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Autism Queensland Research
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Research Programs At Autism Queensland

Autism Queensland is currently involved in a number of research programs around the education of children on the autism spectrum, sensory processing issues, current practices and professional development of occupational therapists supporting people on the spectrum; family-centred practice; and the use of remote technologies to assist clients in rural areas.

Optimising telehealth to future proof the delivery of autism related services

Autism Queensland is excited to be partnering with Associate Professor David Trembath and Griffith University in a project to optimise the use of telepractice as part of the delivery of services.

COVID-19 led to significant disruption to services, and this project aims to work out what worked well, what did not work so well, and the best way forward. The outcomes will include the development of a telepractice portal for Autism Queensland staff, mapping pathways to more effective use of telepractice as part of existing and new services, and upskilling staff in other Queensland-based organisations and the community at large.

The project will run over 18 months, starting in January 2021, and is supported by an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship.


Education of students with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • The Introduction of Keyboarding to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders with Handwriting Difficulties: A Help or a Hindrance? (Ashburner, Ziviani & Pennington, 2012) This study explored the utility of using keyboarding as an alternative to handwriting for students on the spectrum from mainstream classrooms who experienced handwriting difficulties. The students’ motivation was generally rated as much higher for keyboarding than for handwriting. The group mean scores for keyboarding speed, and length and quality of keyboarded compositions were greater than comparable group mean scores for handwriting, but the differences did not reach statistical significance.
  • Auditory processing and classroom educational, behavioural and emotional outcomes in children with autism spectrum disorder. (Ashburner, Wilson, Ziviani, Arnott, Sofronoff) This study is ongoing. It aims to investigate the associations between educational outcomes and emotional and behavioural regulation of children on the spectrum, and factors including auditory processing, IQ, sensory processing, anxiety and language development. The results are currently being analysed.
  • Experiencing Bullying: Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their Families. (Saggers, Ashburner, Hwang, Campbell, Carrington, Mercer) This study is ongoing in collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology. Parent and student surveys covering both face-to-face and cyber bullying were sent to families of young people on the spectrum aged 11 to 16 years. Surveys were returned by 103 parents and 103 students. Additionally qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with a further nine parents and 10 students with respect to the impact of bullying on the students and their thoughts on strategies to address bullying issues in schools.

Sensory processing issues of people on the autism spectrum

  • Understanding the sensory experiences of young people with autism spectrum disorder: A preliminary investigation. (Ashburner, Bennett, Rodger, & Ziviani, 2013)This study employed semi-structured interviews augmented by visual cues to investigate the sensory experiences of adolescents on the autism spectrum. The young people who participated in this study shared a preference for predictable and controllable sensory input, whereas unpredictable and uncontrollable sensations were perceived as unpleasant. A difficulty filtering extraneous sensory input, high levels of movement seeking and an over-focus on salient sensory input were also described.
  • Development of a sensory processing clinical reasoning framework for occupational therapists. (Ashburner, Rodger, Ziviani, & Hinder, 2014) This project has involved the development of a clinical reasoning framework to guide practitioners in selecting appropriate sensory management strategies, taking into account the evidence, social-ecological validity, cost, and where relevant, risk.
  • The Development and Validation of a Sensory Processing Interview with Visual Cues. (Ashburner, Rodger, Ong) This study is currently ongoing. The aim is to explore the potential benefits and limitations of using the Sensory Processing Interview (interview involving the use of visual cues) developed by Dr Jill Ashburner to enable children and adults to explain their difficulties processing sensory input in their own words.

Current practices and professional development of therapists who provide support to people on the autism spectrum

  • Occupational Therapy Services for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Current State of Play, Use of Evidence and Future Learning Priorities. (Ashburner, Rodger, Ziviani & Jones, 2014) A survey in relation to services for people on the autism spectrum was distributed to all registered Queensland occupational therapists. A pervasive focus on sensory processing was apparent in relation to assessment, intervention, and key areas of knowledge. Around half the respondents indicated that they lacked confidence at least some of the time. ASD-specific experience was a significant predictor of confidence.
  • Improving transfer of learning: An innovative co-mentoring program to enhance workplace implementation following an occupational therapy course on autism spectrum disorders. (Ashburner, Rodger, Ziviani. Hinder, Cartmill, White, Vickerstaff, 2015) A co-mentoring program was developed with the aim of facilitating workplace implementation of learning following a three-day course for occupational therapists. The program was evaluated in terms of usefulness, successes, challenges, and recommended improvements. The benefits of the co-mentoring program included opportunities for information and resource sharing, debriefing, problem-solving, reassurance and implementation of ideas.

Providing services to clients in rural areas using remote technologies

  • The use of remote technologies to extend early intervention services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in rural locations. (Ashburner, Vickerstaff, Beetge, Copley) This project aimed to evaluate the costs, feasibility and efficacy of services delivered through remote technologies to extend face-to-face services. Clients from rural areas who have received face-to-face early intervention services were given the opportunity to trial a follow-up service using remote technologies. Interviews with families, local service providers and therapists have been used to explore the advantages and disadvantages of providing a service remotely.

Family-centred practice

  • The Development of an ASD-Specific Family Goal Setting Tool. (Jones, Walpole, Rodger) This goal setting tool was developed by Autism Queensland’s Senior Occupational therapist, Judy Jones with illustrations by occupational therapist Anne Ketchion. The study explored the benefits and limitations of using the tool to facilitate goal setting by parents whose children are involved in early intervention programs.
For more information please contact the Research Team: