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). In 2009, he returned to Perth to take up his current position within the Telethon Kids Institute. He leads a team of hard-working researchers, who investigate the genetic and neurodevelopmental causes of Autism and specific language impairment, and conduct clinical intervention trials into these conditions.
Research and Clinic Staff
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.
Gemma Upson, BSc., MClinAud. M.Aud.S.A.(CCP) – Clinical Service Manager
Gemma has joined the team with extensive experience in running clinical services for all ages in private and public settings. In her previous clinical management roles she was instrumental in broadening the number and types of clinical services offered as well as expanding multiple locations.
Gemma is passionate about improving client’s quality of life, and realising every person’s potential through providing exceptional clinical services. She is especially passionate about improving communication and connections between people.
Since joining the team in 2017, Gemma has been responsible for the strategic and operational management of the newly created clinical services in early childhood development and autism interventions.
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 theTestosterone and Language in Kids (TALK) Study and is also currently working on the West Australian 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.
Jodie Leslie - Research Assistant
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 email@example.com, or call the Telethon Kids' reception on (08) 9489 7777.