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Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder first presentation draws record crowd

With more than 400 people in attendance, the inaugural community presentation hosted by the new Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD) was the largest of its kind ever held at Bond University.

An almost capacity crowd packed the Cerum Theatre on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 with the audience including medical and health professionals, educators, community service workers and the mothers, fathers and family members whose lives have been touched by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

They were joined by official guests including the Queensland Shadow Minister for Health, Mr Mark McArdle, State Opposition Health Advisor Mr Duncan Maclaine, State Opposition Disability Servicers Advisor, Mr Tim Barnett, and Liberal Federal Candidate for McPherson, Ms Karen Andrews, and representatives from Queensland Police, Education Queensland and NSW Education.

Following a welcome from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean, Professor Raoul Mortley and an introduction to the Centre’s research and aims by Centre Director, Associate Professor of Behaviour Management, Counselling and Psychology Dr Vicki Bitsika, the star attraction was undoubtedly keynote speaker, Dr Wendy Lawson.

A recent PhD (Psychology) graduate, author, poet and adult educator, Wendy was finally diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 42, having been labelled intellectually disabled as a child and subsequently spending 25 years of her life in and out of mental health institutions.

Telling the story of her life journey through the perspective of ASD, she captivated the audience with her open honest approach and self-deprecating humour.

Parents and family members dealing with the day-to-day challenges of ASD were inspired by all that Wendy has achieved, while academics and those working in the field benefitted immeasurably from her first-person insight.

Wendy’s personal and academic accomplishments supported her key contention that ASD should not be part of the mental health system [and] that it should be in its own category of “diff-abilities”.

“In Autism Spectrum, our brains have a different default setting. We will grow up – it just takes us a little longer,” said Dr Lawson.

“Having our particular learning style understood and accommodated will go a long way to helping us build a positive self image and create the confidence for a life worth living.

“It only takes one person to believe in you – to walk with you in your dreaming – to make a difference in your life.

“It’s pretty scary to think that I could have been closed off forever if certain people hadn’t taken risks with me or had given up on me completely.”

The Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorders will operate as a specialised facility for the treatment and management of ASD, as well as a focus for multidisciplinary research into Autism from birth through to adulthood. Dr Bitsika also hopes that the Centre will eventually run training courses for childcare workers, teachers and carers.

For more information, contact Dr Vicki Bitsika at [email protected]

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