GIER researchers are part of a team to have been awarded a significant grant for their landmark study funded through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) 

The team, led by Associate Professor Dawn Adams (GIER, Griffith), from the Autism Centre for Excellence, will be looking at early intervention for autistic children, with a focus on quality of life and wellbeing. To date, early interventions in autism have tended to focus on teaching skills or reducing impairments. None have ever focused on improving their quality of life (QoL). 

Associate Professor Adams says:  

“This landmark study was driven by community priorities and was co-developed with the community.” 

Photo Credit: Marvel Mozhko

Associate Professor Adams says:  

“Right from the start, we’ve been able to work alongside the autistic and autism community on this project. We had the privilege to incorporate feedback from our community partners throughout the grant writing process. They raised various factors that we, as researchers, might not have thought about. Our community partners wanted to ensure from the outset that the grant would have a direct community application.  

It is about making sure it’s what the community wants; for grants to deliver and create change that is meaningful. Co-creating the grant was an interesting process of collaborating and creating something that everyone could see the value of, but could also see their unique part in.” 

Aligning with the mission of the MRFF, the CI/AI team will partner with community and service providers across all three stages of this research (i) a qualitative interview study with autistic adolescents, autistic adults and parents of autistic children to identify the factors that impact an autistic child’s QoL (ii)  co-developing of an evidence-informed intervention to improve QoL in young autistic children (iii) testing the acceptability and feasibility study of the new intervention when it is co-facilitated by a therapist alongside either an autistic adult or a parent of an autistic child.  

As lead researcher, Associate Professor Adams says the focus of community input in this grant enables the researchers with an opportunity to listen and genuinely incorporate feedback from all of those involved.  

“I had no set ideas around what the grant was going to look like. We prioritisited community priorities, consultation and connection above all else and this formed a large part of our thinking process. It has been a big process, incorporating discussions with a variety of individuals and bringing all of these different voices and elements together for a common aim.”  

The exploration of this novel intervention with a novel mode of co-delivery will have immediate impact, informing new and innovative ways for our partner organisations to support their autistic clients and families. 

Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon

Associate Professor Adams says:  

“We are all incredibly excited to start, and this is a great collaboration between researchers at multiple universities. To know we have the funding, time and commitment to make this happen is a really important opportunity. We feel this will take us a step forward into something that makes a real-world difference.”  

With an early career researcher and multiple clinician-researchers on the CI team, the project will not only build research capacity in the healthcare and service settings, but also enhance the translational research skills of the next generation of academic researchers, both key priorities of the MRFF. 

The team 


Associate Professor Dawn Adams  


Professor Elizabeth Pellicano (Macquarie, UCL London), Associate Professor David Trembath, Dr Kathryn Simpson (Griffith, GIER), Dr Jac den Houting (Macquarie), Dr Jessica Paynter (Griffith, GIER), Associate Professor Marleen Westerveld, Associate Professor Martin Downes  


Associate Professor Honey Heussler (Children’s Health Queensland) 


Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service

Reframing Autism

Giant Steps