Funding boosts autism research

Posted 2 weeks ago by Nicole Pope

The funding initiative led by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has been allocated for five projects across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales [Source: Shutterstock]
The funding initiative led by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has been allocated for five projects across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales [Source: Shutterstock]

The Government has announced it will filter nearly $4 million into autism research to help improve the diagnosis, treatment and care for those living with the condition.

The funding initiative led by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has been allocated for five projects across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne will receive $571,980 to help fund Professor Anthony Hannan’s research into understanding what causes attention deficits in autism spectrum disorder.

La Trobe University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) is another one of the five organisations who has secured one of the available grants.

The grant will support a new OTARC project titled School-age Outcomes of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Parental Wellbeing: Investigations on the contribution of Method-of-Referral and Age-of-Diagnosis investigating the impact of early diagnosis on cognitive, language and behavioural outcomes of school-aged children.

Director of OTARC Professor Cheryl Dissanayake says there is currently no information on these long term developmental outcomes for children following early diagnosis and development and is looking forward to revealing the findings.

“This new funding boosts our ability to follow-up three unique cohorts of children diagnosed with autism at different ages who have accessed different services and the impact of this on our developmental trajectories over time.”

Professor Dissanayake says there is no information to date on the impact of early diagnosis and intervention on the long-term developmental outcomes of children with autism.

“We hope to close this gap in knowledge to better inform public policy regarding early identification, diagnosis and timely access to services for families with an autistic child.”

Researcher at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology and the Brain and Mind Centre, Dr Michael Bowen will also receive a project grant from the NHMRC to research into oxytocin and social disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder and social anxiety disorder.

“It is an honour to receive this funding and to have this opportunity to work with my colleagues over the coming years to develop new approaches for treating autism,” he says.

Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s (QIMR) Berghofer Medical Research Institute will also receive funding to lead a $1.52 million study into the experience of Australian parents and children living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and ADHD in Australia with the aim of improving future treatments.

“The focus of this study is to look at the relationship between ASD and ADHD and how that affects families and the community in general,” QIMR Berghofer’s Psychiatric Genetics Research group Professor Sarah Medland says.

“We want to know families’ experiences so we can identify genetic and environmental risk factors.

“There’s a big international push to get this done and improve options.”

Minister of Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP says the funding is vital in continuing this groundbreaking research.

“Every breath through brings us closer to an answer to autism, which makes every piece of research that much more important.”

“This funding continues the Government’s strong commitment to supporting the best health and medical research.”

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