Behavioural, motor and cognitive development

In this series of studies we are investigating the development of children with an ASD over the longer term and the factors that may have contributed to their development. The overall aim is to identify strategies to support their development and learning. WE are interested in finding answers to questions like: What happens to children who have been diagnosed very early in their lives? In what way do children benefit from having received intensive early intervention with the Early Start Denver Model? What impact does the ability to react to other people's emotion have on children's social development and learning about the world? We are also investigating motor development and possible motor deficits in children with an ASD and the potential impact of these on children's communication with others.

Another area of interest is the very early development of pretend play in children with ASD, because pretend play deficits are regarded as a hallmark of autism, and are included as one of the diagnostic criteria. In our studies we are trying to understand the type of communicative interactions children engage in during collaborative pretend play and how they can be encouraged.

Current studies

  1. School-age outcomes of children with ASD who received ESDM.
    Researchers: Zoe Vinen, Cheryl Dissanayake & Giacomo Vivanti
  2. School-age outcomes of children with an ASD diagnosed at age 2 years.
    Researchers: Megan Clark, Cheryl Dissanayake & Josephine Barbaro
  3. Researchers: Felicity Peel, Deniz Obligin, & Cheryl Dissanayake
  4. Acoustic analysis of vocalisations of toddlers with ASD and developmental delay.
    Researchers: Darren Hedley &
    Neil McLachlan (Music and Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, University of Melbourne)
  5. Neurodevelopmental profiles of toddlers with ASD and developmental delay.
    Researchers: Darren Hedley,
    Rose Nevill (Ohio State University & Nisonger Center, Columbus Ohio), & Jonathan Wilkins, Eric Butter, James A Mulick (all Nationwide Children's Hospital and Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio)
  6. Verbal and non-verbal communication interaction in pretend play with children with autism.
    Susan Douglas (University of Melbourne), Lesley Stirling (University of Melbourne) & Cheryl Dissanayake