About the Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder
The Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder (CASD) exists as a result of great demand for evidence-based and specialised treatment programs in the Gold Coast autism community. CASD is a multidisciplinary research and education facility dedicated to assisting people on the autism spectrum as well as their families, caregivers, educators and other professionals involved in their support.
Professor Vicki Bitsika is the Director of the Centre and brings with her more than 25 years’ experience in clinical treatment of people with an autism disorder and applied research into issues which affect the daily functioning of those people and their families.
CASD has a commitment to supporting the autism community through dissemination of research findings and provision of professional education initiatives. The Centre has close links with international researchers with strong track records in autism research and best-practice treatment methods.
We proudly support local, State, National and International bodies involved in providing services to people with an autism disorder and increasing awareness of autism in the general community.
The Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorders is focused on applied research to assist in exploring issues relevant to the day-to-day lives of individuals with an autism disorder and their families. This research also focuses on contributing to the professional practice of the educators and mental health practitioners. All the research projects described below aim to aid understanding into some aspect of autism which causes adverse impacts for individuals with an autism disorder and distress to their family members.
The Centre’s research program includes seven lines of investigation and each project relies on collaboration with international researchers and community organisations, as well as support from individuals with an autism disorder and their families.
The Centre has strong partnerships with Education Queensland, Gold Coast Sport and Recreation Inc., Southern Star Community Services, and Autism Gold Coast. By working closely with these organisations, to date, we have been able to involve over 280 Gold Coast children/adolescents and their families in our research.
The Centre's core research areas include:
Observations from both clinicians and caregivers indicate that elevated anxiety appears to be a major antecedent for repetitive and challenging behaviour in children/adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, there are few studies which allow for careful measurement of anxiety in this group of children/adolescents. Understanding the ways in which anxiety occurs for individuals with an autism condition has the potential to help families and professionals identify its causes and decide upon appropriate interventions to address anxiety and its associated learning and behavioural difficulties.
This research aims to lead to development of autism-specific assessments to measure anxiety and intervention guidelines for reduction of this adverse mental state. We are currently seeking girls aged 6 – 18 years who are diagnosed with ASD and are high functioning to participate in the research. All research is conducted in the family’s home and as such participants need to reside in the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers or South Brisbane areas.
The demands of parenting a child on the autism spectrum can often tax the emotional and physical resources of caregivers. Our previous studies into the mental health of these parents suggest they experience greater levels of depression and anxiety than parents of children with other cognitive and behavioural disorders.
This research is an extension of our previous work and focuses on identifying the specific lifestyle changes parents make to accommodate the needs of their child with an autism disorder and exploring the impact of those changes on parent functioning. It is anticipated that this research will assist professionals in the field to understand the experiences of this parent group so that they might be better prepared to support them in dealing with their own barriers to well being and positive mental health.
Being raised with a sibling with an autism disorder can increase children’s likelihood of developing emotional and behavioural challenges as they struggle to find ways of coping with the social responses and atypical behaviours of their brother or sister.
In addition to conducting a more in-depth investigation of children's experiences by speaking directly to them, this research aims to explore the ways in which siblings with an autism disorder might enhance these children's functioning and help them to build resilience.
Current estimates suggest that being bullied by peers has become an increasingly regular occurrence for students with an autism disorder; this finding is especially relevant to high functioning students who attend mainstream schools. In addition to being the victim of bullying, children with an autism disorder are often identified as bullies by their peers leading to the possibility that these children’s atypical social behaviours could be antecedents to some of the bullying episodes they are exposed to.
This research focuses on exploring the ways in which boys and girls with an autism disorder identify when they are being bullied and how they respond to bullying episodes. The information we collect will form the basis for development of interventions to assist students with an autism disorder in building self-protection behaviours to effectively deal with instances of being bullied.
Creating positive change to problem behaviour is highly dependent on understanding the ways in which it helps the individual with an autism disorder to cope with demands in the social environment. Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA) is proving to be a strong basis for understanding the purpose of atypical and challenging behaviour in children with developmental disabilities and, as such, its use is increasing in Australian schools. Despite recent popularity in FBA as a recommended method for remediating behavioural difficulties, there is growing concern from teachers and other educators about the complexity and time commitment associated with applying FBA methods in mainstream classrooms.
This research aims to investigate the FBA frameworks currently in use in mainstream schools and the restrictions which undermine their effective application. The information we collect will assist in development of practical and flexible school-based FBA procedures for students with autism disorder and guidelines for training teachers in the use of these in their classrooms.
Thanking our Participants
We would like to thank individuals and families who are currently registered with us for their invaluable contributions to our research.
CASD in the Community
CASD is committed to engaging in community support and partnership through research, consultation and education.
Our links with local, State, National and International bodies are strong and designed to generate positive and sustainable benefits for individuals with an ASD, their families and the professionals who care for them.
This program brings together international experts and community members through a series of seminars and presentations offered by the Centre at no cost to attendees.
All visiting scholars have outstanding reputations as researchers in ASD and have shared their insights and expertise generously.
In January of 2013, Professor Bitsika travelled to Brisbane to present a seminar that discussed the findings of a 2012 research project which examined methods for assessing anxiety in children and adolescents with ASD. This presentation facilitated wide ranging discussion amongst the 70 plus therapists who attended.
We continue our partnership with Autism Queensland and extend our sincerest thanks for their assistance in promoting the Centre’s various research projects to both parents and professionals across Queensland.
CASD and Bond University hosted the ‘Light It Up Blue’ event for the second time in 2013. This event took place on April 2nd and, in addition to recognising World Autism Awareness day, it allowed university staff and students to offer their support to children with an ASD and their families in a tangible and celebratory manner. We were joined by community groups and service organisations such as Autism Gold Coast, Gold Coast Recreation and Sport, and Education Queensland for this event.