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2018 Autism West Symposium

November 2 @ 8:00 am - November 3 @ 2:00 pm


The annual Autism West Symposium is a signature event for anyone with an interest in autism, its opportunities and challenges.

A unique event in Western Australia, the Symposium features inspiring local, national and international thought-leaders in the field, including those with lived experience. Presentations are on a wide range of topics, including new ways of looking at autism, preparation for high school, early intervention and designing for the autism community.

Taking place across one and a half days, the Autism West Symposium 2018 brings together individuals on the spectrum, family members, carers, allied health professionals, service providers, educators, employers, researchers and policy makers, and provides an excellent opportunity to connect and network.


When: Friday 2 to Saturday 3 November 2018

Where: Pan Pacific Perth, 207 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, Western Australia, 6000

Tickets: https://www.trybooking.com/UQGA

Concession pricing is available

*Early bird discounts available until 7th September 2018

Discounted Accommodation: To book and claim your discounted accommodation please click here.


The Program
Please note that timings and topics are subject to change.
A PDF version is available here.

Day 1: Friday 2nd November 2018

8.00amRegistrations open
8.45amWelcomeAlison Davis, CEO Autism West
8.50amWelcome to countryRichard Walley
8.55amOpeningHon. Stephen Dawson MLC
Minister for Environment; Disability Services
9.05amPlenaryMichael John CarleyOld ways Versus New ways of Looking at Autism
10.30amMorning Tea
11.00amKeynote speechNicole Rogerson
11.45amBreakout sessionsRegina LedoEarly Intervention (topic TBA)
Joshua Knuiman, Kemi Wright and Alyssa PetrofesThe Important Role of Exercise in School and at Home – educators/parents/health professionals
Kathleen DaveySecret Agent Society: Growing personal and social capabilities in students – educators/health professionals
1.45pmBreakout sessionsTom TuttonOn the Same Page – Positive Behaviour Support Workshop
Rachael BiggsLived Experience ­- topic TBA
Curtin UniversityResearch Snapshot  – topic TBA
2.45pmBreakout sessionsAna Palacios and Sandhya SubarmaniamYouth Empowerment Project
Julian JamesTherapeutic Crisis Intervention  (topic TBA)
Theresa KiddPractical Strategies to Understand and Manage Anxiety for Individuals on the Spectrum
PlenaryLiz PellicanoGrowing Up Autistic: Findings from a 12-year Longitudinal Study
4.45pmCloseSilvana Gaglia, Chairperson, Autism West

Day 2: Saturday 3rd November 2018

8.00Registrations/venue open
8.30Keynote speechTom Tutton and Stephanie ValentineCreating Autism Friendly Environments
9.30amPlenaryMichael John CarleyDisclosure and Inclusion – topic TBA
10.15amKathleen DaveyIn Trouble with the Law? How Understanding Autism Can Help You
Michelle DivalDifferent Buildings for Different Needs – Designing for the Autism Community
11.15amMorning Tea
11.45amBreakout sessionsNichole ConollyLived Experience – topic TBA
Liz PellicanoKnow your Normal: A toolkit to help support the mental health of young autistic adults
Louise SheehyPreparation for High School: How Best I Learn
12.30amClosing remarksNicole Rogerson

The Speakers

Curtin Autism Research GroupCurtin University – Curtin Autism Research Group (CARG)

CARG is a multi-disciplinary team of people on the autism spectrum, researchers, students, and volunteers from Curtin University, with an extensive network of industry and research partners throughout Australia and internationally. This also includes a large number of researchers affiliated with the Autism Cooperative Research Centre. The team is dedicated to finding evidence-based, innovative and effective approaches to supporting individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, at all stages in life.

 Julian JamesJulian James

Julian is Team Manager of Therapeutic Crisis Intervention training in the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), a mental health educator and professional certified Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) trainer (certified by Cornell University). Julian delivers TCI consultancy services as well as delivering TCI for families. Julian has worked as a senior clinician in the child and adolescent mental health service for over 30 years and has collaborated with senior mental health clinicians, child protection, legal professionals and clinical therapists to develop and establish the first therapeutic residential treatment program in Western Australia for children with developmental trauma.

Kathleen DaveyKathleen Davey

Kathleen Davey is a Clinical Psychologist who deciphers the autism spectrum in legal contexts. Kathleen works with individuals, families and legal teams across criminal, family and workplace law contexts. She provides consultation, workshops, medico-legal reports, and expert opinion on a range of matters involving people of all ages on the autism spectrum. Kathleen has spent seventeen years building a strong professional understanding of the Autism Spectrum across the lifespan, currently runs a private psychology practice, and is Principal Consultant at the Social Skills Training Institute for the Secret Agent Society program. Her forensic interest has extended into membership of the editorial team of Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, involvement in international forensic research and interest groups, international conference presentation and work with renowned autism experts Professor Gary Mesibov and Tony Attwood.

Kathleen’s presentation is a practical session on how Secret Agent Society, a fun, evidence-based approach, helps grow personal and social capabilities in students in the classroom, in learning support units, and in one-to-one therapy work.

Decipher Zone   
Social Skills Training Institute      

Liz PellicanoLiz Pellicano

Liz Pellicano has recently been appointed Professor in Educational Studies at Macquarie University, having previously been Professor of Autism Education and Director of the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at University College London. An internationally-regarded experimental psychologist, she is committed to understanding the distinctive opportunities and challenges faced by autistic children, young people and adults and tracing their impact on everyday life – at home, at school and out-and-about in the community. She has been consistently dedicated both to ensuring that the outcomes of her research are as influential as possible in education policy-making and to enhancing public understanding of autism, its challenges and opportunities.

Liz will explore what a ‘good’ outcome is for a young autistic adult using data from a group of young autistic people first seen in childhood, 12 years ago. The results call into question whether the traditional standards to which we often hold young autistic people are developmentally appropriate and suggest that the pressures of striving towards more normative ways of engaging in the world, especially in the absence of support, may be detrimental to wellbeing.

Louise SheehyLouise Sheehy

Louise Sheehy is a registered high school teacher and has been working with teenagers and adults on the Autism Spectrum since 2011. Louise has worked as an educational disadvantage policy officer in Ireland for a national network and was a founding member and co-ordinator of Galway Autism Partnership, an autism organisation which focuses on person centred social groups for individuals with autism. Louise’s role at Autism West involves managing service development using a person centred approach for our members focusing on their interests and talents. She is passionate about ensuring that individuals on the autism spectrum are actively involved in planning delivery and development of services.

Louise’s presentation gives ideas on how to prepare both students and teachers for a successful transition which also empowers the student. The experience of transitioning to high school, with entering a new environment, developing new relationships and routines, can cause high levels of anxiety among students with autism.It is important to ensure students feel some control over this process through being able to contribute to strategies to help them to engage, as well as giving their subject teachers information and strategies to understand their learning needs and how to communicate with these students.

Michael John CarleyMichael John Carley

As Founder, and first Executive Director of GRASP, the largest membership organisation in the world comprising adults on the autism spectrum, Michael John Carley has spoken at over 150 conferences, hospitals, universities, and health care organisations, including training at numerous school districts and Fortune 1000 companies. As Executive Director of Integrate he has spoken at conferences focusing on human resources, corporate diversity and inclusion, and works with large companies to help train them manage existing spectrum employees, or to increase their confidence in hiring new ones. Michael John was one of two people on the spectrum to address the US Congress in their first-ever hearings on autism, he has addressed the United Nations, his articles have been published in magazines such as Autism Spectrum News, Autism Spectrum Quarterly, and Autism/Asperger Digest, and for four years he had a column with Huffington Post (“Autism Without Fear”). He is also the author of four books: Asperger’s from the Inside-Out (Penguin/Perigee 2008), Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2016), ‘The Book of Happy, Positive, and Confident Sex for Adults on the Autism Spectrum… and Beyond! (late 2018), and The Last Memoir of Asperger’s Syndrome (unsigned). Michael John proudly sits on the Board of Directors of NEXT for Autism, on the Advisory Boards of GallopNYC, and C.H.A.S.E., and reviews for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (JADD).

Michelle (Shelly) DivaMichelle Dival

Michelle (Shelly) Dival is an accredited designer with over 20 years of experience in building design. A proud Churchill Fellowship recipient in 2017, on her recent Churchill Fellowship Trip she met with individuals, researchers and organisations in the US, Denmark, the UK, Netherlands and France looking at best practice and the latest research in this field. An active member in her industry associations, Shelly works closely with her clients to create special spaces and places. Memorable projects have included a riding centre of excellence for the Riding for the Disabled, and a Holistically based Trauma Recovery Centre based on Biophilic design principles. After her grandson’s diagnosis of Autism, she changed the focus of her practice and is passionate about setting a new standard for neuro diverse enabling building design in Australia, and continues to be a researcher of specialised building design for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Her practice, Front Door Building Design, is based in the Perth Hills region of Western Australia, and she lives with her very fluffy dog who thinks he is human, and a regal Burmese cat who thinks he is a dog. She is an historical romance tragic, and when her rambunctious grandchildren go home, enjoys the odd glass of medicinal grape juice.

Michelle will present the results of her recent research in the breakout session Different Buildings for Different Needs – Designing for the Autism Community.

Nicole ConollyNichole Conolly

Hailing from Brisbane, QLD; Nichole Conolly was diagnosed with Aspergers/ Anxiety at the age of 19. She has overcome many challenges in her life and speaks candidly about them with a quirky sense of humour with the dreams of advocating for and empowering others.

Nichole is currently studying her Graduate Certificate in Autism Studies at UOW with the future goal of be coming a Teacher Aide specialising in Autism. Life and work experiences include six years working as a circus performer and teacher with Lorraine Ashton’s Classic Circus, writer for the 2017 Brisbane Season of Company 2’s Kaleidoscope, volunteering at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and is currently a theatre columnist for Australian theatre website Theatre People.

Conference experience includes being a presenter at 2017’s Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Sydney, 2016’s Arts Activated Conference in Sydney and 2015’s 3rd National Aspergers Conference in Brisbane.

This is Nichole’s first visit west and she is excited to visit the home of her AFL team Fremantle and take a photo with a quokka.

Aspie Circus Girl

Nicole RogersonNicole Rogerson

Nicole Rogerson is one of the nation’s leading spokespersons for the awareness and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder. For more than 15 years, she has been working on public policy, advocacy and early intervention service delivery. In 2007 Nicole founded Autism Awareness Australia, now Australia’s leading national autism not-for-profit organisation. The organisation combines her passion for developing national education programs that promote understanding of ASD, and supporting and advocating for the needs of individuals on the spectrum and their families.A passionate disability advocate and social policy campaigner, she is a frequent public speaker on these issues and often appears in the media advocating for families with children on the spectrum. She is a determined advocate for evidence-based interventions and funding support for individuals with disabilities.

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 Rachael BiggsRachael Biggs

Rachael has a lived experience of Autism Lvl 2 with co-morbidities with mental health. She was diagnosed by a private Psychiatrist and Psychologist at the age of 30. She is now 32, and has three children aged 10, 6 and 4, one of which is diagnosed on the spectrum. Rachael’s career at time of diagnosis was a Trainer and Assessor for Disability/Aged Care Support Workers, an irony which should give example to the level of masking in women and its costs on mental health to function with a society. Because of diagnosis, Rachel was able to access the now defunct WANDIS (Western Australian Trial of the National Disability Scheme) and the eventual introduction of the NDIS, supports of which were not traditionally supported by the Disability Support Systems of Australia for adults on the autism spectrum. Rachael is an active participant within the adult autism and Asperger’s community within Western Australia and gives back to her community through peer support. She is a member of the only group within Western Australian that represents and works on a model of peer support, PA5 – The Perth Autism and Asperger’s Association. Rachael is an advocate for access to diagnosis for the missing girls and women with Autism Spectrum Disorder with effective, timely, choice and control delivered through the NDIS.

Regina Ledo

Regina is a psychologist with over 25 years’ experience in working with individuals with autism and their families. She returned to Perth in 2011 after working for 13 years at the Princeton Child Development Institute (PCDI) – a private, centre-based intensive educational program for children and adults with autism.

PCDI delivers science-based intervention based on the principles of applied behaviour analysis (ABA). During that time she held the position of Trainer in Applied Behaviour Analysis Skills, supervising the implementation of education and home-based programs to children in the Institute’s Early Intervention and School Age Program.

In the last five years of her time at the Institute, she lived with her husband and two children in one of PCDIs two group homes, which uses the Teaching Family Model to deliver home and community-based intervention to five young adults with autism. During that time she presented papers at national and state conferences on autism intervention including joint attention, language and social skills intervention.

Prior to her move to the United States, Regina was employed for six years as a Psychologist at Mildred Creek Centre, part of the Disability Services Commission, where she conducted diagnostic assessments and delivered intervention to young children with a diagnosis of ASD. She was also a founding participant in the Murdoch University Young Autism Project. Her research and clinical interests are in the area of early intervention, joint attention skills, and challenging behaviour. She is currently in private practice, consulting to families and agencies supporting individuals with ASD and intellectual disability.

Theresa KiddTheresa Kidd

Theresa Kidd has worked in the disability sector for over 30 years and currently works therapeutically with children, adolescents, and adults with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). She has recently completed her PhD (Clinical Psychology) at Curtin University, assessing the efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety in older adolescents with high functioning autism. In addition, Theresa is the joint Program Manager of the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program (CSMP) that supports Curtin University students on the autism spectrum to successfully engage at university and beyond. Theresa is dedicated to promoting an awareness and understanding of autism, as well as effective and practical strategies to both parents and professionals, which together have the potential to lead to positive outcomes for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Theresa’s presentation will cover practical tools to understand and manage anxiety.

Tom TuttonTom Tutton

Tom Tutton, from Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), started work for the severe challenging behaviour team in the UK in 1997 working closely with students on the spectrum to maintain home and school placements. Subsequently, after 3 years completing a clinical psychology degree at Southampton University and more than 10 years supporting people on the spectrum in classrooms, schools, family homes and communities through direct service, training and research, he has never wanted to do anything else. Tom has spoken at Asia Pacific Autism Conferences, the Autism Congress in Singapore 2017 and the Association of Positive Behaviour Support conference in Denver 2017. Tom coordinates Aspect’s Autism Friendly Australia work that has included work with Taronga Zoo, Coles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, VIVID festival and Surf Life Saving Australia.

Tom will present practical advice on effective behavioural strategies in schools and how to create autism friendly environments.

UWA Thriving Paediatric TeamUWA Thriving Paediatric Programs – Joshua Knuiman, Kemi Wright, Alyssa Petrofes

Joshua, Kemi and Alyssa are a team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists and researchers from Thriving Paediatric Programs at University of Western Australia. Thriving is an exercise service specialising in delivering tailored exercise programs for children and young people whose ability to participate in community or school-based physical activity is impacted by behavioural, social and/or medical conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. At Thriving specialised and trained instructors work with many kids and teenagers on the spectrum and aim to improve physical fitness and movement confidence using a wide range of exercise modalities and training strategies. The Thriving team are passionate about the role exercise can have in facilitating learning and development of children with autism, and are well versed in the physical, social and psychological health benefits of exercise participation for individuals on the spectrum. The team will share information around the role of exercise, and share practical strategies for motivating and encouraging activity participation for kids and teens on the spectrum.

Ana Palacios

Sandhya Subarmaniam

Youth Empowerment Project – Ana Palacios, Sandhya Subarmaniam

Ana Palacios is a contemporary artist whose work spans practices of research, traditional craft, and storytelling through objects. After receiving an adult diagnoses of autism, Ana realised her art practice had emerged as a positive adaptation to the challenges of being neurodiverse. Starting as a volunteer Ana soon began working as a visual arts facilitator for Autism West, bringing her passion for working with young people and exploring creative research. Her role has since expanded to include working closely their Youth Advisory Council and Youth Empowerment Research Project that recognises the lived experience of participants and growing number of neurodiverse staff as a valuable resource in the development of programs and community.

Sandhya has been working with individuals on the autism spectrum since 2013. She started as a volunteer at Autism West and now runs social groups. Sandhya has a Masters in Counselling and is a registered counsellor. Since then she started running the Street Smart Life Smart workshop with the aim of creating a safe space to allow participants to address personal and social issues without feeling judged. She also works closely with Autism West’s Youth Advisory Council. Sandhya takes personal pleasure in guiding participants and monitoring their personal growth.

Ana and Sandhya will present on the Youth Empowerment Project, which applies project based learning and engages students with motivating and authentic learning opportunities. The project will engage with young people with autism at high school level and will address a social question that the students formulate and research, firstly looking at existing data and information, then using interviewing to question their peer community. As the project progresses, it engages in strategies around questioning, interviewing, data analysis in a team environment, all motivated by the issue the students have identified. Concluding the project involves report preparation as well as learning skills in presentation. Project based learning gives opportunities to scaffold according to the students ability, identify opportunities for students to demonstrate strengths, and is applicable across subjects.

Watch this space for more information about topics soon!

The Venue

Pan Pacific Perth

The 2018 Autism West Symposium will be held at the beautiful Pan Pacific in Perth, Western Australia.  We have secured limited discounted accommodation for those wanting to make the most of the event. To book and claim your discounted accommodation please click here.

How to get there
By public transport
Armadale, Fremantle, Joondalup, Mandurah, Midland and Thornlie lines depart and arrive at the Perth Train Station.
Catch the red cat, a free bus service that leaves every 5 minutes. Get on the RED 24 at Wellington St bus station and get off at Goderich St, Mercedes College Residence, and walk 5 minutes to the Pan Pacific Hotel.
Alternatively, Pan Pacific Hotel is a 20 minute walk from Perth Train Station.
By car
From Perth International AirportFrom the South
Take Great Eastern Highway south.
Keep left and turn west over the causeway.
Take the second exit on the roundabout to Adelaide Terrace.
Pan Pacific Perth is three blocks on the left.
Take Kwinana Freeway north.
Take Mounts Bay Road exit going east.
Continue through the esplanade and turn north on Barrack Street.
Turn right on St. Georges Terrace.
Pan Pacific Perth is two blocks on the right.
From the NorthFrom the West
Take the Mitchell Freeway south.
Exit at Riverside Drive.
Turn north at Victoria Avenue.
Turn right on Adelaide Terrace.
Pan Pacific Perth is one block on the right.
Take the Stirling Highway east and continue through the esplanade.
Turn left going north on Barrack Street.
Turn right going east on St. Georges Terrace.
Pan Pacific Perth is two blocks on your right.


Want to know more?
Visit Us: 2 Alma Street, Fremantle WA

Call Us 08 9431 2111

Email events@autismwest.org.au to register your interest.


*Early bird discounts available until 7th September 2018

TryBooking proudly supports charities by donating back all booking fees.


Pan Pacific Perth
207 Adelaide Terrace
+ Google Map
08 9224 7777
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