19 February 2013

The University of Queensland will share in $31 million Federal Government funding for a world-first project to assist Australians living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The University will host a Cooperative Research Centre to be established under the funding, drawing on the expertise of researchers from throughout Australia and abroad.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated all researchers from UQ and partner organisations on the successful funding for such a significant Cooperative Research Centre.

He said that the CRC was the first such national cooperative autism spectrum disorder research effort in the world.

“The centre’s work is expected to benefit more than one million Australians, improving their quality of life, education and employment options,” Professor Lu said.

The centre’s chief executive officer will be Professor Sylvia Rodger, of the UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Professor Rodger said the centre would pursue three main aims to help people living with ASD:

• Ensure early diagnosis, coupled with targeted early intervention strategies;
• Enable education in an appropriate environment by skilled professionals; and
• Provide the best chance to find a meaningful and fulfilling place in society through higher education, employment and better opportunities for long-term social relationships.

“This CRC will involve an innovative “whole-of-life” approach involving leading scientists, in harnessing existing knowledge of ASD behaviour to accurately diagnose 50 per cent of children with ASD before their second birthday and more than 70 per cent by their third birthday,” she said.

The centre is expected to improve opportunities for people with ASD to successfully participate in higher education, and increase the rate of employment of people with ASD by five per cent as well as providing life-long physical and mental health management.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is one of the most severe, prevalent and heritable of all neurodevelopmental disorders, and affects at least one in 100 children.

It is a lifelong condition with estimated annual support costs to Australia potentially exceeding $7 billion.

With an unexplained 25-fold increase in the number of diagnoses 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.

The University of Queensland will draw on expertise from its Faculty of Health Sciences, Queensland Brain Institute, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Other core participants in this CRC will be:

• Autism Queensland Inc.
• Queensland University of Technology
• Griffith University
• Mater Medical Research Institute
• AEIOU Foundation
• Department of Education, Training and Employment Queensland
• LaTrobe University
• University of NSW
• Curtin University
• University of Western Australia
• Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT)

For further information regarding the CRC for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders, please contact Professor Sylvia Rodger, Division of Occupational Therapy, Chair of Teaching and Learning Committee, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Phone: +61 7 3365 1664, Email: s.rodger@uq.edu.au