Research centre to focus on collaboration and support for those living with autism
Understanding how to support those living on the autism spectrum, and how to nurture and support their families to realise their full potential is increasingly important, as autism prevalence rates rise worldwide, Dr Trevor Clark has said.
Dr Clark, the National Director of Research for Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), has been researching autism-specific programs and practices for over 20 years. In that time, he said, he has seen “an explosion” internationally in autism research focused on finding a cure for autism or the causes of autism. Whilst in the past couple of decades much work has gone into learning the “why” and “how” of autism, much less research has gone into programs and services to support people on the spectrum, their families and carers.
This, he says, represents “a significant gap in the research”, highlighting a need to closely look into practices focused on “improving quality of life outcomes for people on the autism spectrum in the here and now, and supporting their families and carers, compared to the research into how and why autism occurs”.
Dr Clark’s comments were made at the launch of the new Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) in Sydney yesterday. He outlined Aspect’s long history of leading important autism research, hopeful that the launch of the new research centre will assist in identifying new research opportunities, and translating future findings into programs and services that will actually change the face of autism research, and create a positive impact on the lives of the people Aspect supports.
“As a major service provider, Aspect’s research program helps ensure that our practices, programs and services are truly meeting the needs of people on the autism spectrum – we’re almost uniquely placed in the autism research world to do this, with direct access to the hands-on knowledge of Aspect’s practitioners and lived experience of the individuals who are on the autism spectrum and families who choose Aspect services,” Dr Clark said.
One of the most positive changes in autism research in recent years, in Dr Clark’s opinion, has been the inclusion of people on the autism spectrum working alongside the research team to inform every stage of the research.
“ARCAP is committed to undertaking our research in partnership with individuals on the autism spectrum, their families and carers – this is referred to as ‘research co-production’. We’re very proud that Aspect was recently named one of the first Research Co-production Partners of Australia’s Co-operative Research Centre for Living with Autism,” Dr Clark said.
Co-production will be a core component of ARCAP’s first major project, which will see researchers partnering with Aspect’s autistic and autism communities to seek their input into ARCAP’s future research agenda. This, Dr Clark said, will help researchers to focus their work on how Aspect can provide services and supports that can make the biggest difference for the people on the autism spectrum and their families.
To find out more about Aspect’s research work visit – https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/about-autism/our-research