Dr Jessica Paynter is a clinical psychologist whose research focuses on the development, evaluation and dissemination of evidence-based assessment and interventions for children on the autism spectrum.  She has particular interests in social cognition, academic achievement and parenting. 

Jessica first became interested in this area following peer-mentoring in primary school, where mentoring a peer with an intellectual disability inspired her to study psychology.  

After completing her undergraduate studies in psychology, she spent a year working in a school as a school-inclusion aide with a student on the autism spectrum. She discovered gaps in the research in how to support school-aged students on the spectrum which inspired her to complete her PhD on autism and social cognition.  

Following her PhD, Jessica returned to working in early intervention partnering with Griffith University to work at the AEIOU Foundation as the Research Manager. Her return to academia was inspired to support bridging the gap between research and real-world practice after seeing the need for more applied research that could make real-world impact.

Jessica now works on a range of research projects within GIER and with the Autism Centre of Excellence, a highly respected leader within the global autism and research communities. She is based in the School of Applied Psychology at Gold Coast Campus and teaches clinical psychology at a postgraduate level drawing from real-world clinical experience.  

She has published over 80 articles and book chapters in the area of autism. While engaging in active research, she teaches developmental psychology and assessment across both undergraduate and postgraduate psychology and provides supervision to clinical psychologists in training. Jessica also continues to see clients on the autism spectrum in private practice. 

On her research work, Jessica says, 

“It’s not enough to design interventions that work in university settings that people may not be able to access, afford, or use. We need to co-design solutions that reach the widest audience of people who need them to make a real difference.” 

Jessica is passionate about supporting individuals on the autism spectrum, their families, schools and the community to live their best lives and achieve their goals. To make support accessible to all she is active in the autism community as the Vice President of the Australasian Society for Autism Research, member of the Australian Autism Alliance, and Chair of the Gold Coast Branch of the Australian Psychological Society. Through these roles she has advocated to the government on Medicare items for autism and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

“As well as developing evidence-based assessment and supports, we need to ensure these are funded and accessible to those who need them. I draw from my research to advocate at every opportunity for this right.” 

Jessica is inspired by seeing children learn and grow as a result of receiving evidence-based support, seeing research genuinely improving the lives of those living with autism and related conditions. Her research outcomes are shared though social media, community-based workshops, online coaching modules and knowledge sharing at conferences, schools and workplaces.   

Recently she presented on using a coaching model to support teachers to learn from each other to use more evidence-based practice with students on the Autism Spectrum at the Australian Council for Educational Leaders conference in Brisbane.  

For free access to this coaching model and materials that star a number of GIER members including A/Prof Dawn Adams, Dr Kate Simpson, and A/Prof Marleen Westerveld, register here. 

Read more about Jessica’s fascinating research on Griffith Experts and below.

Development of an Online Training Program for Public Library Staff to Deliver Autism Friendly Story Time Sessions




Brief Report: Preliminary Finding for Using Weight-of-Evidence Graphical Information Sheets with Teachers to Correct Misinformation About Autism Practices