Promoting best practice

Interventions Across the Lifespan

Our ability to live as independent adults is influenced heavily by our learning experiences as children. Autism affects the ability to live an adult independent life, perhaps more than any other developmental condition, and these difficulties are rooted in early learning difficulties. But why is learning difficult for children with autism? What is the impact of early learning difficulties in intellectual development? And can early educational intervention successfully address these difficulties? To answer to this question, we are undertaking a comprehensive research program aimed at understanding how do children with autism learn and how to teach them so that they learn.

There are many programs and devices in the community that are claimed to help children with ASD learn and develop new skills, and new ones are being developed. We are undertaking a number of studies to evaluate the effectiveness of these program and devices.

Studies currently recruiting participants

Evaluating the effectiveness of the TOBY Playpad as a complementary therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Researchers: Andrew Whitehouse (Telethon Kids Institute and University of Western Australia), Svetha Venkatesh (Deakin University), Dennis Moore (Monash University), Amanda Richdale, Angelika Anderson (Monash University), David Trembath (Griffith University) and others.

Study ID code: AR1. Register for this study using our online form. Please note that recruitment for this study ends 31 October.

Funded by: The Australian Children's Trust

Study aims: The TOBY Playpad is an iPad App designed to enable a more cost effective way to provide therapy to children with ASD. This study has two aims:

  • to determine whether the TOBY Playpad App is effective in helping children with ASD learn early skills, and
  • to examine the attitudes and beliefs of parents towards the TOBY Playpad as an intervention.

Selection criteria for participants: Children (4 years and under) who have been diagnosed with ASD within the last six months, and their parents/carers.

What is involved for participants: Children and their parents/carers will be asked to visit either the Krongold Centre at Monash University or OTARC at La Trobe University three times for about 2 hours at 3-monthly intervals. At each visit the child's development will be assessed. At the first and third visit parents/carers will also be given a series of questionnaires on which to rate their child's abilities. At the first visit the child will either be assigned to 'Therapy as usual' group or to the 'TOBY' group. Children in the 'Toby' group will be provided with an iPad and the TOBY Playpad App installed. Parents/Carers will be trained on the effective use of the TOBY App and will be asked to engage their child using the TOBY App for at least 20 min/day. This will be in addition to any other therapy the child is already undergoing. Children in the 'Therapy as usual' group will not be required to undertake any TOBY Playpad activities. If at the end of the study children in the TOBY Playpad group have improved significantly, parents in the treatment as usual group will be offered the TOBY Playpad app.

For more information or to participate in this study contact Margherita Busacca (Research Coordinator) on (03) 9902 4886 or or Associate Professor Amanda Richdale (03) 9479 1742 or