31 March 2011

Autism researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ), along with Autism Queensland, are leading a national call for the establishment of a major cooperative research centre (CRC) to improve diagnosis and treatment of the increasingly common disorder.

UQ occupational therapist, Professor Sylvia Rodger, will call for government and private support for the proposed Autism CRC at the National Autism Summit in Sydney tomorrow (1 April 2011) on World Autism Day.

Researchers from seven organisations, including universities across Australia, have each committed to contributing $50,000-100,000 per annum over 10 years and are calling for further funding from government and private sources.

Professor Rodger said The Autism CRC, which would work closely with patients and their families, would mean better services and outcomes for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

“Schools struggle to provide for children with ASD who frequently under-achieve academically, drop out, or are excluded for behavioural reasons. As adults, the majority experience dependence and unemployment, while around one third experience psychiatric illness,” Professor Rodger said.

“The Autism CRC will enable earlier, more accurate and efficient diagnoses and find more effective and cost efficient ways of enabling children and adults with ASD to achieve valued life outcomes,” she said.

“Currently, diagnosis of autism is imprecise, time-consuming and expensive. While families can use a range of intervention programs, there needs to be more work done to find out which of these is most effective.”

“Only through the establishment of a collaborative, inter-disciplinary research team of experts will we be able to improve the prospects of more than a million Australians directly or indirectly affected by ASD.”

Members of CRC core bid team are: The University of Queensland, Autism Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, La Trobe University, Curtin University, University of New South Wales, University of Western Australia.

Media: Marlene McKendry, UQ Faculty of Health, 0401 996 847


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition affecting at least 1 in 1001 children with an estimated annual cost to Australia of $4.5-7.2 billion. More than one million Australians are effected directly or indirectly by ASD and there has been an unexplained 25-fold increase in diagnosis in the past 30 years. There are now more children with ASD than the combined number of children with cerebral palsy, diabetes, deafness, blindness and leukemia.


1. The CRC bid team has engaged parents (as end users) from the outset to listen to what parents needs are as well as those of their children with ASD.
2. CRCs aim to find solutions for challenges experienced by end users (parents, families, teachers, service providers) and to provide benefits for Australians.
3. The Autism CRC aims to:
a. Bring together researchers in psychology, education, health, neuroscience, technology to solve end user challenges.
b. Never before have this range of researchers come together across Australia collectively to tackle the issues.
c. Aim to develop a national protocol for diagnosis; consistent training for diagnostic practitioners; identification of biomarkers – make diagnosis easier and less burdensome/time consuming for parents.
d. Aim to research best practice in provision of educational interventions for school age children including technological applications, classroom environments and social skills interventions.
e. Aim to improve outcomes for adults with ASD in education sector, enhance employment options and community living to improve independence and decrease stress on parents/families.
4. If The Autism CRC could achieve these outcomes individuals with ASD and their families would be better informed, provided with evidence based services, and better outcomes.
5. The Autism CRC will also increase autism awareness in the community, schools and in employment.