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Researchers present at world’s largest Autism conference

More than 2300 participants from over 50 different countries attended the 16th Annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) held from 10 to 13 May in San Francisco, California.

Dr Ben Milbourn, Melissa Scott, Derserri Chee, Julia Tang and Melissa Black.
Dr Ben Milbourn, Melissa Scott, Derserri Chee, Julia Tang and Melissa Black.

IMFAR is the world’s largest Autism conference, bringing together researchers from various disciplines. The extensive conference program focused on key topics including brain structures, early intervention, community-based screening, services, families, developmental processes, cognition, social communication, employment, gene discovery and mental and physical health.

Nine members from the Curtin Autism Research Group – Melissa Black, Derserri Chee, Belinda Cuomo, Associate Professor Sonya Girdler, Yi Huey Lim, Dr Ben Milbourn, Julia Tang, Craig Thompson and Melissa Scott – attended and presented at the IMFAR conference this year. Overall, the Curtin Autism Research Group had two oral and 12 poster presentations accepted at the conference.

There was a greater focus on incorporating individuals on the autism spectrum in the planning and conducting of research, which aligns tightly with the goals of the School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, and the Curtin Autism Research Group.

IMFAR was a time to connect with other researchers, exchange knowledge and discover new perspectives. The team had an enjoyable time at the conference and came back feeling inspired by the vast body of research in the autism area.

Professor Sonya Girdler and Dr Ben Milbourn on a very windy Golden Gate Bridge.
Professor Sonya Girdler and Dr Ben Milbourn on a very windy Golden Gate Bridge.

During the opening session it was announced that the CARG group, in partnership with the Karolinska Institute for Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and the Autism Science Foundation, had been successful in winning an internationally competitive grant to develop a policy brief on a topic of importance to the quality of life of people living with autism – employment.

This grant has provided an exciting opportunity for CARG to lead the Australian component of this research, developing an international policy brief on issues relating to employment for people with autism.  In Australia this research project is being undertaken in partnership with the Autism Association of Western Australia.

As part of informing this policy brief CARG is undertaking a national survey, a scoping review and has held three community forums at AAWA, attended by people with autism and their families and employment services provides. CARG is looking forward to presenting their research findings at a meeting in New York in October.

Adjunct Professor Sven Bölte from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.
Adjunct Professor Sven Bölte from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

In related news, in June, CARG was excited to welcome our Adjunct Professor Sven Bölte from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute for Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (KIND).

During his visit Sven presented an information session for clinicians on the research he has led in developing the new WHO ICF-CY core sets for Autism.  This event was held jointly between the Autism Association of Western Australia and the Curtin Autism Research Group and was attended by over 100 clinicians.  This was a great opportunity to hear about world leading research being undertaken in partnership with the World Health Organization.

The core sets for Autism will influence our understanding and assessment of functioning in autism for many years to come.  Thank you Sven for sharing your amazing research with Western Australia.

During his visit Sven and two other clinicians from Sweden, Anna Fridell and Steve Berggren, led a three day training workshop with 30 therapists from the Autism Association of Western Australia. The workshop trained therapists in a world leading Social Skills Group Training Intervention, KONTAKT, which will be evaluated in the coming years in a joint project between CARG and AAWA.  This research has been made possible by a generous grant from the Stan Perron Charitable Trust. We are looking forward to the pilot study which will begin in late July 2017.