Autism Cooperative Research Centre to tackle issues head on
A new $104 million Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) launched in early March will aim to tackle some of the biggest issues facing people with autism, their families, and the community.
Officially launched by the Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane, the CRC’s research will focus on diagnosis, education, and supporting people with autism as they move to the workforce.
The Centre will receive $31 million in Commonwealth funding over the next eight years.
Located at the University of Queensland, the CRC will bring together occupational therapists, educators, biologists, psychologists, governments, international organisations, community groups, and industry.
Mr Macfarlane said the work of the CRC will focus on the full range of issues that affect people with autism.
“Importantly, the CRC will work to build new links between science, industry and Government, with the ultimate goal of generating practical outcomes to improve the lives of people with autism and their families,” Mr Macfarlane said.
The CRC is developing new behavioural tools to ensure that at least 70 per cent of autistic children are correctly diagnosed by the age of three, and at least 50 per cent by the age of two.
Mr Macfarlane said ensuring that children are diagnosed correctly at a young age can make a huge difference, not only to the child, but also their family.
A web portal with assistance programs and modules for use by employers, health care professionals, educators, carers and family members will also be developed.
Currently only a third of adult Australians with autism have jobs compared to more than half of people with other disabilities. There are only five employment agencies specifically for people with autism in the world and only one in Australia.
Professor Torbjorn Falkmer, who is leading the Adult Research Program at the Autism CRC told the World Today program that low employment rates of people with autism shows Australian employers are missing out on highly skilled workers. He said that in certain work conditions people with autism perform much better at a workplace than people without the condition.
Chair of the CRC Judy Brewe said the establishment of the Autism CRC is a turning point in how we work together to better understand this complex condition and best support those living with it and the wider community.
“We’re taking a whole-of-life view of living with autism, from diagnosis and the toddler years through to school education and adult-life issues such as employment and participation in community life,” Ms Brewe said.