Dr Kate Simpson is part of the multi-disciplinary team of researchers in the Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE).  The key focus on this team’s work is collaboration with end users: they work with the community, for the community as they seek to understand how to improve quality of life for people on the autism spectrum.

Kate has a background in occupational therapy and special education. She completed her PhD on factors that increased engagement and learning for minimally verbal autistic children. She has worked extensively in the field, and her research builds upon previous professional experience. Kate specialises in how people on the spectrum engage in various activities including recreation, work and play.

Kate’s particular focus is on meaningful participation, and how sensory factors in the environment impact autistic individuals.

She is also involved in a diverse array of projects. For example, she is part of a cross disciplinary team working with the Queensland Police, that is looking at police behavior and practices with autistic offenders.

Kate says:

“This has involved interviewing both the offenders and the officers about their experiences. This information was used to inform police training to enable them to better support their interactions with autistic people.”

Kate believes it is important to support individuals and their families who are often misunderstood and not supported in society.

Kate explains:

“Society is primarily geared for a neurotypical population. This creates barriers and challenges for those who are neurodiverse. Through the work we do at ACE, we hope to reduce these barriers by exploring ways to create equitable and accessible environments.”

In 2022, Kate was invited to join a panel of experts presenting on Sensory Responsivity in Autism at the International Society for Autism Research conference, Austin, Texas. She presented the first longitudinal study describing sensory profiles in autistic children and adolescence. Also, this year she presented in Norway at the Participation Symposium – Capturing the Magic for All. The focus of this symposium was looking at how to implement participation-focused practices for diverse disability populations.

“To participate in activities involves not just being there but being involved. This is influenced by personal and environmental factors. Often, it’s easier to change the environment than change the person, so what we are looking at is how to change environmental factors to increase participation.”

Recently, Kate was awarded funding from the Autism CRC to lead an international research project looking at quality of life and well-being in autistic individuals with complex support and communication needs. This project involves working with an autistic advisory group and community partners to ensure the research respects and aligns with “nothing about us, without us”.

Kate explained

“This is an exciting preliminary project to identify the essential elements of who and what is missing in research on the quality of life and well-being for this under-represented group.”

She is also the current Program Director for the Postgraduate Program in Autism Studies.

“Our program attracts a diverse range of students. This includes those with lived experience as well as professionals working directly and indirectly with autistic individuals and their families. The focus of the program is on increasing understanding of autism across the lifespan and across the spectrum. This program has had far reaching impact, having been adopted in Singapore. This means knowledge about autism is being translated into different fields, which is fantastic.”

Through her research focus and teaching, Kate is a dedicated to making a meaningful contribution to support individuals and their families to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Read more about Kate’s wealth of research on her Griffith experts’ profile and below:

Exploring the sensory profiles of children on the autism spectrum using the Short Sensory Profile-2 (SSP-2)

Simpson, K., Imms, C., & Keen, D. (2022). The experience of participation: eliciting the views of children on the autism spectrum. Disability and Rehabilitation, 44(9), 1700-1708.