Executive Committee

Associate Professor Mark Stokes
President ASfAR
Deakin University School of Psychology

Mark has been involved in research around Autism since 1992; obtaining his PhD from La Trobe University in 1996.  Following completion of his PhD, Mark undertook a postdoctoral position at Monash University, followed by appointment to Vanderbilt University, then again at Monash University.  In 2002 Mark was appointed to Deakin University where he developed research programs into autism, sexuality, and relationship development; the female profile of autism; and mirror neurons in autism.  Mark has published over 60 peer reviewed publications, 8 book chapters, and numerous reports to government, more than 100 conference presentations, has raised $3M in grants and contracts, and supervised 20 doctoral and PhD completions.  Mark has a history of involvement in initiatives to promote research into autism, including the Autism Victoria’s ASD research group, the Australasian Autism Research Collaboration, and in the inception of the Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR). Mark has also been active child injury prevention as a board member and former President of Kidsafe.

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake
Vice President ASfAR
Director Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University
BSc Hons, PhD Monash.

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 a preeminent autism 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) and the Australasian Autism Research Collaboration (in 2009) and the Australasian Society for Autism Research (2011), a member based society of which she is co-Chair. She is also a Project Leader in the Autism Cooperative Research Centre.

Dr David Trembath
Secretary & Treasurer ASfAR
Speech Pathologist
Senior Lecturer, NHMRC ECR Fellow Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University

Dr David Trembath is a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist, Senior Lecturer, and National Health and Medical Research Council ECR Fellow based at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University. His research is focused on the development and evaluation of evidence-based treatments for children, adolescents, and adults with autism and other lifelong developmental disabilities.

Dr Trevor Clark
Executive Committee Member & Past President ASfAR
National Director, Aspect Education, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)
Adjunct Associate Professor, Griffith Institute for Educational Research
Griffith University           

Trevor Clark is a special educator with a comprehensive experience and knowledge of educational programs and service provision for students with autism spectrum disorders as a result of 30 years in the field in New Zealand, England and Australia.  He completed his PhD in autism 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 Research Program.  He presents nationally and internationally on education and research in ASDs and has published widely in the field of education and autism.  Trevor is the co-author of A Practical Guide for Teachers of Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in Secondary Education and is currently writing a book for Routledge UK based on his PhD thesis entitled Exploring Giftedness and Autism – study of a differentiated program for autistic savants.

Professor Jacqueline Roberts
Executive Committee Member
Director of the Autism Centre of Excellence, Griffith University

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 with autism as a teacher, speech pathologist, Principal and senior manager. In 2006 Jacqui completed (with Professor Margot Prior) a review of interventions for children with autism and their families for the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging. Jacqui is a director of the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders providing input to the board on a national autism research agenda, and served on the DEEWR Students with Disability in Schools Advisory Council from 2010 – 2013. In 2009 Jacqui was the national speaker for Speech Pathology Australia.  In 2013 Jacqui 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 with ASD.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse
Executive Committee Member
Telethon Kids Institute
University of Western Australia

Professor Andrew Whitehouse directs a team of 20 researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute (University of Western Australia), who investigate the genetic and neurodevelopmental causes of autism, and conducts clinical intervention trials into toddlers with autism. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, has been awarded competitive research funds from national and international funding bodies exceeding $30 million, and he is currently funded by a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship.

Dr. Iliana Magiati
Executive Committee Member
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore

Dr. Iliana Magiati is a chartered clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore. She completed her doctoral training in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP) in London and her Ph.D. at St George’s Hospital Medical School on early interventions for children with ASD. She worked as a research Psychologist in academic & research settings with Prof. Howlin and Prof. Charman (IOP, UK) and as a clinical psychologist within multidisciplinary child development & community child psychology teams in the UK National Health Service before moving to Singapore. Her research and clinical interests include: mental health and comorbid psychopathology in ASD, with an emphasis on investigating the phenomenology, assessment of and factors associated with anxiety in young people with ASD; screening and diagnosis of ASD in Asian settings; autistic traits and their relationship with emotional and behavioural problems in unselected samples; and early intervention and adult outcomes in ASD. She is the research co-ordinator for the postgraduate clinical psychology programmes at NUS. She is a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and an independent ADOS trainer.

Dr Emma Goodall
Executive Committee Member
Lecturer Flinders University (Disability and Social Inclusion)

Dr Emma Goodall is an NDIS approved autism consultant, a lecturer at Flinders University (disability and social inclusion) and UniSA (Masters into teaching program) and is researching the effectiveness of a self-help tool for adults on the autism spectrum to manage their anxiety. 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 the chair of the board at STAR inc and on the committee 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 and blogger around the autism spectrum.

Associate Professor Sonya Girdler
Executive Committee Member
Director, Curtin Autism Research Group
Associate Professor, School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University, Western Australia.

Sonya Girdler is an Occupational Therapist with many years’ experience as a clinician and researcher in neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.  She is Director of the Curtin Autism Research Group, a collaborative group of over 100 clinicians, academics, lay-persons, students and people living with autism, undertaking autism research.  Her research interests in autism include transition from school, employment, social skills training, emotion recognition, therapeutic play groups, strengths based approaches and the International Classification of Functioning.  In addition to supervising PhD students, publishing broadly in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities and leading projects, Sonya is a project leader with the Cooperative Research Centre ‘Living with Autism’.

Dr Jessica Paynter
Executive Committee Member
Lecturer, School of Applied Psychology at Griffith University, Gold Coast

Dr Jessica Paynter, PhD (Clinical Psychology), MAPS is a Lecturer in the School of Applied Psychology at Griffith University, Gold Coast, and is a registered psychologist in Australia.  She has worked with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families in early intervention programs and schools since 2002 across both research and clinical practice. Jessica’s research focuses on the development, evaluation, and dissemination of evidence-based practices for children with ASD with a focus community-based interventions.

Associate Professor Alison Lane
Ordinary Committee Member ASfAR
School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health & Medicine, The University of Newcastle

Associate Professor Alison Lane studies sensory features in Autism Spectrum Disorder. The focus of her work to date has been to identify sensory subtypes in Autism. Her studies show that sensory features in Autism vary on the basis of parent reports of the frequency of the behaviours and the sensory modalities affected. Further, these subtypes relate to distinct neural profiles and patterns of challenging behaviours. Her current work seeks to validate the use of sensory features as a method of classifying individuals with Autism into clinically meaningful phenotypes. To this end, she is involved in studies examining neurophysiological variation in sensory subtypes (e.g. using event-related potentials, heart rate and electrodermal responsivity) and the potential of sensory features to improve sensitivity and specificity of early Autism screening tools. A/Professor Lane is an occupational therapist with over 20 years experience in paediatric clinical practice, health service management, research and teaching. She is currently the Program Convenor for occupational therapy at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Dr Josie Barbaro
Executive Committee Member
Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University

Dr Josephine Barbaro is a Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University. Through her PhD, Josephine pioneered an early detection method for Autism known as the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS). The SACS is the most successful tool for the very early detection of Autism in the world, identifying children with autism aged 12 to 24 months with an accuracy of 81%. The SACS has been incorporated into Australia’s Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), and is used amongst healthcare professionals across Australia, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific. The SACS program has led to ASDetect – the world’s first, empirically-based, Autism surveillance app for infants and toddlers, winning Research and Development Project of the Year at the State and National iAwards, and was one of ten finalist for the Google Impact Challenge 2016. Josephine is a Sir Robert Menzies Scholar and immediate-past president of the Menzies Memorial Scholars Association. She has published extensively in early autism, and has won a number of awards for her work, including the International Society for Autism Research Best Clinical Dissertation Award, and Best Translation of Autism Research by the Autism CRC in 2015 and 2016.

Anya Shindler
Student Representative – Executive Committee
PhD Candidate (Microbiology), La Trobe University, Victoria

Anya Shindler is a microbiologist with experience in identifying and assessing the genetics linked to autism spectrum disorder.  She is currently preparing to start her third year of her PhD at La Trobe University.  Her research focuses on developing a genetics based tool to accurately diagnose and aid in the treatment of gastrointestinal dysfunction in people with autism.  Anya has presented her research at multiple autism and genetics conferences.  She is also an advocate for the use of visual and social media to aid in connecting with fellow researchers and promoting autism research through the use of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Caitlin Macmillan
Executive Assistant ASfAR
PhD Candidate

Caitlin is a PhD student at Macquarie University and a graduate with Honours (First) in Psychology from Deakin University and is currently working as a researcher in Psychology at Deakin, and in Melbourne University’s department of Adolescent Health researching ASD, with interests in eating disorders and the effects of donor conception practices.  She is currently completing a Masters of research in Health systems and populations (Faculty of Medicine) at Macquarie University.