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Inclusive communities

Dr Amanda Webster
School of Education

Creating inclusive communities through partnerships for individuals on the autism spectrum

The number of people on the autism spectrum has risen steadily over the past few decades. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal that approximately one in 63 Australian school children currently have an autism diagnosis.

Dr Amanda Webster is helping to bring together the different perspectives of parents, educators and students on the needs of these students, while creating inclusive education and community environments to support the achievement and self-determination of individuals.

Dr Webster is currently the Academic Program Director for the Autism postgraduate programs at UOW but she began her career in school education sector before she made the move into academia.

The combination of professional and academic experience placed her in the unique position to develop expertise and knowledge in autism leadership and curriculum, as well as help to establish connections with some of the world’s best autism researchers.

Her established networks saw her find a place on the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) - the frontline of autism research which takes a whole-of-life approach to the disorder with a focus on diagnosis, early intervention, education and adult life.

“Since commencing my academic career in 2011, I’ve developed a clear and cohesive research focus on building inclusive communities, environments and strategies that empower individuals on the autism spectrum to achieve their goals. I want to work on projects that have a meaningful impact on their lives and the lives of their families.”

She aims to merge teaching and research for sustainable impact, which she believes can’t be achieved without engagement from the autism community and industry partners.

She has forged alliances with several autism advocacy groups including the I Can Network, ASPECT, Amaze (the peak autism organisation in Victoria), Autism Queensland, Autism Tasmania, and the Queensland University of Technology.

She is engaged in a collaboration with the NSW Department of Education on an Australian Research Council project focusing on decision-making and support for students with disability in schools.

She is also a consultant for Autism Educators Australia, which provides advocacy and instruction for autistic individuals and their families.

Dr Webster’s work within the community is what inspires her and motivates her to keep striving for impact with her own research.

“In my career, I’ve been fortunate to get to know many parents, children, and autistic adults who have impacted me and helped me to grow.

“My inspirations are the people who have a vision, who utilise research and their own voice to provide new insights and innovations that are creating a more inclusive society for all.”