Best practices for LEarning". This framework assists school staff in implementing strategies that facilitate inclusive access, active participation, and academic success for all students, regardless of their sensory processing challenges. It also encourages integrating evidence-informed practices and inclusive education principles when creating learning opportunities that accommodate sensory variations.

This approach is unique because it is designed for education teams within schools rather than focusing solely on classroom teachers. The SENSIBLE approach is currently being rolled out in Queensland government schools, with evaluations of its impact planned.

This is an excerpt from the OTARC response to the Western Australian's Education and Health Standing Committee's Inquiry into support for Autistic children and young people in schools. You can read the full submission here.

  • Unwin, K., Wales, K., Johnson, T., & Lane, A. (2022). Supporting Students with Sensory Processing Challenges: Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA). La Trobe University, Bundoora.
  • Lane, A.E. & Leonard, C. (2023). A sensible Approach SENSory-Informed Best practices for Learning Decision-Making Framework Manual. Queensland Department of Education, Brisbane.

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