Griffith trains autism researchers of tomorrow

The University has launched a new doctoral program to give future autism researchers the skills and experience they need to improve the lives of people on the spectrum.

The Autism Future Researchers Doctoral Training Program is the first of its kind in Australia and was designed with extensive input from industry and the autism community.


Associate Professor Dawn Adams will lead the program, and said more research into autism was needed.

“The more we know, the more we realise we don’t know,” she said.

“The PhD students in our program will be conducting research that helps us fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.”

Doctoral candidates will base their research around a set of challenges identified by the autism community, from education to mental health, social skills and parenting.

HDR candidates will be part of Griffith University’s renowned Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE), which boasts experts in education, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, speech pathology and occupational therapy.

Associate Professor Adams said the program was an ideal training ground for a new generation of researchers keen for their work to make a real difference.

“Candidates who are accepted into this program will not only conduct cutting-edge research, but will develop the skills they need throughout their career,” she said.

“This is really a PhD-plus – it’s about providing inter-disciplinary support, industry experience and research training.”

Empowering people on the spectrum


Kathryn Ambrose is a PhD candidate studying the links between autism and anxiety

Kathryn Ambrose was a special education teacher who decided to embark on a PhD after completing the Graduate Certificate in Autism Studies and a Master of Autism Studies at Griffith University.

She juggles full-time study and runs her own business, providing educational support to children on the spectrum.

“It’s not only great to have the additional qualification, but it has already enhanced the skills I need when working with families.”

Kathryn is researching anxiety in children with autism, and said further study at Griffith University had offered her a chance to improve real-life social outcomes for kids on the spectrum.

“A lot of the existing research looks at autism as a deficit, and it’s very clinically oriented,” she said.

“My work is about finding strategies to help them reach their potential.

“I have stayed with Griffith because I love the philosophy around autism – it’s a strength-based approach that really empowers people on the spectrum.

“My research will help add to the bigger picture and help inform how we support kids and their families.”

For more information on the program, visit the Autism Centre of Excellence website.

/University Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.