March 29, 2022
UOW webinar to explore empowering autistic and neurodivergent communities
Inclusive communities possible through research, advocacy and partnership
Ahead of World Autism Day (April 2) the University of Wollongong (UOW) will host an online webinar highlighting how community-engaged research, advocacy and partnerships empower autistic and neurodivergent communities and can help lead to wider societal change.
The one-hour “Empowering autistic and neurodivergent communities through research and practice” webinar will take place on Thursday 31 March 2022 at 12.30 pm AEDT via Zoom.
There were 205,200 Australians with autism in 2018, a 25 per cent increase from the 164,000 with the condition in 2015. About 15-20 per cent of the global population are neurodiverse. Neurodiversity covers a range of conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, and Tourette syndrome.
While neurodivergence may present substantial challenges for those affected, their families and friends, it can also have many benefits, including offering a broad range of thinking styles and perspectives, provided there is inclusiveness.
Researchers at UOW believe working collaboratively and engaging with autism and neurodivergent communities to support the achievement and self-determination of individuals is key to improving the lives of all Australians on the autism spectrum and their families.
Dr Amanda Webster, an Associate Professor in Autism and Inclusive Education in the School of Education and Academic Program Director Master of Autism, is one of Australia's leading experts in autism and inclusive education.
“Today a lot of research is being done focused on autism and autism practice, but we need to change the dynamic, to work with autistic and neurodiverse people on the things that they feel are the most important to making a difference in their lives. To gather their perceptions of the issues in order to create change that is meaningful to them,” Dr Webster said.
“I focus a lot on what is needed to give autistic and neurodivergent people the information, skills and support they need to build their knowledge and maximise their skills in different environments to achieve their goals.”
The frontline of autism research takes a whole-of-life approach, from early years, through school years and into adulthood and its success largely hinges on inclusive practises. Dr Webster aims to merge teaching and research for sustainable impact.
“It is important that we engage with community partners and community agencies who are committed to ensuring that our society is inclusive to people with all kinds of perspectives including those with neurodivergent thinking and autistic individuals,” Dr Webster said.
During the webinar the panel of experts in autism research and practice, Associate Professor Amanda Webster (UOW), Elizabeth Alyward (UOW) and Professor Sandra Jones (Australian Catholic University), will discuss how working collaboratively with autistic individuals is an essential part of creating research and teaching initiatives that will lead to societal change and impact that makes a difference in the lives of autistic children, adults and families.
The webinar will explore the services, supports and needs of autistic people of all ages in Australia and how by creating inclusive, supportive environments, we can enable people on the spectrum to build their skills and ultimately empower them.
- Dr Amanda Webster, Associate Professor, Autism and Inclusive Education, School of Education, and Academic Program Director Master of Autism, University of Wollongong. Her research and teaching are focused on creating inclusive learning communities to support the achievement and self-determination of individuals on the autism spectrum.
- Elizabeth Alyward, Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Programs Manager and Certified ESDM Trainer at Early Start, University of Wollongong. She is dedicated to educating and supporting children, families and professionals in developing socially inclusive early childhood settings.
- Professor Sandra Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Impact), Australian Catholic University. She leads the Autism at ACU research program and received the 2021 Autism CRC Award for Translation of Autism Research for her project, Raising Awareness of the Needs of Autistic Australians.
“Empowering autistic and neurodivergent communities through research and practice” will be delivered via Zoom, on Thursday 31 March at 12.30 pm AEDT.
*Data from Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018