Autism program gets major boost

(l to r) Mr Lewis Pounentis, Professor Michael Barber, Associate Professor Robyn Young and Mr George Diakomichalis
(l to r) Mr Lewis Pounentis, Professor Michael Barber, Associate Professor Robyn Young and Mr George Diakomichalis

The work of Flinders University’s Autism Early Intervention Research Program (EIRP) has been given a boost with a $50,000 donation from the GoTo Foundation.

Mr Lewis Pounentis (Co-Founder and Trustee of GoTo) and Mr George Diakomichalis (Director) today presented a cheque on behalf of the charity and Co-Director Mr Nick Apostolou to EIRP leader Associate Professor Robyn Young from the School of Psychology and Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber.

Associate Professor Young described the gift as “overwhelming” and paid tribute the efforts of the GoTo Foundation members – which included a Ball, Quiz Night and 950km bike ride from Melbourne to Adelaide – in raising the funds.

“We’re very thrilled that the Foundation chose us to donate their money to,” Associate Professor Young said.

“The program gets some limited support from the State Government but it really only pays for one salary. We pretty much rely on who we can get donations from, to try and encourage some level of sustainability,” she said.

“About 20 per cent of the children who have gone through EIRP no longer meet diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder. That’s a significant number of children for whom, we think, we’ve made a huge difference in their lives.

“We’ve also been able to educate parents about how to manage the children better and we think that also enhances the support network the families get and the relationship between the parents as well.”

The program employs a 10-day intervention and then trains parents to apply the curriculum in the home.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber said the donation was “a wonderful testament to Robyn’s and the program’s engagement with the community”.

“These projects don’t come about without outsiders believing the program delivers some particular value. That’s a very tangible assessment of the impact the program’s having,” Professor Barber said.

“Clearly it has a fundamental underpinning of activity inside the University and high quality research. But that’s only part of the story. It’s got to matter for communities; it’s got to matter for people outside,” he said.

“This is a program that’s delivering on both fronts: high quality academic outputs and high quality outputs for the community. It’s a great outcome.”

Mr Diakomichalis said the Foundation aimed to raise a total of $100,000 for the EIRP.

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