Supports and practices for daily living

We develop and evaluate evidence-based practices and supports that enable Autistic people to live a life that is meaningful to them across the lifespan.


Researchers: Cheryl Dissanayake, Megan Clark, Josephine Barbaro, Katy Unwin, Kelsey Philpott-Robinson, Rachel Kennedy, Alesha Southby, Professor Alison Lane

Our research has informed government policy on supporting Autistic people and their families with expert, evidence-based advocacy. While many of our studies focus on early supports for Autistic preschool children and building supports for their families, we are also exploring how best to support adults to improve community participation. Supports at any age provide benefits for Autistic people and their families.

We are currently investigating:

  • the long-term outcomes of Autistic children diagnosed early who accesses early supports
  • the effect of different learning environments on outcomes
  • predictors of developmental outcomes to different types of supports
  • the support their families provide and need
  • the family outcomes of Autistic children accessing early supports
  • fostering self-regulation in children
  • how best to support young people with disability in going to the gym
  • the barriers and facilitators for exercise participation.


Seminar presentation

Watch Dr Philpott-Robinson discusses the research conducted as part of her PhD, which explored the construct of self-regulation, a common area of referral for occupational therapists working with Autistic and non-autistic children.

Watch the presentation

Access to evidence-based, supportive early education and care

OTARC has an embedded research-in-practice program at the La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre on its Melbourne campus. Approximately 50 children participate daily in an evidence-based early support program called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM).

More than 300 Autistic children have attended the Centre since it opened in 2010. The findings from research undertaken within the Centre are incorporated into a cycle of continuous evidence-based improvement and were pivotal in the development and implementation of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) in inclusive (mainstream early education) and specialised (Autistic children only) settings.

Our research shows that Autistic children who receive EDSM supports for one year make significant developmental gains across a variety of early learning and care settings, increasing their chances of participation (Clark et al 2017, 2018), with an earlier age of access bolstering their outcomes (Vivanti et al 2016). Importantly, our research shows these children continue to make significant cognitive gains into their school years (Vinen et al 2018, 2022; Clark et al 2023) a finding we have recently replicated in new (as yet unpublished) research.

Australian children who receive an Autism diagnosis and subsequent supports in the early and critical years (18-36 months) have better school-age developmental outcomes. And yet, the average age of Autism diagnosis in children remains at about 4 years (Bent et al 2015) in Australia.

Plain language presentation

Has the shift to individualised NDIS funding changed the profiles of children accessing supports?

Access the Sway presentation