Achieving Best Outcomes for Children with Autism: What Will Work for Whom?

Seed Funding Project Lead Investigator

Professor Valsamma Eapen School of Psychiatry, UNSW Medicine.

Research Team

Dr Anne Masi School of Psychiatry; Dr Kylie-Anne Mallitt Centre for Big Data Research in Health and Professor Ilan Katz from the Social Policy Research Centre. 

Project Background

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability, impacting social interaction and communication skills. One of the greatest barriers to improving the life outcomes of children with autism is for scientists to uncover “what early intervention works for whom and why”, so that children with ASD can receive the most appropriate intervention in a timely manner and at a level of intensity needed to help them realise their full potential. In 2009, the Australian Department of Social Services (DSS) funded six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCC) to provide evidence based early intervention and long day care specifically to children with ASD. The six Centres use different early intervention models and strategies and collect the same clinical assessments and outcome measures for the child receiving early intervention (at entry, regular intervals during the intervention and at exit). The Child and Family Outcomes Study data, which is the largest dataset of children receiving early intervention internationally, containing data for over 1300 children with ASD, has not been analysed in an aggregated form.

Project Aim

The aim of this research project is to pool and prepare the data from the Child and Family Outcomes Study dataset and undertake preliminary analysis. Based on the emerging findings the research team will work with families with a child receiving ASELCC services in NSW (KU Children’s Services in Western Sydney) and with policy makers and service providers on the co-design of a future much larger data linkage study.

Interdisciplinary research collaboration and partnership building

The research will be conducted by an interdisciplinary research team of experienced and early career researchers, at UNSW Sydney to undertake preliminary analysis of a unique autism early intervention dataset – the Child and Family Outcomes Study. Based on families’ input the research team will hold a Co-design Workshop suitable for families, service providers and policy makers to create the process and content of a proposal for analysis and data linkage study to be funded by ARC/NHMRC.


Email: Associate Professor Valsamma Eapen Lead Investigator

Achieving best outcomes for Children with Autism