Winthrop Professor Andrew Whitehouse - Program Head
The Head and Principal Investigator of the Autism and Related Disorders team. Andrew trained as a Speech Pathologist (Curtin University) before completing his PhD in Psychology at the University of Western Australia. He then moved to the University of Oxford to undertake postdoctoral studies, where he was promoted to the Scott Family Junior Research Fellow for Studies in Autism (University College, Oxford). Andrew Whitehouse is the Angela Wright Bennett Professor of Autism Research at the Telethon Kids Institute and Professor of Autism Research at The University of Western Australia. He is Chief Research Officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) and Adjunct Professor at Curtin University and Edith Cowan University. He has also been awarded Australia’s most prestigious scientific award, the Eureka Prize.
At the Telethon Kids Institute he leads a large team that use a wide range of methodologies to investigate the early identification and intervention of children with Autism Spectrum Conditions, including molecular genetics, neuroscience, endocrinology, behavioural experiments and clinical trials. Andrew has published over 150 peer-reviewed journal articles and attracted over $35 million in competitive research grants. He currently presents an internationally syndicated video series called ’60 Second Science”, which has been viewed by over 1 million people. He is an advisor to State and Commonwealth Governments on policies relating to children with Autism Spectrum Conditions, and he chaired the committee that generated Australia’s first national guideline for autism diagnosis.
Research and Clinic Staff
Gemma Upson, BSc., MClinAud. M.Aud.S.A.(CCP) – General Manager
Gemma is the Clinical Services Manager of CliniKids, responsible for the strategic creation and development of CliniKids, along with the operational management. Gemma has extensive experience in running clinical services for all ages in private, public and research settings.
Through her previous role as Head of Clinical Services at Ear Science Institute, which she held for 12 years, she specialised in the niche audiology areas of hearing implants (including cochlear implants), vestibular, and paediatric diagnostic services. Over her tenure this unit was established, developed and expanded to be the third largest hearing implant program in Australia and recognised world-wide for its’ clinical expertise and research into clinical outcomes.
Gemma holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters in Audiology, both from University of Western Australia. Gemma holds an Adjunct Research Fellow position in the School of Surgery, University of Western Australia and is a member of the National Disability Services’ Clinical and Allied Health Subcommittee. She is passionate about leading and developing high performing teams and systems to deliver exceptional care to children and families in the health and disability industry.
Kiah Evans, PhD - Program Manager
Kiah is the Program Manager for the Autism Research Team and also coordinates the Autism CRC project to develop Australia’s first national guideline for autism diagnosis. Prior to this, Kiah was a researcher within the Curtin Autism Research Group, where she was involved in evaluating the Specialist Peer Mentoring Program. Kiah holds an honours degree in occupational therapy (Curtin University), and completed her doctoral research on how working mothers and carers balance their multiple roles (Edith Cowan University). She has over ten years experiencing working as a lecturer, researcher and project manager within an academic setting, along with over five years clinical and managerial experience within the public and private work rehabilitation sector.
Georgia Cunningham – Clinical Lead
Georgia is a Speech Pathologist with a passion for supporting people with a disability, in particular autism Spectrum Disorders. In addition to her Speech Pathology qualification, she holds a Masters Degree in Autism Studies, during which she investigated inclusive education for students with Autism and the biggest predictors of successful inclusion in mainstream settings.
Georgia has a strong interest in promoting autism awareness and understanding in the wider community which has lead to a number of community presentations including autism awareness and support strategies for the general public, Department of Education, Catholic Education Office, Western Australian Police Force and the West Australian Dental Health Association. She has also presented at the Speech Pathology Australia conference and AGOSCI.
She has a particular interest in complex communication, including the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication systems for people with Autism across the lifespan. She has previously worked in a specialist AAC team, prescribing and implementing communication systems for people with autism across the lifespan. Georgia is accredited in a number of treatment approaches such as Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), Preschool Autism Communication Therapy (PACT), KONTAKT, Hanen programs, Triple P Stepping Stones and diagnostic tools such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2). In her role as Clinical Lead, Georgia co-leads and supports the clinical team and oversees the development of clinical activities.
Regina Ledo – Registered Psychologist
Regina Ledo is a Psychologist with over 25 years’ experience in working with individuals with autism and their families. Regina studied at Murdoch University; while undertaking post-graduate studies she joined the landmark Murdoch University Young Autism Project and began her career in supporting individuals with autism. She spent 12 years at the Princeton Child Development Institute (PCDI) – a private, center-based educational program for individuals with autism, the majority of these as a trainer in the institute’s early intervention, education, and adult programs. This included a five-year appointment as a Teaching Parent at one of in the institute’s group homes, where she resided with her family and five young adults with ASD.
Marie Rodatz – Occupational Therapist
Marie is an Occupational Therapist with over 15 years’ experience working with children with Autism. She holds a Bachelor and Master in Occupational Therapy. For her Master degree, she researched the process of collaborative consultation between teachers and Occupational Therapists working with children with Autism.
Marie has gathered experience as an Occupational Therapist in Germany, Ireland, the USA and Australia. During her career Marie has been working with pre-school and school aged children with Autism and developmental delay.
She has presented at Occupational Therapy conferences and has presented a lecture on ‘Occupational Therapy and Autism’ to Occupational Therapy students in Ireland.
Marie enjoys having fun with children in direct sessions and working collaboratively with parents throughout the process. Marie has a particular interest in understanding sensory challenges children with Autism experience and assisting children in becoming independent with activities of daily living.
Gail Alvares, PhD - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Gail completed a Bachelor of Psychology with first class honours and the University Medal at the University of Sydney in 2009. She was awarded a PhD(Medicine) at the Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney in 2015.
Gail has worked as a clinical research coordinator, facilitating projects investigating the effects of intranasal oxytocin to treat social impairments in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including youth with autism spectrum disorders. She joined the Autism Research Team in 2014 with a wide variety of interests related to autism research, including novel treatments and eye-tracking methods of assessment.
As part of the Autism Research Team, Gail previously coordinated the Australian Autism Biobank, developed and tested an iPad game (‘Frankie and Friends’) for children with autism, and is currently leading a study of predictors of outcomes in adolescents and adults diagnosed on the WA Autism Register.
Kandice Varcin, PhD - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Kandice completed Master of Psychology (Clinical) and PhD degrees at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Her doctoral research focused on the identification of mechanisms contributing to social cognitive disruption in individuals with schizophrenia using electrophysiological techniques. Kandice then undertook postdoctoral research training at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience investigating early behavioural and neural markers of atypical development in infancy, especially autism spectrum disorder. In July 2016, Kandice joined the Autism Research Team at Telethon Kids Institute to continue her work in early identification and intervention for infants at-risk of developmental disorders. Kandice’s work also investigates early prenatal and postnatal influences on brain and behavioural development in infancy.
Jo Granich AssocDipDT, BSc(Hons) MPH - Clinical Trials Coordinator
Jo is the Clinical Trials Coordinator within the Autism Research Team. She is responsible for managing three multi-site randomised trials as well as being a senior and founding researcher on the first pregnancy and autism study in Australia - The PRISM Study: PRegnancy Investigation of Siblings and Mothers of children with Autism.
Jo holds a Masters degree from the University of Western Australia and has over ten years experience in coordinating and evaluating family oriented, school-based and mass-media research projects. She has expertise in mixed methods studies which have led to peer-reviewed publications. Jo is also a registered dental therapist with over 20 years of clinical oral hygiene experience in the private sector.
She is a highly motivated and passionate researcher who is also a parent of two young children, of which one has Autism. Her research knowledge, skills and professional experience together with personal insight has placed her in a unique position to work in this complex and evolving field of neurodevelopmental science. Her aspirations are to make a difference to individuals and families affected by autism through the eyes of rigorous research, thereby facilitate discoveries and improve our knowledge and outcomes of this life long disorder.
Alexis Harun, BHSc - Research Assistant
Alexis graduated from The University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Health Science. She first joined the Autism Research Team in 2013 after completing her professional practicum placement. Alexis currently coordinates the Testosterone and Language in Kids (TALK) Study and is also currently working on the Online Autism Register. Alexis is also a qualified phlebotmist.
Dominique Cleary, BA, BSc(Hons) - Research Assistant
Dominique graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology with first class honours from the University of Western Australia in 2016. During her undergraduate years she also worked with children with autism spectrum disorders, which led to an interest and passion for developmental research. She joined the team in 2017 as a Research Assistant working on the Australian Autism Biobank- a national study designed to discover more about the genetic and environmental influences contributing to ASD.
Maryam Boutrus, BA(Hons) - PhD candidate and Research Assistant
Maryam is currently completing her PhD through the University of Western Australia, with support from the Autism CRC. After completing her double major in Psychology (with honours), Maryam decided to pursue her interests in early childhood development by starting her PhD.
Throughout her time with the Autism Research Team, Maryam has been involved in the Australian Infant Communication and Engagement Study. She is currently looking at 3D photographs obtained through the Biobank for her own research project, which aims to identify facial characteristics that may be unique to autism.
Maryam assists the team by administering several of the infant and toddler behavioral assessments, including the ADOS and the Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI).
In the future, she hopes to identify a reliable biological marker that may enable the earlier recognition of autism, allowing for earlier intervention and promoting more positive outcomes for individuals and their families.
Boutrus, M., Maybery, M. T., Alvares, G. A., Tan, D. W., Varcin, K. J., & Whitehouse, A. J. (2017). Investigating facial phenotype in autism spectrum conditions: The importance of a hypothesis driven approach. Autism Research.
Rebekka Jooste, BPsych – Research Assistant
Rebekka graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology from Curtin University. She has experiencing worked alongside children and young people with autism in a clinic and community setting.
Throughout her university course, she saw the need for research to be made applicable to consumers. Therefore, she has grown to be passionate about the application of research to the real world; people with autism, clinicians, and their families.
Since joining the team in 2017, Rebekka has been part of the National autism diagnostic guidelines team, and is currently working on a project investigating the genetic patterns of autism.
Sarah Pillar, BSpchPath (Hons) - Research Assistant
Sarah graduated with a Bachelor of Speech Pathology from Edith Cowan University with first class honours, and is a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist. After graduating at the end of 2013, she provided assessment and intervention for children with a range of developmental difference and delays, both in Perth and regional WA. These experiences have led her to her interest in early intervention, with a passion for working in language and communication support.
Since starting as a Research Assistant in the Autism Research Team in 2017, Sarah has been involved with Australian Infant Communication and Engagement Study, Autism CRC Australian Biobank assessments, the National Guideline for Autism Diagnosis.
She hopes to trial practical, real world interventions to test their effectiveness and acceptability, so that high-quality, evidence-based interventions are identified and available to children and families.
Kate Sorenson, BSocSc - Family Coordinator
Kate has joined the team with an extensive history in family co-ordinating as well as working alongside children and their families in clinical and educational settings. She graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences and has since been trained as a Behavioural Therapist.
Throughout her many different professional roles Kate remained passionate about working alongside children with autism and their families, leading to her involvement with the Autism Research Team.
Since joining us in late 2017, Kate has contributed to various research programs by coordinating our valued research participants and their families. Kate also uses her expertise in system information maintenance and administration, to assist in the development of procedures and efficient information management of the Autism Research Team.
Angela Stojanoska, BSc (Hons) – Research Assistant
Angela graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Science, and Honours in Psychology. With her community-based experiences working alongside children with autism, theoretical knowledge and interests in developmental psychology and medical research, she joined the Autism Research Team in 2017.
Since joining, Angela has been integral to the National Guideline for Autism project, the Assistance and Companion dogs for children diagnosed with Autism & Fragile X study, and the Testosterone and Language in Kids study.
If you'd like to contact us, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Autism Research Team at CliniKids reception on (08) 6319 1133.