An autism expert who guided the development of a revolutionary Gold Coast school for children with the condition has received Bond University’s top award for research excellence.
Professor Vicki Bitsika was presented with the honour during a gala dinner at Bond recently to celebrate the university’s annual Research Week.
Professor Bitsika is the Director of Bond’s Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder and recently returned from New Caledonia where she is helping to develop services for people with autism in the French territory.
On the Gold Coast she is known for her work with Josiah College, a specially-designed autism-specific school at Emmanuel College that opened earlier this year.
“I'm still a little bit in awe of receiving the award,” Professor Bitsika said. “If someone approached me and said there had been a mistake I'd believe them!”
Prof Bitsika said her next challenge would be improving services for autistic children in New Caledonia.
“Our role is to look at the shell of a support service that they have and train the staff and to put in programs for the children,” she said.
“We are aiming to make one school best-of-practice then to roll out autism services across New Caledonia.”
Prof Bitsika said her research was practical and designed to be translated into people’s daily lives.
“Part of our mission is to work on issues that children are facing now,” she said. “So we're interested in bettering their lives and helping them reach their potential.
Bond University Vice Chancellor and President Tim Brailsford congratulated Professor Bitsika.
“What impresses me about Vicki's research record is both in its reach and impact,” Professor Brailsford said.
“Her work on autism disorders has had a profound impact on many lives, especially young children.
“This award is due recognition for Vicki's many years of hard work, creative thinking and her determination to improve people's lives and well-being.”
The Research Supervision Award went to Professor Jeffrey Brand of Bond’s Faculty of Society and Design, while Jaimon Kelly of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine received the Early Career Research Award.