National Conference5 - 6 May 2016,
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Important Dates

10 December 2015
Abstract submission closes
midnight (AEDT)

10 February 2016
Author notification

31 March 2016
Early Bird Registration Deadline

4 May 2016

5 – 6 May 2016
Conference dates

Expression of Interest

Conference app: Scan the QR code or look for Autism16 in the app/play store!

Plenary Speakers

Patrick SchwarzPatrick Schwarz

Dr Patrick Schwarz is a dynamic and engaging professor, author, motivational speaker and leader in Education (Inclusive Education, Special Education, General Education, Educational Leadership) and Human Services. He is a professor at National-Louis University, Chicago. Patrick’s company is Creative Culture Consulting LLC. He is the author of From Disability to Possibility, You’re Welcome (with Paula Kluth), Just Give Him the Whale (with Paula Kluth) and Pedro’s Whale (with Paula Kluth). His new book is From Possibility to Success.

Visit Patrick’s facebook page at:

Presentation: From Possibility to Success: Achieving Successful Student Outcomes


Julie HookJulie Hook

Extensive experience in the education and special education area in classroom, school leadership and state office roles working with state, catholic and independent education sectors, as well as working in teacher education. Currently working with the New Zealand (NZ) Ministry of Education as National Manager Practice, Special Education. Prior to relocating to NZ in 2012 was Director, Positive Partnerships, (Aspect) leading the Australian Government funded initiative for educators and parents, as part of the Helping Children with Autism program.

Presentation: Moving from Fragmentation to Coherence and Collaboration


Emma GoodallEmma Goodall

Dr Emma Goodall is an National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) approved autism consultant and researcher. She is the senior autism advisor for Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in South Australia. Emma is an experienced educator and educational advisor with a passion for helping teachers and families to understand the autism spectrum and help children achieve their potential. Her doctoral research investigated teachers and teaching students on the autism spectrum. She is also on the executive committee for the Australian Society for Autism Research and for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network of Australia and New Zealand/Oceania.

Emma has Aspergers and having lived in 10 countries, she now lives in Adelaide with her partner and their dog. She is also an author/coauthor of three books; one for parents/teachers of children on the autism spectrum, one for adults on the autism spectrum exploring gender, sexuality and relationships and one around mental health and the autism spectrum, as well as coauthoring a tool for assisting in the development of targeted supports for adolescents and adults on the spectrum. Emma also blogs about the autism spectrum. (

Presentation: The Autistic Lens to Enable Autistic Students to Achieve their Potential

Presentation: Developing interoception – a pathway to engagement and achievement?

Jeanette PurkisJeanette Purkis

Jeanette Purkis is passionate about improving the lives of people on the autism spectrum and their families. She is the author of ‘Finding a Different Kind of Normal: Misadventures with Asperger Syndrome’ – an autobiography, and ‘The Wonderful World of Work: A Workbook for Asperteens’- an activity book about employment for teens on the autism spectrum. She has contributed to three other publications. Jeanette has a new book due for release in June 2016, entitled The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum. This book is a collaboration with Dr Emma Goodall and Dr Jane Nugent. Jeanette has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and atypical schizophrenia.

Jeanette has been working full-time for the Australian Public Service since 2007. In between writing books and paid work, Jeanette frequently gives talks about living on the spectrum and mental illness. Jeanette has been speaking to audiences about autism since 2005. She presented at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference 2015, Aspect Autism in Education Conference 2014, TEDx Canberra and a number of other events. She hosts her own internet radio show, facilitates a women’s support group and is an ambassador for a number of autism organisations. Jeanette featured in the documentary Alone in a Crowded Room. Jeanette lives in Canberra with her little black kitty.

Follow Jeanette on twitter at: @jeanettepurkis

Presentation: Autism and Education – Lessons from Personal Experience

Chris VarneyChris Varney

Chris Varney is Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network. I CAN Network is driving a rethink of autism so that young Australians on the spectrum think ‘I CAN’, not ‘I Can’t’, in response to their challenges and opportunities. Chris was inspired to start I CAN from the exemplary support his family and friends provided in helping him channel his Asperger’s.

Chris has a strong background in advocating for children’s rights. With World Vision Chris has held roles including Youth Ambassador, VGen Co-Director and Manager of Youth Supporters. With the Australian Government, Chris served as the 2009 Australian Youth Ambassador to the UN. For his advocacy Chris has received awards including the 2011 Monash University Student Alumni Award, the 2012 National Award for Youth in Advancing the Legal Rights and Interests of Children and Young People, 2012 Future Justice Medal and 2014 Monash Vice-Chancellor Social Inclusion Award.

Presentation: Creating ‘I CAN Schools’: Schools that benefit from embracing Autism

Tim and Judy SharpTim and Judy Sharp

Tim Sharp is an internationally acclaimed 27 year old artist from Brisbane, most famously known for his creation of a superhero called Laser Beak Man. Diagnosed with Autism when he was three years old, the doctor’s advice was to “put him away and forget about him”. After being told that Tim would never speak, drawing was used as a way to help him communicate. At age eleven Tim invented Laser Beak Man and has been drawing his superhero ever since. From the Powerhouse in Brisbane to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, some of the world’s greatest galleries have showcased Tim and his amazing career.

Tim is the first person in the world with autism to have his art turned into an animated television series screening on the ABC and internationally though the Cartoon Network. His story has been told on the ABC’s Australian Story. In 2014 Tim received a standing ovation after giving his TEDx talk to a capacity crowd at the Sydney Opera House. The stage production of Laser Beak Man is currently in development on Broadway. Tim’s story is told in the best selling book “A Double Shot of Happiness” which was released in 2015.

Tim’s is a story that is ultimately moving, inspiring and triumphant.

Presentation: A double shot of happiness


Symposium Speakers

Mariam AljuniedMariam Aljunied

Dr. Mariam Aljunied received her training as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK in 1994. She is the Principal Educational Psychologist in Ministry of Education in Singapore, and is a Chartered Educational Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Dr. Aljunied has made significant contributions to raising the quality of education on a national level for students with special needs in Singapore. Her diverse research work encompasses the development of effective strategies for the assessment and support of students with learning differences, including students with autism and learning disabilities. With over 20 years of extensive experience working with schools in Singapore, Dr Aljunied has been instrumental in providing diagnosis and advice as well as implementing professional development for practitioners and teachers in the area of autism and special needs. She has also contributed to several local and international publications on the subject of learning differences and autism, and has been a long-standing collaborator with Autism Resource Centre (Singapore). In 2009, through her collaborations with ASPECT Australia and Pathlight School (Singapore), Dr Aljunied spearheaded the development of satellite partnerships between mainstream and special schools in Singapore for students with autism. This concept of purposeful and appropriate inclusion has been extended to all special schools in Singapore.

Presentation: Like a Ferrari stuck in a traffic jam – how executive dysfunction affects the transition of students with high-functioning ASD across educational settings

Wendi BeamishWendi Beamish

Dr Wendi Beamish teaches into the Special Education undergraduate and postgraduate programs at the School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University. She is Program Director of the online Master of Special Needs and Intervention Education and the Graduate Certificate in Special Needs Education.

Wendi has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of special education and early childhood intervention. Her research interests focus on teacher practice in the areas of education transitions, early intervention, positive behavioural support, social-emotional competence, and inclusive practice. To date, Wendi has over 50 publications, many in the area of autism.

Presentation: Partnering in a technology-based home intervention: Parent and preservice teacher perspectives

Mark CarterMark Carter

Mark Carter is an associate professor in special education and Director of the Macquarie University Special Education Centre. He has over 25 years of experience in the area of special education and his research interests include educational issues in autism spectrum disorders and evidence-based practice.

Presentation: Models for supporting children with ASD in school settings and predictors of school outcome


Kerry Bissaker

Associate Professor Kerry Bissaker researches in the area of educators’ professional learning paying particular attention to factors that make a difference at the classroom and whole school level. She also works in international settings supporting developing countries in their understanding of ASD and in particular addressing educators’ professional learning needs to more effectively provide quality education for children with ASD.

Presentation: Addressing gaps in ASD professional learning in South Australia: evidenced- informed design & delivery

Lee CasuscelliLee Casuscelli

Lee is currently the National Projects Coordinator for Positive Partnerships and has a deep understanding of educational practices that best support students with autism. Lee is responsible for all programs and initiatives related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. She has been working in the education and disability field for over 30 years across all education sectors and settings K-12. Her many roles have included classroom teacher, itinerant support autism and behaviour, consultant and a variety of executive positions, including Principal. Lee provides a thoughtful, informed approach to programming, implementing evidence-based practices and working with schools, parents and communities to create sustainable change.

Presentation: The Positive Partnerships and First People Disability Network Story

Trevor ClarkTrevor Clark

Trevor Clark is a special educator with a comprehensive experience and knowledge of educational programs and service provision for students with autism as a result of 30 years in the field in New Zealand, England and Australia. He completed his PhD in autism at the UNSW which involved a curriculum designed to make functional use of savant and splinter skills in children with autism. He is currently responsible for the Aspect schools program (8 schools, 117 satellite classes with student enrolment of 1045 students with autism) and is also the senior consultant to the Aspect Research Program. He presents nationally and internationally on education and research in autism. Trevor is the co-author of A Practical Guide for Teachers of Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in Secondary Education and has a new book in press for Routledge UK based on his PhD thesis entitled Exploring Giftedness and Autism – study of a differentiated program for autistic savants.

Presentation: EDUCATING FOR SUCCESS – the identification and inclusion of the ‘twice-exceptional’ student on the spectrum in differentiated educational programs

Lara CheneyLara Cheney

Lara Cheney is Senior Manager, Aspect Educational Development and brings to this role over 15 years experience in the field of autism education. Lara has held a number of roles including; classroom teacher, coordinator, principal and State and National positions with Positive Partnerships. Her current role is focused on the development and implementation of the Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education (ACAE), based upon evidence-informed practice. Lara has completed post graduate studies in educational research and has been involved in a number of Aspect and Positive Partnerships research projects which aim to improve the outcomes of students on the autism spectrum. Lara works across the eight Aspect schools and has been involved in the establishment of the newest Aspect school in South Australia.

Presentation: Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education: Building Evidence Informed Practice

Debra CostleyDebra Costley

Debra is a special educator with almost thirty years of experience in special education teaching and research. Her Ph.D. was a policy analysis and evaluation of the introduction of a national curriculum in England and Wales and the impact of that intervention on children with learning difficulties.

Debra has worked in special schools, further and higher education in the UK, USA, and in Australia. Before joining Aspect she was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick in the UK and has been involved in the management of a range of research projects with a focus on education and employment.

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In her role as National Director, Aspect Practice at Aspect, Debra has responsibility for applied research across Aspect and the development of models of service delivery for young people and adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Aspect is currently supporting sixteen CRC projects across three programs from early identification to transition to adulthood. Debra is also a conjoint Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.

Presentation: Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education: Building Evidence Informed Practice

Cheryl DissanayakeCheryl Dissanayake

Professor Dissanayake is the Founding Director of Australia’s first research centre dedicated to ASDs established in 2008. She has been an autism researcher since 1984, when she began her PhD at Monash University. On completion she undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the Sigman lab at UCLA, and has established and led an active research program since joining La Trobe University in 1996. In addition to her scholarly activities, with numerous grants and publications, Prof. Dissanayake was instrumental in bringing together Victorian and Australian autism researchers, having co-founded the Autism Victoria ASD Research Group (in 2003), the Australasian Autism Research Alliance (in 2005), the Australasian Autism Research Collaboration (in 2009) and the Australasian Society for Autism Research (2011), a member based society of which she is vice-President. She is also a Project Leader in the Autism Cooperative Research Centre.

Presentation: How best to facilitate educational transitions for children with autism? Earlier is better to smooth the journey

Erica DixonErica Dixon

Erica Dixon is a Senior Policy Officer within the Victorian Department of Education and Training. Erica has responsibility for Statewide policy, advice and program management for children and young people with a disability. Erica is also project leader for the Department’s work around inclusive schooling resources and support. Her portfolio encompasses policy and planning for future initiatives to support teachers and schools to work more effectively with children and young people with disability, including ASD. Erica provides leadership and management related to ASD – extending current provisions, programs and resources (birth-18 years). Erica has worked as an Allied Health professional in clinical and consultative roles at a clinic, school, network and regional level. Erica worked for several years as part of a multi-disciplinary ASD diagnostic team, and served a two year term as a member of the editorial committee of the Journal of Clinical Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (previously published as ACQuiring knowledge in speech, language and hearing [ACQ]). Erica’s education includes a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) from RMIT University and a Master of Speech Pathology from Latrobe University and a Master of Business Administration (Executive) from RMIT University.

Presentation: Building the culture and the practice of Inclusive Schooling in Victorian government schools – a project

Libby MacdonaldLibby Macdonald

Libby Macdonald is a PhD scholar with the Autism CRC and Griffith University. Her research is investigating the use of structured teaching strategies to facilitate the inclusion of students with autism in mainstream educational settings. Libby comes from a background of study in English literature and education, and has previously had roles as both a primary school teacher and a counsellor facilitating peer to peer support for parents of children with disabilities. She is also a parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

Presentation: Researching strategies to help students on the autism spectrum stay on-task and transition between tasks in mainstream settings

Sue PackerSue Packer

I have been a paediatrician since 1972 and have worked as a Community Paediatrician with a special interest in child abuse and abuse prevention since 1990. I have worked in the ACT Health funded Child At Risk Health Unit in ACT over this time. Since my retirement in December 2011, I continue part time work at CARHU, where I follow up a number of children I have been seeing for years, as well as providing back-up for the regular team of doctors when needed and continuing my teaching and mentoring roles. In 2015 I was appointed to the Expert Panel to review policy and practice in all ACT schools in regard to students with complex needs and challenging behaviour, and we submitted the report “Schools FOR ALL children and young people” to the ACT Minister for Education in November 2015. I am a member of the ACT Child Death Review Committee. I am also a member of the ACT Domestic Violence Prevention Committee. I am currently Vice-President on the NAPCAN (National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) National Board. I am also a number of child-related Community Boards, which all help to inform my contemporary knowledge of children. Other commitments are the steering committee of the ACT Family Law Pathways Network and the ARACY. (Australian Research Alliance of Children and Youth) Early Years Chapter. I also chair the Community Expert Reference Group of the ACT Asbestos Taskforce currently. In 1999 I was awarded an Order of Australia for services to Paediatrics, Child Protection and the Community. In 2013, the Canberra Centenary, I was ACT Citizen of the Year.

Presentation: Students with autism in ACT schools- the implications of the recent report from the expert panel on students with complex needs and challenging behaviour

Jacqueline RobertsJacqueline Roberts

In 2011 Jacqui was appointed to the new chair of Autism in the Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE) at Griffith University. Jacqui’s background in autism stretches back over 30 years. She has worked in Aspect schools for children on the autism spectrum as a teacher, speech pathologist, principal and Director of Services. Prior to her appointment at Griffith Jacqui worked as a consultant and held several short-term fractional research appointments at different universities teaching autism studies and leading/managing research projects including a fractional appointment as Associate Professor at the University of Canberra responsible for content in the Australian Autism Education and Training Consortium (AAETC) Positive Partnerships program.

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In 2006 Jacqui completed (with Professor Margot Prior) a review of interventions for children on the autism spectrum and their families for the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging. This was updated in (2011) and again in 2015 for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Jacqui is a director of the Australian Advisory Board on autism providing input to the board on a national autism research agenda, and received the Asia Pacific Autism Conference (APAC) award for outstanding service to the autism community.

In her current position as the director of the Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE) at Griffith University Jacqui is responsible for developing the research agenda focusing on research that will enhance outcomes for individuals on the spectrum. ACE is an essential partner in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Living with Autism, granted $31.4 million in Federal funding in February 2013. The ACE also offers an extensive multidisciplinary postgraduate study program in autism comprising a graduate certificate, masters and doctoral program in autism studies. For information about ACE courses and research contact

In 2015 Jacqui co-authored a book for parents Understanding Autism. The Essential Guide for Parents with Professor Katrina Williams.

Presentation: Autism and Education: What is happening in our schools?

Suzanne CarringtonSuzanne Carrington

Suzanne Carrington is a Professor and Head of the School of Cultural and Professional Learning, Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and has published in national and international journals in the areas of education for students who have disabilities, inclusive culture, policy and practice, and teaching/professional development for inclusive education. Her publications are available,_Suzanne.html She leads a number of research and consultancy programs in schools to develop a more inclusive approach to education for children who have disabilities. She is the Program Director of Program 2: Enhancing Learning and Teaching for the Autism CRC

Presentation: Autism CRC Australian Educational Needs Analysis – ASD-ENA

Damian SantomauroDamian Santomauro

Damian Santomauro was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of five. Now at the age of 26 he is completing his PhD, researching emotion regulation in adolescents and young adults on the spectrum. He has also co-written and presented various resources and talks, and has just recently published the first pilot randomised controlled trial of a depression intervention for adolescents on the autism spectrum. Damian lives in Brisbane, Queensland, and works as a researcher for the University of Queensland.

Presentation: Depression in Adolescents with ASD


Ian ShochetIan Shochet

Ian Shochet is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Queensland University of Technology. He has an international reputation in resilience research, developing nationally and internationally recognised interventions that promote resilience. The multifaceted teenage resilience program developed by Shochet, the Resourceful Adolescent Program (RAP), is endorsed by the Commonwealth Government as an evidence-based intervention for the prevention of adolescent depression. It has been implemented in 17 countries, and thousands have been trained to run the program nationally and abroad. He has also done pioneering prospective research on interpersonal predictors of mental health problems with a particular focus on the role of school connectedness and belonging. He is currently a co-leader on a project supported by Autism CRC to promote resilience and school connectedness for young adolescents living with autism.

Presentation: School Connectedness: Why is it important and how can we promote it for adolescents with ASD?

Ian ShochetWenn Lawson

Psychologist, lecturer and author, Dr. Wenn has run his own business for 20 yrs. At age 2yrs, he was misdiagnosed as being intellectually disabled and at school of being incapable of doing as he was told. At 17yrs he was again misdiagnosed, but with schizophrenia, and spent the following 25yrs. in and out of Mental Health Institutions; eventually age 42yrs, being diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition, with ADHD and learning difficulties.

Being on the autism spectrum, Dr. Wenn is passionate about the rights of those who so often cannot speak for themselves. Dr. Wenn is the parent of four children (youngest son on the autism spectrum), and grand-parent to three, (including two gorgeous little girls, both on the autism spectrum) and knows the value of Family.

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Dr. Wenn is currently a Teaching Fellow with Birmingham University, UK, and a sessional lecturer at other universities around the globe. He resides on several boards (including the local College) and The Autism Journal Open Access and is a member and advisor to researchers with the CRC in Australia. He has written numerous books (and Papers) on the topic of autism spectrum conditions (ASC) (e.g., Jessica Kingsley Pubs. Guildford Publishers and Routledge, amongst others) in a variety of guises. ‘’Today’s technology is helping us connect to the world we all share in ways once beyond us”.

Dr. Wenn has presented as KeyNote speaker at The first World Autism Congress in Melbourne; as KeyNote speaker to the Australian & Pacific International Autism Conference (APAC) and at numerous conferences around the world over many years. He has facilitated workshops as co-presenter with Prof. Temple Grandin and Dr. Tony Attwood on several occasions. His life and work have been the subject of several television shows such as ‘The Seven Thirty Report’ and have been featured on the Life Style Channel and the ABC in Australia.

Recognised in the Southern and Northern hemisphere by Governments and individual’s alike for his quality and practical research, Dr. Wenn has received a number of awards, such as the Australian and Pacific Autism Award; The Naturally Autistic Community Award; Australian of the year (fourth in the State); The Author of the year and Most Esteemed Speaker, are among these. Dr. Wenn’s seminars are research based, yes, but they are also practical, down to earth and applicable to all individuals, parents, professionals and others wanting to understand ASC and make a difference.

Presentation: Gender and Sexuality in Autism

Anne OzdowskaAnne Ozdowska

Anne Ozdowska studied IT at the University of Queensland, and after graduating in 2003 she went overseas and worked in IT in a large security company. Anne moved back to Australia with her husband and children in 2009 so that her children could go to school in Australia. In 2013 however, shortly after starting prep her second son was diagnosed with autism. After receiving his diagnosis Anne started to notice areas in education that could be improved to more inclusively support students on the autism spectrum. She decided that the most effective way to contribute to this area would be through research. Anne was successful in applying for an Autism CRC scholarship and started a PhD in 2014. The topic of her research is ‘overcoming the difficulties with written expression for students on the autism spectrum’.

Presentation: Overcoming difficulties with written expression

Follow Anne on twitter @anneozdowska

Michelle WongMichelle Wong

Dr Michelle Wong is a Senior Clinical Psychologist at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia who specialises in assessment, treatment, clinical research and teaching in the area of children with Autism and Intellectual Disability. Since its beginnings in 2004, Dr Wong has been project lead and author of Emotion-based Social Skills Training which has programs for children, parents, educators and therapists and aims to promote cultures of emotional learning and collaboration between all who support the person with Autism and prevent the onset of mental illness. Dr Wong completed her PhD and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Sydney where she is an Honorary Associate.

Presentation: Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders through Education, Disability and Health Partnerships

Follow Michelle on twitter at @michegracewong

Yuebo-FanDr. Yuebo Fan

Senior pediatrician, guest professor of a couple of universities, founder and Principal of Guangzhou Cana School (Guangzhou Rehabilitation & Research Center for Children with ASD), which is the 1st public special education school for children with autism in China mainland. Her research is focused on neuropsychological mechanism, diagnosis & evaluation, rehabilitation & education of ASD, operation and management of autism rehabilitation & education programs, and personnel development in related fields. She services as the vice Chair of Association of Services for People with Autism affiliated to China Association of People with Mental Illness and their Families and Relatives (CAPPDR), the vice Chair of Guangdong Rehabilitation & Education Association of Autism (GREAA, and the Director of Guangzhou Counseling & Support Center for Inclusive Education. She has published more than 30 papers nationally and internationally, 15 of which were accepted in SCI/SSCI, 2 autism guidebooks, 1 translated book; and has led 12 autism research programs.

Presentation: Reflection and prospective of Cana.