While the prevalence of ASD in Australia and elsewhere is between 1-2%, less than half of those of an employable age in Australia have work.

Now, in a world first, the University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) has signed a research partnership with Hewlett Packard Australia and the Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek to understand how having a job impacts the lives of those with ASD.

The findings will help shape optimal future work opportunities. 

OTARC Director Cheryl Dissanayake says people with ASD have unique skills and abilities, such as good attention to detail and interests in patterns that deserve to be recognized.  Her team will monitor progress and outcomes of the new recruits.

“It is critically important to increase employment opportunities for adults with ASD. Everyone knows having a job provides a sense of wellbeing and self-efficacy.  Moreover, employment reduces reliance on government funding and increases the tax base, meaning that this is a win not only for the person with ASD, but also their families, their employers and the community at large.’ 

The collaboration – called the Dandelion Project – involves the Danish Specialist People Foundation (SPF) who select and assess people with ASD, who are then hired by Hewlett Packard to work as software testers at DHS.

Thorkil Sonne, founder of SPF is delighted to be collaborating with La Trobe University.

‘Employers will in the coming years have a fantastic opportunity to get access to untapped pool of talented people with ASD. HP and DHS have seen the potential and are leading the way in Australia. The collaboration with La Trobe University will give us an opportunity to document the effect of employment and improve the scalability of job creation.’

La Trobe and SPF are also signing a Memorandum of Understanding to help establish an SPF hub in Australia. 

The MOU will co-locate SPF’s trainers with OTARC, giving the trainers access to latest research outcomes on successful work and transitions for adults with ASD.

Vice Chancellor Professor John Dewar has welcomed the collaboration.

‘This underpins La Trobe’s proud tradition of undertaking research that impacts big social issues, such as autism, disability and employment. We see this research partnership as informing game changing public policy as we transition to the NDIS.’  

La Trobe is a world leader is autism research and service with the first centre dedicated to ASD research established on campus in 2008, the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre established in 2010 and the Early Assessment Clinic for ASDs established in 2011.

 Media Contact; Catherine Garrett 9479 6565 / 0418 946 325